Three female actresses looking to the right of the photo with varied expressions during the play "The Bra and Panty Club" by Gay Hammond
From left, Brenau senior MJ Brashier, Brenau junior Katie Ivey and Ann Demling, theatre department chair and professor of theatre, in the inaugural run of Brenau associate professor of theatre Gay Hammond's "The Bra and Panty Club." The Gainesville Theatre Alliance show will run from Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 18-22 at the Ed Cabell Theatre on campus of the University of North Georgia in Oakwood. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Action! Gay Hammond’s ‘Bra and Panty Club’ discourages inertia

Feb 13, 2020
Kristen Bowman
An actress playing a sales woman yells comedically in a play
Brenau Theatre Department Chair and Professor of Theatre Ann Demling plays the role of Miss Tiffany in “The Bra and Panty Club.” (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

For her 40th play, Gay Hammond did something completely different.

The associate professor of theatre at Brenau University has a knack for period pieces. She teaches period styles for actors, is trained as a classical actor, has written dozens of period plays including adaptations of Jane Austen, and considers older literature “sort of my thing,” she said.

But with The Bra and Panty Club — which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at the Ed Cabell Theatre in Oakwood — she decided to do something contemporary.

The Bra and Panty Club follows Addie, who’s worked three years in the lingerie department of a department store — a position that was meant to be a temporary after-graduation job. In the off-kilter comedy, Addie copes with coworkers and customers, office politics and an unexpected Prince Charming.

The title of the play came to Hammond as she was walking through a department store years ago.

“I saw it on a sign in a local department store and thought it was hilarious,” Hammond said.

The story developed from there. It began to be about women, the nature of femininity and a tendency Hammond sees in young people.

“Because I teach college students, and at the time had nieces and nephews who were that age, I’m aware of a tendency for young people to drift sideways in their 20s,” she said. “They don’t know what decision to make and feel like it’ll be the most important decision, so they don’t make one at all. It seems to me there’s a danger there.”

Theatre Department Chair Ann Demling has had a long relationship with Hammond and The Bra and Panty Club. She’s joined Hammond for two readings of the show over the past 10 years. Now, finally, she plays Miss Tiffany, an older woman in the department who sees herself as a mentor to Addie.

“I enjoy the role of Miss Tiffany very much and was very eager to develop the character more fully in a production,” Demling said. “I have probably worked more often with Gay than other directors here; I love her insights, clear direction and lovely sense of humor. This cast and crew has had a strong ensemble from the start, and we are eager to get this comedy in front of a crowd.”

Alyssa Eblen, stage manager for The Bra and Panty Club and senior majoring in theatre and organizational leadership, said The Bra and Panty Club is “a fun, heartwarming production.”

“The sweetness of this story is wrapped in pertinent themes of womanhood and growing up, both of which are so refreshing to see on the stage,” Eblen said. “As a senior, I am moved every time Addie gives her speech about beginning her career and feeling the pressure to succeed. Along with quick humor and a whimsical budding love story, this show brings me joy at every rehearsal.”

Hammond said rehearsals have been joyful for her as well.

Three students and a director rehearse a scene of a play. The director talks to one students as another two laugh in the background.
Gay Hammond leads a rehearsal of her play “The Bra and Panty Club.” (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“It’s always really rewarding, being a playwright, when you put these characters on real people,” she said. “When you give a show to designers and see it, it’s really exciting. When you see it come to life for the first time, it’s a really rare and rewarding kind of creative activity. It’s emotionally rewarding.”

Hammond said the characters are never exactly the way she pictured them, because the actors will do little things she hadn’t considered before.

“It has a sense of birth,” she said. “I’m lucky to be able to do it.”

Hammond wears a number of hats at Brenau in addition to being an associate professor and playwright in residence, including directing WonderQuest, the theater program for young audiences. She also acts and has done costuming for the program in the past.

Eblen called Hammond “a powerhouse of knowledge and experience.”

“She is an incredible director, with a great artistic vision while allowing for the actors and designers to explore their own artistic endeavors,” she said. “As a professor, she gets you on your feet and makes you work toward success. She has a strong devotion to education and intellectual conversation, as she is an incredibly intelligent and well-read woman. She is honest and wants success for every student she teaches.”

Most of Hammond’s adult life has been spent at Brenau. She graduated in 1982 and was the first graduate of the joint theater program that is now known as Gainesville Theatre Alliance.

Hammond receives regular requests to have her plays — more information about which can be found on her website, newclassicsplays.com — performed outside Brenau and UNG. About eight or nine each year are performed throughout the country.

And because The Bra and Panty Club is her 40th play, it has a special significance for Hammond and one she’s particularly excited to see on the stage.

“I’ve gotten so used to being close to something I’ve made being here,” she said. “I’ve turned down other offers to produce it for this reason, because I want to make sure it’s good. I’m extremely lucky that I get to be a significant part of the production.”

Hammond’s hopes for the show are fairly simple.

“Well it’s a comedy. So I hope people will think it’s funny and enjoy it,” she quipped. “But I also hope people will both feel nostalgic for certain periods of their lives and feel emboldened to make choices.”

Showtimes for The Bra and Panty Club are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 16 and 18-22, and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and 22. An opening night reception will be held following the Feb. 14 performance.

For more information about the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, go to gainesvilletheatrealliance.org.

An actor and actress share an moment together during the play "The Bra and Panty Club"
Brenau senior Cole Ferguson and Brenau junior Katie Ivey share a moment during the “The Bra and Panty Club.” (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

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