Life lessons from 'Mrs. Mannerly’

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Audiences are invited to stroll down memory lane to a time when teaching etiquette was a key part of any young person’s education in “Mrs. Mannerly.”

Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Ave. in Golden, is hosting the comic memory-play, from Jan. 11 through Feb. 17. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.

The production is a regional premiere.

“Mrs. Mannerly” is based on writer Jeffrey Hatcher’s own experiences in going to an etiquette school during the late 1960s, when the hippies and counter-culture movement was raging, making these rules seem obsolete.

“The play is really a retelling of his own adventures in etiquette and manners classes,” said director Richard Pegg. “These teachers really tried to bring refined culture to their students.”

The action takes place in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1967, where 10-year-old Jeffrey (Chris Bleau) is attending a class taught by Mrs. Mannerly (Deborah Curtis) with five other students (all other characters in the play are portrayed by Erica Johnson).

According to Curtis, Mannerly is based on a real person that Hatcher learned from, and who was very influential in his development.

“Who she was and what she taught him influenced him a lot,” she said.

Mannerly is a strict instructor, and no student in her 36 years has ever achieved a perfect score in her class. Jeffrey takes aim at reaching that goal, and when he stumbles upon a secret from her past, he figures he has the ace in the hole.

The rest of the story unfolds as Jeffrey finds out who Mannerly really is, and learns about the different sides that every person has. Curtis said she auditioned for the role because she loves comedy roles, and had wanted to work at Miners Alley and with Pegg for a long time.

“It’s a very large part, and there were a lot of women who auditioned for it, so I’m very honored that I was cast,” she said.

Since Mannerly is based on a real person, Curtis said she combed the script for clues about who she really was, and used the mystery around Mannerly in building the character.

“I grew to like her a great deal. She has her crosses to bear, but she approaches life with a great amount of verve,” Curtis said. “She’s a great old broad.”

Pegg had the cast go back and read the 1960s Emily Post books to get a sense of what manners were supposed to be like at the time.

“It was really interesting going back to the old days with the cast,” he said. “It’s one of those things where it’s wonderful to look back and say, ‘Wow, is that how they did it?’”

Curtis and Pegg said that while the play deals with a specific point in history, it is really a play about growing up, and that makes it universal.

“With the world progressing, its still important to pay attention to the lessons life teachers,” Pegg said.

For tickets and more information, call 303-935-3044 or visit www.minersalley.com.