Bakersfield Mist at Carpenter Square Theatre

Maude doesn’t understand Lionel’s remarks about her painting in a scene from “Bakersfield Mist,” an award-winning comedy-drama about a thrift store scavenger who finds what might be a modern art masterpiece by Jackson Pollock. Rhonda Clark, as the hard-drinking Maude, is joined by Terry Veal as a snooty fine art expert.

Carpenter Square Theatre begins the New Year with “Bakersfield Mist,” an award-winning comedy-drama by Stephen Sachs that will play January 6-28, 2017. In this Performing Arts Q&A, Artistic Director, Rhonda M. Clark, talks about the play, modern art, what’s unique to their version, why you should see it, and more.

What five words would you use to describe Bakersfield Mist?
Touching comedy, blue-collar vs. high-brow.

Now, using more than five words, what’s it about?
Inspired by true events, the play pits Maude Gutman, a bawdy, boozy thrift shop collector against Lionel Percy, a snooty world-class art expert from New York. Maude has lived in a crummy trailer park in Bakersfield, California for thirty-three years, and has no taste for or knowledge of fine art. She purchased an “ugly” painting for three bucks at Daisy’s Junk Shop as a joke on a friend. Spurred on by a local art teacher, Maude is now convinced it is a modern art masterpiece by Jackson Pollock worth millions. When Lionel arrives to authenticate the painting, he has no idea what he is about to discover. Over the course of an afternoon, the two wrestle with the truth and each other. By turns hilarious and thought-provoking, the play questions what makes art, and people, truly authentic.

What are some unique aspects for your version?
The set is packed with unique items that someone who haunts thrift stores and junk shops might treasure. It’s a great environment for the story!

Why have you chosen to feature this show?
“Folks who love modern art would enjoy it. Folks who couldn’t care less about modern art would enjoy it.”It’s a smart contemporary story that truly is a mix of comedy and drama. Folks who love modern art would enjoy it. Folks who couldn’t care less about modern art would enjoy it. The characters are exact opposites on the surface, but as the story unfolds, one sees distinct parallels in their life experiences – very clever work from the playwright. They are juicy roles for veteran (not older!) actors to explore.

What was the biggest challenge with this production?
Finding the pace and keeping up with the sudden twists and mercurial emotions that keep the story rolling and compelling.

Bakersfield Mist at Carpenter Square Theatre - Provided photo
What scenes or moments stand out to you that make the play worth showing to people?
Maude and Lionel wrestle with each other emotionally and intellectually, but it’s very fun when it boils over into an actual wrestling match of sorts! Also, Maude will try just about anything to get what she wants, and when she and Lionel have had enough to drink, she tries seduction – mind you, a very awkward seduction.

Have you ever bought something that you thought was worthless and it turned out it was valuable or the other way around?
In theatre, we spend a lot of time at thrift stores, antique shops, and discount houses. We collect what might look like a warehouse full of worthless junk, but what makes an item valuable is when it’s just the perfect thing for a set or a costume. Eureka!

Why should one see Bakersfield Mist?
It’s funny and thought-provoking all at once. The play is based on true events but is its own unique story. It’s full of humor with moments that tug at your heartstrings.

Anything else you want people to know?
Bakersfield Mist is rated PG-13 for strong language. Maude is a loud, hard-drinking “broad” who’s more at home in a dive bar than a fine art gallery. Four letter words often fly out of her mouth.

Director Ben Hall steers the two-person cast for Carpenter Square Theatre. Rhonda Clark and Terry Veal co-star as the determined Maude and the equally determined Lionel. Mark Fairchild serves as the production stage manager. Ben Hall is also the set designer, with Jay C. Schardt as lighting designer, and Ms. Clark as the costume coordinator.

All performances are at the Carpenter Square Theatre, located at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City. Specific performance dates and times over four weeks are: 8 p.m. January 6-7 and 13-14; 7:30 p.m. January 19, 8 p.m. January 20-21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 22; 7:30 p.m. January 26 and 8 p.m. January 27-28. The play is rated PG-13 for strong language.

Regular adult tickets are $20 with $15 tickets available for seniors aged 62 or more, military, and groups of ten or more. Student and faculty tickets are only $5. Reservations are highly recommended for the intimate 90-seat theater. Visit for more information.

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Dennis Spielman

I'm Dennis Spielman, the Producer of Uncovering Oklahoma, which I started in 2009 as a way to show that Oklahoma isn't boring. As for about myself, I’m a creative person that writes imaginative stories. I also run The Show Starts Now Studios, which is my umbrella organization for all of my shows I create. Come join me on Patreon as I create content that adds adventure and wonder to peoples' lives. More about my stories and projects are at