Rusty Mumford

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Meet Rusty Mumford, the director of the upcoming Community Players of Salisbury production of Steel Magnolias.

Theater has very deep roots here on Delmarva. In 1937 a group of drama buffs in Salisbury formed what has become one of the longest enduring community theater groups in the state of Maryland. Their first play, The Singapore Spider, which was funded through the Works Progress Administration opening in May of 1938.

Since then they have put on countless dramas, comedies, and musicals. Recently they acquired their own rehearsal hall on Nutters Cross Road. That is where I visited Rusty Mumford, the director of their upcoming production of Steel Magnolias. He has been associated with the Community Players for over 30 years acting, directing, and building sets, among other things. Rusty has spent his work career as a dedicated school teacher in Somerset County. He says that acting and directing complement each other.

Rusty Mumford:
I get to see both perspectives of the same thing: the process. As a performer I know what a director has to go through to get his performers or her performers to do what needs to be done. And as a director I know what a performer has to go through to give the director and the audience what's needed to create a character

The Community Players is an all volunteer organization, and always welcome new members.

Rusty Mumford:
I just have to say that the Community Players is a wonderful organization. If anybody's thinking about getting involved they should. We can always use new members who have an interest in theater, regardless of what that interest is. We can always use new performers, new tech hands, new builders, people with new ideas...

The Community Players will hold tryouts for the comedy Moon Over Buffalo in the next few months. Rusty encourages people to take a chance and audition. He offers this advice to aspiring actors.

Rusty Mumford:
Know that you can do it even if you are quaking in your boots. Know the show. Find out all you can about the show. If you can get your hands on a script, read the script and pick out a character or characters that you are most interested in auditioning for. But above all else, be open minded. The director may see something in you that you don't see in yourself.

I asked Rusty about the future of the Community Players now that they have their own building as a base of operations.

Rusty Mumford:
My hopes and dreams are that we keep on going producing at least four shows a year. I would love to see us perform in this space. I know that is several years down the road at least. I would love to see us start again our children's theater workshop series. And we now have the facility so that's a real possibility.

The stars of most plays are those wonderful characters we see on stage. I asked Rusty to tell me about the unsung heroes of their production. He said that a local salon was lending them beauty shop furniture. He also said his wife Becky was an integral part of the show.

Rusty Mumford:
I'd have to say probably the producer, my wife, who every time I say "Have we done?..." She either says "Yes, I've already taken care of it." or "No you haven't said anything about that, but I will take care of it tomorrow."

And my set construction chief who put this set up. It's not finished yet, but [he] put it up, it seemed like overnight. Lots of other people have worked really hard but those two people have gone above and beyond. When we started working on the set I don't think that Lester Huss said no to anything, when I told him, you know, what I needed for the set, what it should look like.

Many of you may be familiar with the movie Steel Magnolias starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, and Julia Roberts. The story was based on the real life experiences of playwright Robert Harling. When it was originally produced for the stage the action took place all in one setting: Truvy's beauty salon. Unlike the film version only the women appear in the play.

Rusty says that they have returned to that original script. The mother M'Lynn will be played by Charmaine Cowell. Allison King will play her daughter. Judy Hearn is Truvy the salon owner and the other characters Annelle, Clairee, and Ouiser will be performed by Mandy Moss, Robin Mandelson, and Bobbie Calloway respectively.

Rusty Mumford:
Steel Magnolias is the story of six women who live in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. And, their interwoven stories, um, of life in Chinquapin. One of the major stories, obviously, is Shelby's wedding and early marriage, and the fact that she's a diabetic and wants a child so badly. And, goes ahead against all advice and has a child; and the tragedy that occurs because of that. But, there are also story lines that go along with each of the six characters, each of the six women and their families and friends.

This show, Steel Magnolias, is going to be awesome. Get your tickets soon though, because tickets are selling fast.

You can see Steel Magnolias January 29th & 30th and February 5th & 6th. There are evening shows and afternoon matinees. Find out about times and ticket availability, and auditions for their other productions at