Bob Park—all 91 years old of him—is at it again.
The local playwright, writer, singer and songwriter is putting on another play inspired by his hometown, Taffy, in Ohio County.
This rendition is the ninth play that Park has written. It’s called Taffy Opry Presents Shenanigans: A Variety Show. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 26 and 3 p.m. on Aug. 27 at Preston Arts Center.
The first, Taffy Opry, was staged in 2008. All have been at Preston Arts Center, except for One Day in Heaven, which was performed at the United Methodist Church.
The characters are inspired by real people Park knew when he was young, but the play has to be viewed as fictional.
“I enlarged on their personalities,” he said. “Most are based on real people I knew.”
For instance, there are the characters Bum and Mabledean, inspired by a couple from back home in Taffy that had 11 children. In the play, they have 12.
Once Mabledean was in town with her children when a man asked her, “Are those kids all yours or are you going to a picnic?”
“Those kids are all mine,” she replied. “And believe me, it’s no picnic.”
That’s the kind of wit and wisdom that populates the storyline of Shenanigans. The show consists of vignettes wrapped around songs, and Park describes it as “kind of a musical” and “Probably” more of a musical than past productions.
In the play (with no spoilers), the character, Adam, wants to build a homeless shelter in Taffy but he doesn’t have any money. So he meets with Myrtie and Gertie, and they decide to hold a vaudeville show to raise money.
The play portion of the show then converts to the vaudeville rehearsals in a sort of “play within a play,” Park said. The stories told throughout lead into songs.
The cast numbers 16 0r 17, all Henderson residents, and the play is directed by Steve McCarty, who along with Donna Stinnett helped to edit the script.
Park told his stories for years earlier in his life, when he was dean of students at Henderson Community College, but for a while, those tales were only heard by friends and family. His wife, Jane, told him he needed to get these stories written, or recorded.
“If you don’t start getting these stories down, they’re going to get lost,” she told him.
In the early 1990s, Park began recording his Taffy vignettes and his songs on WSON. They aired five days a week for 13 years, some 2,000 recordings, he said.
He was also an early member of the local bluegrass band, Canoe Creek.
During the 1990s, an agent out of Louisville heard him give a speech and he began giving after-dinner speeches statewide. That lasted until 2005.
He said his first play, produced in 2008, came to be out of a need to still create. And he wanted his characters to not only be heard, but to be seen as well.
“It dawned on me that I wanted them to come to life,” he said.
And as to why he’s written another play as a nonagenarian?
“Maybe I felt it wasn’t over,” he said. “I had something else to say.”
His wife died April 3, 2022. Park said he started working on the current play when she was still alive, and after she passed, he had a lot of time to write. Accordingly, Park said he’s found a spot for a small tribute to his wife in the play. He wrote the song, “Always Hold My Hand,” for her for Christmas in 1988. Although it was written for his wife, the song still fits into the storyline, he said.
Park said much of his writing concerns family history which he hopes his great-great-grandchildren and their kids will look at and see that their own emotions and pressures are the same as we face today. He wants them to know “what we were thinking and what we were like.”
He said there’s probably some things he’d wished he’d done, but he can’t think of them.
“If I had to live my life over again, I can’t think of anything I’d change,” he said.
He said he’s been telling people this is the last play he’ll write. They counter, “Yeah, you’ve been saying that the last three.”
“But who knows?” Park said.