“The Exact Center of the Universe”

by Joan Vail Thorne

THE STORY: Vada Love Powell, the self-appointed doyenne of a small Southern town, has invited Mary Lou Mele to tea. It’s Vada’s intention to scare off another prospective bride for her beloved son, Apple, but she meets her match in Mary Lou, who’s pretending to be her twin sister, Mary Ann, whom Apple secretly married that very afternoon. Now Vada must face her best friends, Marybell Baxter and Enid Symonds in Enid’s tree house, where the three gather to “play canasta and consume sweets. “They agree that Vada “had this one coming,” but she pretends nothing has happened. It’s a complete surprise when Apple returns with his shy bride, who astounds even Vada with her love for him. Ten years pass and “The Tree House Gang has grown old.” Vada “summons” Mary Lou, now an anthropologist, to discuss some photographs she took of a nearly nude tribe. Vada is appalled that Mary Ann is going to let her twins take these “suggestive” pictures to school. Apple blames his mother for offending his wife, warns her not to mention the photographs to the girls, and runs out before she can tell him she already has. Vada also “summons” Enid and Marybell to discuss the “unrest” in their beloved church guild. During their discussion Apple telephones that the twins have run away from school. After some panic, Mary Ann reports they’ve been found, but she holds Vada accountable: The girls ran away because Vada had said they should be ashamed of the photos. Vada apologizes to Mary Ann, and reveals to Apple “this little heart problem,” that she’s not going to let “change her life.” She asks him to plan her funeral, then proceeds to tell him exactly what to do!

“The E,xact Center of the Universe”

By Joan Vail Thorne
Directed by Dr. Aileen Hendricks

On Stage At
The Creative Bloc
804 Main Street, Baton Rouge, LA

Off Broadway at the Century Center for the Performing Arts by
Elsa Daspin Haft, Martin Markinson, Judith Resnick, Sheilah
Goldman, Jerome Rosenfeld and Allen M. Shore.

The world premiere was produced in New York City in 1999

by Women’s Project and Productions. Julia Miles, Artistic

Director; Patricia Taylor, Managing Director.

The Setting

A town in the Deep South: Han1mond, LA


Jerel M. Giarrusso . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marybell Baxter

Jan Koellen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vada Love Powell

Ryan Chase Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Appleton Powell Jr. & Mr. Powell

Courtney McKay Murphy ……. Mary Ann Mele & her twin Mary Lou

Anne Woods…………………………….. Enid Symonds

Production Crew

Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aileen A. Hendricks

Assistant Director . .. . .. . . . .. . . . . .. . . .. .. . . .. . . . . . . Nancy Lynch

Scenic, Lighting Designer, and Technical Director ……. De’Anna Ernst


Stage Manager………………………………..Nancy Lynch

Set Construction ………………………………..Justin Moore, Don Ortega & Volunteers from the Scottlandville High School Drama Department

Sound………………………………..Ted Hansen

Light………………………………..Rudi Spruel

Costumes…………………………………Susan Simoneaux

Properties, Set, Publicity, Graphic Program Design …..De’Anna Ernst

Program………………………………..Don Couvillion

Front of House…………………………………Kristina Web Shapiro

LA VOW believes that women can speak for


Act One takes place in February 1950s

Act I, Scene I

Act I, Scene II

Same day

Act I, Scene III

Next day

10 Minute Intermission

Act Two takes place in the Spring 1960s

Act II, Scene I

Act II, Scene II

Cast Bios

Jerel Jerel M. Giarrusso (Marybell Baxter) Jere! is an accredited, veteran public relations professional. She recently retired as the Director of Communications for the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from LSU, and branched into public relations after several years in news reporting. A New Orleans native, Jere! and her husband, Ted Hansen, have two adult children and share their mini-estate with a pair of horses, several dogs and cats, and innumerable rose bushes. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, Bible study, gardening, writing, photography, travel, cooking, creative needlecraft and history studies, in no particular order. Active in civic affairs and in her church, she participates in annual Central American missions as a member of the church mission team. Although she enjoys attending stage and cultural productions, Jerel’s last stage appearance was about a half-century ago in junior high school. She credits much of what she has learned about theatre to her daughter, AEA Stage Manager Elena Hansen, MF A, who currently teaches stage management at the University of Northern Colorado.

JanJan Koellen (Vada Love Powell) A native of Baton Rouge, Jan has enjoyed a love of theatre and the other arts most of her life, but this is her return to the stage after a very long break to raise her daughter Lindsey and a 30+ year career with NOAA Fisheries. She worked most often offstage, especially at Baker and Shreveport Little Theaters, and participated in New England, Shreveport and Baton Rouge area plus other independent theater/writing groups along the way and studied drama at LSU as part of her major in Humanities (B.S. ’85).


Ryan Chase Lee as Apple PowellRyan Chase Lee (Appleton Powell Jr. & Mr. Powell) Rya has been an actor in film, television, and theater for over a decade. He has appeared in films such as Beautiful Creatures & Mississippi Grind, television shows such as ABC’s Final Witness and The Astronaut Wives Club, and performed as Howie in Rabbit Hole and Fyedka in Fiddle on the Roof He is currently a Realtor and also works for Complete Weddings + Events here in Baton Rouge. He was recently elected the Parish Executive Committee for the Libertarian Party of East Baton Rouge Parish. He is thankful to all his family,, friends, and loved one for their amazing support and considers himself very blessed to have them in his life.

CourtneyMurphyCourtney McKay Murphy ( Mary Ann Mele & her twin Mary Lou) Courtney McKay Murphy attended Northwestern State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science with a Concentration in Performance and Directing. She is thrilled to be making her debut performance with LA VOW Theatre Company in The Exact Center of the Universe. A local theatre regular, some of her past credits include Woman #2 in Almost, Maine, Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest, Peggy Day in The Women, Kate Sullivan in Other People’s Money, and Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She would like to thank Dr. Hendricks and the entire cast and crew for being such a talented and memorable group with whom to share the stage. And finally, she would like to thank her family and friends for their continuous and loving support. Without all of you, this show would not be possible!

AnneWoodsAnne Woods (Enid Symonds) Anne recently retired from LSU Health Systems. She found a love for theatre watching her children participate in shows as children in school and church. When they grew up, Anne started taking classes at the local little theatre in Virginia. After she moved back. to Baton Rouge (her hometown) in 2008, she found classes at now Theatre Baton Rouge and was encouraged to audition for shows. Her shows include Holly Dolly (ensemble) and Guys and Dolls(General Cartwright) at Runnels. She was in the ensemble of A Christmas Carol at Theatre Baton Rouge (2013 and 2014) This is Anne’s first dramatic role and she would like to thank Aileen for this opportunity, her husband Gerald for all his support and her sister Lynn for the encouragement.

IMG_4201ed01Aileen Hendricks (Play Director & Artistic Director of LaVOW Theatre Company, Incorporated August 30, 2013 as a non-profit 501 c3 ). She has more than 50 years experience in amateur, professional, community and educational theatre. She recently retired (December 14, 2014) from Southern University as a full professor of Speech and Theatre after 23 years of service. She has written plays; published scholarly articles; and won awards from community, professional, educational and artistic organizations. One of the first women to graduate from Texas A&M University in 1971 (1974 Masters), she earned her doctorate in theatre from LSU in 1988. She is married to Donald Luke Couvillion and the proud mother of August W. Wenck, Robert W. Wenck Jr. and Yolanda Prevost-Robinson.