By Kevin McClintock
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
For the past 28 years, Dee Timi has nearly done it all at the Joplin Little Theatre. During most of that time, she’s had the idea for a play -- a comedy -- swirling around inside her head.
And that’s where it remained, until a few years ago when a close friend galvanized her to write the play on paper.
“And, so I did,” Timi said with a chuckle. “You know, it’s just something I knew was in me, and I had the idea for this story and the characters.”
Timi, of Joplin, has helped in almost every way imaginable at the theater: She has directed plays, produced plays, stage managed, built sets, provided sounds and tinkered with lighting. Now she can add “writer” to her playhouse resume.
PUTTING PEN TO PAPER
“I started writing (the play) at the beginning of 2010,” Timi said. “It took about a half-year to really get it written down, and another three months to tweak it. That whole year, I was excited. I told everyone, ‘I’m writing a (play)!’”
Timi has the rare opportunity to take her two-dimensional play off paper and display it three-dimensionally on stage. The debut of her play, “The Downtown Gym” -- with Timi directing -- will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday before wrapping up with a 2:30 p.m. matinee performance next Sunday.
Timi said the writing process was far easier than she had anticipated.
“It surprised me,” she said. “I thought, ‘Boy, maybe I was meant to do this.’ You know, you never know until you try it. And after I got done with the first play I started a new one, and it’s still in that development stage, and only partially written down.”
Unlike “The Downtown Gym,” this new play will be a serious drama.
“It’s still in there,” she said, rubbing her temple, “and I know it wants to get out.”
Timi dabbles in theater while working full time as the supervisor of senior services at Freeman Health System and taking care of her parents. She earned a degree in speech and theater from Pittsburg State University.
“I’ve always kept my foot in theater,” she said. “I love theater.”
The decades she’s spent inside the theater has helped shape the homespun play, she said. Had she penned the play 10 to 15 years earlier, it wouldn’t have been the same, she said.
“This truly did just flow out of me,” she said. “It was just wonderful how it all came together -- little bits and pieces of scenes. Sometimes I’d get up in the middle of the night to write something down.”
The one-set play takes place inside the work room of a local gym over a year’s time. The audience catches glimpses into the lives of participants pumping iron at the fictitious Downtown Gym. Each of the play’s four scenes takes place the day after a major American holiday -- New Year’s Eve, Easter, the Fourth of July and Halloween.
“I’m not a wellness nut, but I know enough to scare you,” Timi said. “And the characters, every little bit, came from someone I knew, even though I can’t say who. But they might see a little bit of them up there.”
The play’s cast includes Kevin Nolte, Bill Welsh, Chet Fritz, Lindsey Hayes, Angela Flowers and Betsy Stone.
Sometimes a director and writer don’t see eye to eye when it comes to the interpretation of what’s been written down. No dilemma here.
“It’s been fun,” said Nolte, who plays Jim, the gym’s personal trainer. “The neat thing about this (play) is that the stuff I’ve done before has been more typecast, more inside my personality, (while this role) is more outside my personality. So I’ve had to work a lot harder than I’ve had to before. It’s a new challenge for me.”
Timi said her job might seem daunting, because her cast includes two people with plenty of experience doing her job.
“In the cast I have two directors up there on stage, so I’m basically directing directors,” she said. “But they are great. They ask me my opinions and my suggestions, but they are so good enough if I tell them where to go it will work.”
All tickets to the play are $10 and are now on sale. The play is a fundraiser for JLT, and all proceeds will go straight back to the theater.
Someday Timi would like to see her play performed elsewhere. But not right now.
“I do have (the play) copyrighted,” she said. “I would love to see it go further and actually become a piece that’s managed by one of the big publishing houses. That would be awesome, truly. But for now, I just want to see it done (here) first.”
Want to go?
“Downtown Gym” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $10. The play is a fundraising show for Joplin Little Theatre. For more information about the play or to purchase tickets, call 417-623-3638.