Former Orono native to direct Penobscot Theatre’s hilarious season opener, ‘The Fox on the Fairway’

Dominick Varney and Christie Robinson in Penobscot Theatre Company's production of &quotThe Fox on the Fairway."
Magnus Stark | Penobscot Theatre Company
Dominick Varney and Christie Robinson in Penobscot Theatre Company's production of "The Fox on the Fairway."
Posted Sept. 03, 2013, at 9:32 a.m.

Shelley Butler hasn’t been to Orono in a while. But as the director of Penobscot Theatre’s season-opening production, “The Fox on the Fairway,” she is returning to the place where she grew up.

“It’s weird to be back, but in a good way,” said Butler, who now splits her time between Los Angeles and New York. “I’ve done what I’ve done for so long everywhere else but here, but to get what I do where I’m from is really exciting.”

Butler graduated from Orono High School in 1994, where she was involved in community and school theater at a young age. She directed her first play at age 16 — a musical at Orono Middle School — and was involved in theater school at Penobscot Theatre and with Theater of the Enchanted Forest, a now-defunct children’s theater in Bangor.

In the ensuing 20 years, she’s worked as a director all over the country and the United Kingdom, as well as directing hit TV shows, including “Bones” and “E.R.”

“The Fox on the Fairway” is Butler’s first professional directing job in Maine, which she signed on for after she met Penobscot Theatre Executive Director Bari Newport in California at South Coast Repertory in Orange County. Butler still has family and friends in the area, including fellow Orono High graduates Zeth and Betsy Lundy, who own Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor.

“Seeing their shop and how successful they’ve been was part of the pull for me to come back,” said Butler. “When I’ve come back to visit before, I could see how rejuvenated the downtown has become. It was the right time to come back.”

“The Fox on the Fairway” is a new farce from playwright Ken Ludwig, who also wrote popular plays such as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” It details the high comedy hijinks that occur when employees and members of a country club get involved in romantic, business and sporting rivalries, culminating in a $200,000 wager that puts the livelihoods of club managers at stake. Butler describes it as “Caddyshack” meets “Fawlty Towers.” Penobscot Theatre’s production stars some of the area’s favorite comedic actors, including Dominick Varney, Ben Layman, Christie Robinson, AJ Mooney, Brent Hutchins and Bernard Hope.

“I think golf is a great premise for a comedy because they wear silly clothing and are very, very serious about putting a little ball in a hole,” said Butler. “The stakes are really high in the game, so that really lends itself to comedy as well. I hope area golfers come to the show. Actually, I really hope they come in their golf outfits.”

The play opens 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, and continues each weekend through Sept. 22. A gala opening is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. Tickets are available online at penobscottheatre.org, at the Bangor Opera House box office or by calling 942-3333. The Bangor Daily News is a sponsor of Penobscot Theatre’s 2013-2014 season.

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