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Strand clubs team up for laughs

The importance of community awareness for two local nonprofit organizations has never been a laughing matter, until Sunday.

A Benefit Comedy Show at 3 p.m. Sunday at Coastal Carolina University's Wheelwright Auditorium will help fund events and programs organized by the Conway Chamber of Commerce and multiple charities supported by the Rotary Club of Conway.

This event, geared toward all ages, brings together performers from six local theater and comedy groups in an afternoon organized by chamber and Rotary officials: the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach; the Carolina Improv Company of Uptown in Myrtle Beach Mall, near Briarcliffe Acres; Celebration Music Theatre in Surfside Beach; Comedy Cabana in Myrtle Beach; Dino's TV Variety Show in Myrtle Beach; and Stand-Up Carolina Comedy Club in Garden City Beach.

"It's great that they've gotten everyone involved," said Jeff Martin, co-owner of Stand-Up Carolina.

He hopes this kind of "groundbreaking" benefit eventually can lead to a Myrtle Beach comedy festival, another joint effort on an even bigger scale.

"We really need to have everybody on board," Martin said.

MG Gaskin, who played Stand-Up Carolina on Thanksgiving weekend, will bring "clean comedy" to the benefit on Sunday, too, Martin said.

"It's a family show," Martin said. "A lot of people want stuff to do with the kids."

Another benefit to the three area comedy clubs, each with less than 200 seats, Martin said, comes in the bigger stage all the troupes will share on Sunday.

"This is bigger than all three of our clubs together," he said, glad all the theaters will take a turn on Sunday. "It's really cool that comedy is getting such a focus right now."

'Heart' of community

Greg London, managing artistic director of the newly opened Celebration Music Theatre in Surfside Beach, said Susie Shoman will bring her tribute act to the late Minnie Pearl for the benefit.

"It's part of what we wanted to do," London said, "to develop these community relations. Our theater especially has a mission to reach out for community projects."

Shoman called her role in the benefit an honor, especially for family oriented humor, as seen on the former "Hee Haw" TV show.

"The nonprofits are truly the heart of the community," she said, "and they do some of the fundamental work. ... I've always wanted to do stand-up comedy, and I didn't think Minnie Pearl would take me there."

Shoman added Pearl skits to her repertoire of characters only a few months ago.

Having been on stage "all my life," Shoman said, doing a character evolves as she learns more about the person.

"You can refine and refine and refine," Shoman said.

Marshall Easterling, from Dino's TV Variety Show, is looking forward to sharing her tribute to Phyllis Diller.

"I don't usually get to perform with anybody from the other theaters to share my talents for a good cause," she said, after a Dino's show Tuesday night. "It'll be interesting to see the other performers and be part of the audience, so to speak."

Easterling said she began her Diller part four years ago, after realizing "kindred spirits" with the real-life star, and that the role, including a "raucous laugh," continues evolving.

"Phyllis had such a long, long career," Easterling said. "She had so many different looks, and she kept developing different material. ... It's always a challenge to try to emulate her style."

Seeing fellow actors on Sunday take their turns with their adaptations, all family fare, will keep Easterling glued to her seat.

"I'm really excited to see Minnie Pearl, too," she said.