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Hamptons Life

Jan 5, 2018 11:59 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'Crimes Of The Heart' Opens At Southampton Cultural Center On January 12

Bonnie Grice, Josephine Wallace and Tina Realmuto in
Jan 8, 2018 10:14 AM

Joan M. Lyons has worn many hats in the East End theater scene.

A law firm administrator by trade, the East Hampton native has dabbled in it all—performing, directing, producing and even founding her own theater company in 2006, The Jacobson Center for the Performing Arts, Ltd.

She credits her initial exposure to theater to her Springs School fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Hugh King, who, now retired from teaching, serves as East Hampton’s town crier.

“Anytime we had any kind of a class project, it was a play,” she recalled.

However, she wouldn’t reignite her passion for the theatrical arts until she took a tap class offered by East Hampton School District’s continuing adult education program in her 30s.

“Through dance I got involved in theater and it was sort of a natural progression from dance to singing and acting to opening my own company,” Ms. Lyons explained.

The Jacobson Center disbanded after eight years, but Ms. Lyons soon after became a director with Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center, where her latest project, “Crimes of the Heart,” will begin performances on Friday, January 12.

The 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner and 1982 Tony Award Best Play nominee, written by Beth Henley, is a “dramedy” telling the story of three sisters reunited after one of them shoots her abusive husband.

Ms. Lyons and Center Stage’s artistic director, Michael Disher, initially tried to obtain the rights to the show three seasons ago, but due to limited licensing—on account of a rumored potential Broadway revival—they were not able to produce the show until this year. When the rights were finally secured, Ms. Lyons said she was thrilled with the opportunity to stage the play she had long admired.

She said she has always been interested in Ms. Henley’s work. The playwright was born in Mississippi, where the play takes place, so Ms. Lyons said she could relate to the location of the story after her daughter attended Ole Miss.

However, the real draw of bringing it to life for East End audiences in particular is its relatability and focus on family, Ms. Lyons said.

“Everyone’s got a family. And if you think your family is normal and not dysfunctional then you’re kidding yourself,” she said.

In “Crimes of the Heart,” the Magrath family is particularly rampant with chaos, Ms. Lyons said. Not only must they cope with Babe’s crime, they must also deal with past predicaments and relationships that resurface over the course of the play.

“I really like the interplay between the characters as sisters,” Ms. Lyons said. Not having a sister herself, but admitting she always wished she had, she said she was fascinated by the dynamic between the three characters.

From a directorial standpoint she said she was also drawn in by the play’s mixture of “drama and darkness, but humor.” While she noted that many shows can become very dated over time and as a result are altered for modern adaptations, in this case she said the show remains relevant.

“This show is not dated. I think you could do this as a contemporary piece or any time period because it’s really about relationships and family and how sisters get along—or don’t get along—and what the dynamics of the family situation is. In particular, an outsider coming in and making a claim against your sister,” she said.

“It’s okay for you to say something about your sister, but no one else can come in and say that about your sister. That’s something that covers all time periods.”

Ms. Lyons hopes audiences can take the lessons from “Crimes of the Heart” and use them to reconsider their own familial situations.

“I think that no matter how much we don’t get along or how many issues or problems we have with each other, there’s always a way to work it out if you work hard enough,” she said. “Family is important. It’s your backup system.”

“Crimes of the Heart” will be staged at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane, Southampton Village, from January 12 to 28 with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, $25 for general admission and $15 for students, visit scc-arts.org or call OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111.

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