New Jersey Stage

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cape May Stage Welcomes Back Barbara Bates Smith as Ivy Rowe

(Cape May, NJ) – Cape May Stage, South Jersey's premier Equity theater, is pleased welcome back a very dear friend: for one night only, Barbara Bates Smith recreates her one-woman show Ivy Rowe.  Adapted from the Lee Smith novel Fair and Tender Ladies, Smith returns to Cape May as part of their critically acclaimed Second Stage Series.  Ivy Rowe will be presented on June 27th at 8pm at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse at the corner of Bank and Lafayette Streets in beautiful downtown Cape May.

Underscored with hammered dulcimer music by Jeff Sebens of Cana, Virginia, Ivy Rowe recounts the intriguing life of a spunky and free-spirited mountain woman with a decidedly sensuous nature and an appetite for a good story.  Ivy takes us, in a flashback, through a lifetime of letters depicting her passionate life of "livin' on love". With a penchant for storytelling, she paints a vivid picture of twentieth-century Appalachian revivals, mine disasters, rural electrification, the Depression, two World Wars and Vietnam. We relish her stand against the coal company's bulldozer, defending her home.

Lee Smith, author of the source material, Fair and Tender Ladies, recalls, "Over 20 years ago, when Barbara first approached me about creating a one-woman play from my novel, Fair and Tender Ladies, I told her she was crazy."  Smith felt that the epistolary novel was unsuited to the stage, but eventually relented.  "The result has been one of the great joys of my life.  Barbara IS Ivy Rowe!  No writer has ever been better served by a production of her work."

Now in its 22nd year of touring, Smith has performed the show almost 700 times."I love it every time," recounts Smith.  "It's both ‘grounding' and ‘uplifting' for me, and, by far, the richest character of any dramatic literature I've ever run across. I feel terribly lucky that Lee Smith would let me have it."

Smith received glowing reviews during her first performance of the show in Cape May in 1990.  "Cape May in '90 was, in a sense, the stepping stone to Ivy Rowe's Off-Broadway debut," recalls Smith.  "Michael Laird and I had been in a play together at Florida's Asolo Theater. Ivy Rowe was barely underway at the time, but Laird booked it right away for that summer, and it played 3 times in Cape May in the early 90's.  A video of the original Tampa production, directed and co-adapted by Mark Hunter, had been viewed by a New York production team who came to Cape May to see it, and decided to bring it to NYC."
Since Barbara Bates Smith's Off-Broadway debut in Ivy Rowe in 1991, Smith's extensive touring of this one-person show has included a three-week run at the 1993 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Village Voice said of the New York production: "A lifetime's worth of sass, whoop, hurt, and reflection"; WOR Radio: "We are captivated and enthralled"; Variety: "Both funny and heartbreaking".

Now after 21 years, Smith is especially thrilled to be returning to Cape May Stage this season.
"One loves Cape May for its charm and beauty, of course, but Cape May has many wonderful ‘Ivy' memories for me; including wading across Michael Laird's boardwalk out at Grassy Sounds with luggage and costumes in tow and boarding there. It was Ivy's first outing at the Chalfonte Hotel stage, too- home of Cape May Stage at the time."

Part of Cape May Stage's acclaimed Second Stage Series, Ivy Rowe will run June 27 at 8pm at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse at the corner of Bank & Lafayette Streets in downtown Cape May.  Tickets are $20. Call (609) 884-1341 for reservations and information or visit the theatre's website,

Cape May Stage's Second Stage Series is presented through the gracious support of Chris and Dave Clemans.