Swimmingly Fun Female camaraderie abounds in Desert Stages Theatre’s production

By Laura Latzko

Few theatrical shows center around the lives of women, especially those who are middle aged or seniors. Jones Hope Wooten’s “The Dixie Swim Club” continues to be popular among audiences because of how it honestly delves into the lives of five older women.

Desert Stages Theatre will present the show from Friday, June 21, to Sunday, August 4, in its Actor’s Café space.

In “The Dixie Swim Club,” five lifelong friends get together annually in August at the same cottage in North Carolina. These Southern women met while on the same swim team in college. 

During the course of the show, the characters age from their mid 40s to their late 70s.

Director KatiBelle Collins says the process of aging these women isn’t very difficult for the actresses, especially as they begin to develop their characters.

“I think once they find that character, it is a very natural thing for that character to age,” Collins says. “I think it’s a natural progression. You are just taking that character through their life.”

The show delves into these characters’ personal trials and tribulations and relationships with each other, bringing humor along with poignant moments.

The production has moments of levity but also touches on subjects such as relationships with men and health problems.

The show follows the journeys of team captain, the former swim team captain, health nut and tomboy with a type A personality and boundless energy; Dinah, an overachieving lawyer with a drive to succeed, a drinking problem and a sarcastic comment for everything; Lexie, a vain sex kitten with a desire to stay young through plastic surgery and a stable of ex-husbands; Vernadette, a teacher with limited financial resources, troublesome children, a self-deprecating personality and a big heart and Jeri Neal, a ditzy nun with a kind demeanor, positive outlook on life and a surprising second calling. 

In casting for the show, Collins found it important to look at both how well actresses fit the individual roles and how well they meshed as a group. 

About five years ago, Collins played Vernadette in another theater company’s production of “The Dixie Swim Club.” She has been working with Desert Stages, as an actress and director, since 2005.

Collins says shows such as “The Dixie Swim Club” foster camaraderie between the cast members.

“It’s the same kind of experience as when women do ‘Steel Magnolias’ together. They are bonding experiences because the plays are so well-written. There’s so much love between the characters that the women can’t help but bond together and make a beautiful ensemble,” Collins says.

To help her cast to become closer, Collins did college bonding exercises with them. 

In the show, the strong relationships between the characters, even in times of conflict, are central to the story.

Collins says the characters are women in whom audience members can see themselves, their friends or their family members.

“I think why it works so well is because the characters are so real. When I read it, I see women in my mind,” Collins says.

Collins says the show is empowering because of its strong female cast and central theme of life-long female friendship.

“I think it is encouraging to women to see that kind of friendship and to know that it exists, that we can do that, that we can be friends like that and have those long-term friendships,” Collins says.