Home Lifestyle ‘THE ULTIMATE DREAM’: Dawkins directing ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ at Richmond Community...

‘THE ULTIMATE DREAM’: Dawkins directing ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ at Richmond Community Theatre opening next week

Pictured, from left: Anitra Ingram Robinson, Valjean Hargrove and Bruce Stanback. Contributed photos

ROCKINGHAM — It took Odysseus 10 years to get home. Throughout his journey, he encountered many trials and tribulations. When Carrie Watts wanted to go home, all she had to do was catch a bus to Bountiful.

The Richmond Community Theatre will be presenting “The Trip to Bountiful” by playwright Horton Foote beginning on Friday, April 28 and continuing until Sunday, May 7.

The story follows the main character, Carrie Watts, an older woman who lives with her son and daughter-in-law and wants to go back to her rural home in the fictional Bountiful, Texas.

Click here to read more about the production.

Merrie Dawkins, the play’s director, is excited about the upcoming performance.

“It’s always been a favorite of mine,” said Dawkins. “One time in my life in theater, I really wanted to play Thelma. Then as I got older, I wanted to play Jessie Mae. Now, Carrie Watts.”

A chance happening led her to the play.

“I was listening to NPR and heard an interview with Cicely Tyson,” said Dawkins. “She was talking about the play and how it always touched her.”

Tyson was in negotiations with playwright Horton Foote’s daughter to play the part of Carrie Watts and she expressed how she loved the story being one of being human and the feelings in our families.

It was Dawkins’s husband Doug who made the trip to Broadway possible.

“My husband and I went to Broadway and got to see her in it,” said Dawkins. “The cast was Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Williams. It just was just theater at its very best.”

Dawkins was absorbed so much by the actor’s chemistry; she left the theater speechless and in tears.

“I was so struck by it that when it was over, my husband — who was so excited that we were able to do this — as tears were running down my face, he said ‘Are you ok? Did you not like it?’

“He kept asking me questions because I was just speechless,” Dawkins continued. “All I could think about was that I could just sit in this theater all day and take all the energy from the audience, from the cast when we finally got up and walked out…I had to process all of this. After that, I was like this play has got to be done.”

Dawkins became director of the RCT in 2019 and knew that she wanted to direct “Bountiful” as a tribute to Tyson.


Then, COVID hit.

“We had rehearsal and COVID hit and we had to shut down,” said Dawkins. “We tried to reschedule it a couple of times and the pandemic just kept on and on. Finally, in 2023 we get to do it.”

Pictured, from left: Anitra Ingram Robinson, Sean Smith, Gary Smith.

Dawkins is excited about her latest cast.

“Some of the originals who were going to do it have moved on and others had health issues,” said Dawkins. “To me it’s just the ultimate dream.

“I’ve had some of the cast members who have wanted to do it and have seen it come to life. I’m just so excited that I am able to give it to our community.”

The play features Anitra Ingram Robinson as Carrie Watts, Bruce Stanback as Ludie Watts and Valjean Hargrove as Jessie Mae Watts. Other actors include Kennedy Hargrove, Aidan Davis, Doug Smith, Sabrina McDonald, Dr. Katrina Chance, Gary Smith, Sean Smith and Errica Sandiago.

Dawkins gives credit to her cast and crew who have worked hard on the performance.

“I could go on and on and on,” said Dawkins. “I have a really good cast and a really good crew — really hard-working crew. I’m really excited and I hope that the community comes out and supports it in droves. I’d love for these people to have a full house every night.”

The plays opens April 28. Other show dates are April 29-30 and May 5-7. Tickets are available for $15 and can be purchased at the door or online at www.richmondcommunmitytheatre.org. From the website you will be directed to pick out seating arrangements.

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