A role in a play forced Hank DeLong to look up “smarmy” in the dictionary.

A role in a play forced Hank DeLong to look up “smarmy” in the dictionary.


“A shallow personality,” is what the definition held for DeLong, an Independence truck driver by day who says he didn’t even participate in high school theater. Still, DeLong dyed his hair light brown and trimmed a thin mustache for his role as Teddy Hitchell in the Encore Theatre’s comedy “Every Little Crook and Nanny,” which opens Friday night at the Roger T. Sermon Community Center’s Powerhouse Theatre.


DeLong and his wife, Kay Venyard, say they had so much fun in last December’s Encore Theatre production of “The Plight Before Christmas” that they decided to participate in another production featuring area actors ages 50 and older. This time around, they were cast as a couple.


“He just signed on to help with props,” Venyard says of her husband, “but he’s probably going to get roped in every time.”


The show’s director, Blue Springs resident Sandy Dempsey, described the show as “just shy of slapstick with lots of comings and goings,” similar to other stage productions written by Pat Cook. The lead female role, Lillie Scones, is a 60-something nanny with two female neighbors, Jocelyn and Carmella, who are also former nannies. Several other characters plan to sneak away for a bank heist during a graduation ceremony, not knowing that the graduation they will attend is police-related – or that the bank has already been robbed.


At auditions, Venyard says, she was aiming for one of the nanny roles, but she’s glad she was cast as Betty Collins, adding that everyone was cast in the roles they were meant to play. Betty Collins, a complete opposite of her fiance, is a bright woman who is set to graduate from the police academy.


DeLong and Venyard’s involvement with Encore Theatre started after their neighbor, Karen Puhr, told them about her five years of experience with the group. Venyard later attended two Encore shows to learn more before joining in August 2010.


“I’d seen her on several occasions leave the house in costume,” Venyard says of Puhr, “and I thought, ‘What does she do?’ Watching Karen, it’s like, ‘Boy, she’s just having too much fun up there. I want some of that.’”


This show marks the first dinner show for Encore Theatre. Though tickets are already distributed for it, more than 30 people plan to attend the dinner theater Saturday evening. Cast members will serve the food, and Venyard says she is thinking of quips to share as she waits tables, such as “I graduate in two days.”


“It’s a great cast of characters, and the actors are very good at their parts,” Dempsey says. “My whole philosophy is laughing, anyway, in my life. Come, sit back, laugh and enjoy the show. Just because you reach a certain age, you’re not useless and hopeless anymore.”