Art Talk Monday

Ruston now has an opportunity to welcome a new theatre company. Next Friday and Saturday, July 1 and 2, the Basket & Beverage (B & B) Theatre will present “Graceland” by Ellen Byron at 7:30 p.m. in the Norton Building (207 W. Mississippi Ave.) The play is a southern-fried comedy that takes place in 1982 at the gates of Graceland, the late Elvis Presley's Memphis mansion. The play hinges on a single encounter between two devoted Elvis fans, Bev (played by Allie Bennett) and Rootie (played by Rebecca E. Taylor), who arrive at the gates three days before the estate is opened to the public.

Both women hope to be the first to enter their beloved’s sacred home and resting place. The play reveals how the bold and brassy Bev and the shy but steadfast Rootie pass the time that will ultimately determine who greets the King’s ghost for the first time.

To find out, share this heart-warming comedy with us. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. each night and tickets are $10. There will be tables and chairs available, but because there are no advance-sale tickets, patrons are encouraged to arrive early with their picnic baskets, and the beverage of their choice.

B & B’s creators, husband-and-wife team Paul and Mary Fran Crook, are excited to provide relaxed, enjoyable, and quality entertainment to Ruston. Paul serves as B & B’s Artistic Director and Mary Fran serves as the Producer. Both are also professors of theatre—Paul at Louisiana Tech University and Mary Fran at Grambling State.

Their experience and desire to continue their work in the summers led the pair to consider the idea of starting a theatre company years ago, but they finally grew serious about it during the fall of 2010. Paul said, “It is an opportunity to do what we love to do here at home and to offer something that is an addition to the arts scene in north Louisiana.”

Aware of Ruston Community Theatre, the Dixie Center for the Arts, and the university theatre programs, Paul said, “We view B & B as a complement to what is already going on.” The Crooks carefully coordinated the dates of their summer shows so as not to conflict with those of other organizations. He explained that it was important to them that B & B be something else to do, and he hopes that B & B’s casual approach will cater to a slightly different crowd.

Paul said, “We look at this year as an experiment to see if B & B is a viable project. If it is, we want to build on it.”

The company is certainly off to a strong start by casting Allie Bennett as Bev and Rebecca Taylor as Rootie. Bennett is a 2004 Louisiana Tech graduate in theatre, who is excited to be back on stage in Ruston after an all too long break from the theatre. After graduation, Allie and her husband traveled to Germany, where they were stationed with the US Army. While there, she was extremely involved in the Terrace Playhouse, a division of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. Some of her favorite roles included Pippi in "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," Trollerina in "Sleeping Beauty," Jo in "A Few Good Men," Aunt Trina in "I Remember Mama," for which she won best Supporting Actress from the Europe wide adjudication of plays, and Catherine in "Proof," for which she won Best Actress.

Taylor earned her Master's in theatre from Louisiana Tech University in 2007 after several seasons and a year-long residency with the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. Some of her favorite roles while in Massachusetts included the Ringmaster in “Strange Waves” and Colombia in “A Saint She Ain't.” She also understudied Tony-award winner Katie Finneran in “The Smell of the Kill.” Upon returning to Louisiana, she has since enjoyed roles at Tech such as Dr. Bearing in “Wit,” Stella in “Such Stuff,” and Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Bennett and Taylor are a dynamic and experienced duo who are sure to win our hearts.

“Graceland” is the first of two shows in B & B’s inaugural season. The second “RFK” will run August 19-20. The B & B Theatre’s inaugural season is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Stone Family and the North Central Louisiana Arts Council. Visit the B & B Theatre online at and “like” us. For more information, email