Clay Boyce back at South City Theatre, directing ‘Panache’

South City Theatre’s production of “Panache” continues through April 22. (Photo/Steven Ross)

Clay Boyce has been a fixture in Birmingham theater for 40 years.

He started with a production of “The Orphans” at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and since then, he’s directed productions at Birmingham Festival Theatre, Park Players (which he created), the Birmingham Music Club, Fultondale Arts Council, Arts Council of the Trussville Area (ACTA), Garden Variety Shakespeare and the Leeds Arts Council. He’s also acted on many stages in town, most recently in Homewood Theatre’s “The Hallelujah Girls.”

Boyce also once was active with South City Theatre, but he hasn’t worked with the Pelham theater since the pandemic. Until now.

Clay Boyce.

“One of the board members … mentioned that she was looking for an actor for a show they were about to produce,” Boyce recalls.

The show was “Panache,” which Boyce was familiar with, having auditioned for a production with the Wetumpka Depot Players. Eventually, the South City Board asked Boyce to direct.

“I was just thrilled to work on this script and bring it to life,” he says. “This will be my first visit back to South City as a director since 2013’s production of ‘Proof.’”

Boyce says that “Panache,” about two people, a socialite and a short-order cook, battling over the same vanity license plate, has the playwright, Don Gordon, borrowing from Edmond Rostand and “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

From Boyce: “Rostand described the word ‘panache’ as: ‘A little frivolous perhaps, most certainly a little theatrical, panache is nothing but a grace which is so difficult to retain in the face of death, a grace which demands so much strength that, all the same, it is a grace…which I wish for all of us.’”

“That is the exact story we are trying to tell with this production,” Boyce adds.

The cast at South City includes Alan Ashman, David Gauntt, Patrice Headington, Keith Ngo and Elane Barlow.

“With the exception of David Gauntt, I have never directed any of these actors before, and it has been such a joy to discover each of their personalities in their performances,” the director says.

The production, which opened last weekend and runs through this weekend, features set design by Shawn Reese.

“(He) has made an amazing set on the small stage at South City and has built something that helps the actors create the environment of this production,” Boyce says. “And my stage manager, Mike Oakes, who has worked with me on almost every show I have ever directed, has made it so that I have not had to worry about anything going on backstage or on stage.  I was also so lucky to find Ansley Weaver to run lights and sound for this show. She has done an amazing job of both and letting me just sit back and enjoy the show.”

“Panache,” at South City Theatre through April 22.

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