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Play draws on friendship and end-of-life issues
Tammy Meneghini (top) and Leta Powell Drake play the title characters in "Grace and Glorie" at Savannah Pines. (Courtesy photo)

Tammy Meneghini wants to make one thing clear: “Grace and Glorie” is more than what it seems on the surface.

Yes, the play is about a woman at the end of her life. And, yes, it’s being staged at Savannah Pines, a Lincoln retirement community.

“It’s not just a show for old people,” the local Equity actress said. “It’s a show about friendship, a very unusual friendship. It’s about life.”

Meneghini will star in the Angels Theatre Company production of “Grace and Glorie” with longtime Lincoln actor Leta Powell Drake.

Directed by the Angels’ Judith K. Hart, the Tom Ziegler dramedy is about a hospice worker (Meneghini), who helps a 90-year-old, illiterate old woman (Drake) live out her final days in the mountains of Virginia.

“The spine of the story is the marvelous relationship between the older woman and the young woman,” Hart said. “You think it would be sad, but it’s not at all. You see what happens to the younger woman as she learns to live through her relationship with the older woman.”

Meneghini, a former Chicago and New York cabaret performer who moved to Lincoln a few years ago, brought the play to Drake. Together, they approached Hart to direct.

Meneghini was introduced to the work through Lucie Arnaz, a woman she worked with at a cabaret show in New York City. Arnaz performed the play off-Broadway with Estelle Parsons in 1996.

“I had read it and loved talking to (Arnaz) about it,” Meneghini said. “She was the age that I am now. I thought it would be something I would want to work on when I got older.”

Meneghini said it took little convincing for Drake to play Grace. Drake said she’s found her role therapeutic. She recently lost a sister to cancer. Two close friends also have passed away.

“It’s a way for me to handle the emotion and the grief,” she said.

Drake said she hopes the play starts discussions among senior citizens. Outreach discussions focusing on end-of-life issues will follow Sunday performances.

The play also will serve as an introduction to the Osher Learning Institute, a program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for people 50 and older that begins in September.

“We don’t want to look at death,” Drake said. “It’s always down the road. A lot of us die without wills or plans. This (play) looks at death square in the eye and presents it in a palatable, warm, tender way.”

The play also is about life, Meneghini said. Her hospice worker learns much about it through her relationship with the cantankerous Grace.

“(Glorie’s) whole world has changed,” she said. “She’s really trying to figure things out.”

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.

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