Sonora’s Marguerite Johnson will make her stage debut tonight with the Stage 3 Theatre Company as a woman buying donuts in the original play “Superior Donuts.”
It was one of Johnson’s dreams to be an actress, but was something she never got around to during her career in public access television.
Now 87 and a resident at Skyline Place in Sonora, her dream will become a reality thanks to a program called “Dandelion Wish.”
The “Dandelion Wish” program is like the “Make a Wish” program, but for Skyline residents who have an unrequited wish, Skyline activities director Sandy Banzet explained.
Other Skyline residents have wished for a motorcycle ride, hearing a symphony orchestra, meeting a favorite pianist and one resident wants to go skydiving, Banzet said.
Johnson will play a woman who stops by a run-down donut shop owned by a man “who can’t get over being a coward,” who is on the borderline between being good and bad,” she described.
The play, written by Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts, centers on Arthur Przybyszewski, an aging hippie who owns a decrepit donut shop in the uptown neighborhood of Chicago.
According to a Stage 3 press release, disillusioned and lost, Przybyszewski has given up on life and himself when he meets Franco Wicks, a fast-talking street kid who talks his way into a job and who just might have written The Great American Novel. Wicks also brings a tangle of his own problems that may be Arthur’s undoing or his greatest moment.
“This is a powerful story about hope and dreams. It just also happens to be tremendously entertaining,” Artistic Director Don Bilotti said in a press statement. “It’s about the redemptive power of friendship, sometimes against all odds and in the oddest places. It’s offbeat, knife-edge funny, sometimes cruel but filled with the promise of expectation.”
The play does contain adult language.
“These are real people living in a real world.” Bilotti said in a press release. “Our aim is not to offend anyone, but to bring the best new work to our audience.”
Johnson’s role however, doesn’t include any strong language.
The play is directed by Maryann Curmi, who Johnson said is a “maestro.”
Johnson, a longtime theater supporter, said it’s been a wonderful and eye-opening experience to learn the ins and outs of theatre.
“It’s really amazing. When you’re sitting out front you don’t realize what’s all going on back there,” she said. “All of the actors are just right for their roles.”
Rehearsals have been “wonderful,” Johnson said. “The story is fantastic.”
“I feel great, no qualms at all,” she said of her opening night performance.
This is the most recent in a lifetime of adventurous acts undertaken by Johnson, she said.
In addition to raising three children, Johnson had a decade-long career in programing public access television in the Bay Area and was on the board of the statewide PTA, directing conferences and speaking in front of thousands of people. Today, she still has a public access show on Cable 8, “Viewpoints,” where she interviews women pushing 100 years old, who “were pathfinders for other women. They broke the ice for gals now who have things.”
Johnson worked on state juvenile justice committees, worked at a drug-abuse clinic in Hayward, was on the YES Partnership board, active in the Democratic Central Committee, and, in addition to being on the board of Planned Parenthood in the Bay Area, walked women across the picket lines to the Planned Parenthood in Stockton.
She also, with her husband, the late Daniel Johnson, started the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Tuolumne County and the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee.
“I felt comfortable in front of a crowd. The only thing I hadn’t done was be on stage,” Johnson said.
“Superior Donuts” showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays today through May 27. Stage 3 is located at 208 S. Green St., Sonora. Tickets are $18 Thursday, $20 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Senior Sundays are $18. Students are $12.
For tickets or more information, call 536‑1778 or visit www.stage3.org.