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Crossing the finish line

by Lenise Willis

Ricky Bobby isn’t the only character that likes to go fast; in fact, one driven female might have just given him a run for his money if she had crossed the track from the stage to the screen. While Talladega Nights, the movie, highlights the male egos of NASCAR, the play VROOOMMM! focuses on the plight and success of the first female driver in the male-dominated world.

Holly “Legs” Nelson, a very talented NASCAR driver, is trying to make her mark in the predominately male-heavy sport of racing. But not only does she have to strive for the fastest time, but she also has to overcome accusations of cheating and generally feeling unwelcome in a masculine world.

“She is incredibly intelligent and driven— no pun intended,” said Eliza Huberth, who will be performing as Nelson in Triad Stage’s upcoming production. “She doesn’t play the victim card when her circumstances get tough, but continues to go after what she wants and deserves. It’s important to see those qualities in a female character, especially being surrounded by so many men.”

The play, written by UNC Greensboro professor Janet Allard, highlights the competitive nature, trash talk, loyal fans, and back-road karaoke bars in the world of racing.

“It’s a hilarious NASCAR comedy with multiple characters played by an all-female cast with incredibly quick costume changes, car races and karaoke,” said director David Karl Lee. He noted, too, that it carries an important message. “There is inequality everywhere,” he said. “It’s still a struggle for women to get equal treatment on the NASCAR circuit and on the national and global stage. VROOOMMM! explores the racing world and how women and minorities still have to fight to be a part of this very white male sport.”

The play also delves into the world of NASCAR in general, which is very much rooted in southern culture—something that Triad Stage often explores.

“NASCAR finds its roots in moonshine runners and a life of speed,” said artistic director Preston Lane. “It’s uniquely southern in its roots and celebrates a kind of an authoritarian, iconoclastic independence. It seems a brilliantly comic way to examine our southern identity.”

“Fostering a unique southern voice is a core value of Triad Stage,” Lane continued. “That means looking at those things that speak to who we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going.

“I’ve long wanted a play to look at the phenomenon of NASCAR in southern culture. Growing up in the south, I loved NASCAR. I drank Sundrop because Dale Earnhardt drove the Sundrop car. I lived the authenticity of a homegrown celebration of speed and daring. Even as the sport grows far beyond its authentic roots, it remains an expression of who we are that I very much think deserves exploration.”

Actor Amy da Luz, who plays multiple roles in the play, commented that she has a new appreciation for the sport. “Before this project, I knew next to nothing about it,” da Luz said. “In fact, I would have been one of those people that would argue about it being a sport or not. But after learning the intricacies, the strategies, and most of all the commitment and determination behind most of these drivers, and the teamwork that is necessary to make it happen, there is no way these drivers are not athletes. And the history of the sport is fascinating. The research has become addicting.”

To transport the audience to the race track, Bert Scott, set designer, and Vandy Wood, lighting designer, have worked together to bring the raceway to life. “The set is one of my favorite I have ever worked on as a director,” Scott said. “It really speaks to the 10-year-old me that used to collect matchbox cars and batteryoperated cars and raceways. It really brings to life the world of the raceway in an epic way.” !

WANNA go?

Triad Stage presents VROOOMMM! January 27-February 7 at Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 N. Spruce St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are about $10-$50 depending on date and seating. For tickets and more information call 272-0160 or visit triadstage.org. Opening night is Saturday.

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