The Dayporch, written by Moncks Corner native Ceille Baird Welch, was last performed in Charleston in 2001, at Piccolo Spoleto. Produced by the Actors’ Theatre of Charleston, the play is back after 15 years, helmed by producing director Chris Weatherhead and her husband, executive director Clarence Felder. Described as a “hilarious comedy with a Hitchcock twist,” the play opens next Thurs. April 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Threshold Repertory Theatre.
The Dayporch is the story of three women and their nurse, living in a group home in rural South Carolina. The women, as Weatherhead tells it, didn’t fit in anywhere else, and so they ended up in a cottage for misfits, scaring away their first assigned chaplain. The story begins with this chaplain leaving the women, describing them with these words, “They’re the toughest, craftiest old broads this side of the Mason Dixon.”
Enter: a new chaplain. While the play’s producer, director, and playwright were all tight-lipped about the nature of the chaplain’s role, the play’s press release reads, “They blossom under the care of this fascinating man, but the play takes a mysterious turn when the chaplain is not what he appears to be.” In this vein, says Weatherhead, the play can best be defined as a comedy/thriller.
Director Clarence Felder says, “The first lesson of this play is never — never — underestimate the strength and courage of mind, heart, and will of women, in particular, Southern women. For an enemy to make that mistake does so at their peril.”
Welch, who spent decades in the mental health industry, including some in Columbia’s Bull Street mental health hospital, drew from personal experience when writing these characters. While she says the topic of female bonding is “as old as Aristotle’s Lysistrata,” she also adds, “The Dayporch remains entirely unique, however, because it is heavily dependent on my background in psychiatric health, and on my hands-on knowledge of the social/psychiatric revolution, and on my own truths and the bold extremes of my characters: four very Southern and very put-out women.”
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