You never know who you might be sitting next to the next time you attend a performance at South Baldwin Community Theatre in Gulf Shores, it might be the playwright. “Waiting Rooms,” that premiered Nov. 2, 2012 was written by a local playwright. Laura Sansing Pfizenmayer continues the story of the Whitfields in her play “Waiting Rooms,” the third installment about this Southern family that argue and love with the fiercest of family ties. Early in 2014, the theatre presented the fourth Whitfield sagas with “Crystal and J.T.’s Wedding Shower & Fish Fry.
LAURA SANSING PFIZENMAYER ~ “Writing ‘Waiting Rooms’ is how I grieved the loss of my father,” Pfizenmayer said describing the process that brought about the play. “I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms with my own brothers and sisters who are just as wacky as the Whitfields. Writing is how I deal with the joy and the sadness.”
Set in 1997, “Waiting Rooms,” is the story of how grown-up siblings Savannah, Augusta, Montgomery and Montgomery's wife Mary Lee deal with the illness and subsequent death of their mother, Alma. “It is a dramedy that will touch your heart and have you laughing uproariously at the fussing, feuding and remembering of this Southern family” Pfizenmayer said. “It’s a play in the tradition of ‘Dearly Departed,’ and ‘Daddy’s Dying, Who’s Got the Will?’”
Although not a newcomer to writing plays, Pfizenmayer is fairly new to Baldwin County. She and her husband Richard moved to Gulf Shores in 2010 to be close to her twin grandchildren, Bella and Bodee. She also wanted to enjoy writing at the beach. Her first play in the Whitfield family saga, “Livin’ and Comin’ Back,” was performed during the 2010-2011 season at SBCT and the second installment, “Tornados Touching Down,” was presented during the 2011-2012 season and “Waiting Rooms” ran during the 2012-2013 season. In 2014, the next installment, "Crystal and JT's Wedding Shower and Fish Fry," will come to SBCT with the finale "Alert and Vertical” scheduled to open January 8, 2015.
Pfizenmayer is a native of Alabama and a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has six children and 14 grandchildren, the newest Julianna Mae born on July 31st. None of her children have an interest in the theatre but she co-authored a young adult monologue with her granddaughter Marie Raby this summer, "The End of the Road".
Pfizenmayer wrote in college, but writing slid to the back burner while raising her children. Her career as playwight began in 1995 when she lived in York, S.C, and volunteered backstage at the Rock Hill Community Theatre. “After listening to six weeks of rehearsal and three weeks of performances, I thought, ‘I can do this and I can do it better’," she said. She obtained a copy of the Samuel French play structure guidelines and began writing plays and found she had a real knack for the format. Her first play, titled “The Food Beast,” was performed at her youngest daughter’s middle school.
“The play was well-received and I became hooked on play writing. Before that I had written really bad poetry and equally bad short stories, but I found out I had a talent for writing dialogue, especially funny dialogue.” Her next play “Plastique,”about three women having plastic surgery, was performed by the same Rock Hill Community Theatre where she had worked as a stagehand. The production went to the state AACT and won several awards.
Specializing in Southern family comedy, Pfizenmayer has had more than 100 productions throughout the United States including New York and Washington, D.C. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the International Center for Women Playwrights and has received several awards for her plays. Writing is something Pfizenmayer does every day. “I set the kitchen timer and write,” she said. “My husband will often hear me laughing hysterically while I am banging away at the keyboard. The characters in my play are so real to me. They are an amalgamation of friends and family. I love stories and every person has a story.”
After being affiliated with several other theaters including Theatre Charlotte in Charlotte, NC, she now considers SBCT her home theatre and is serving on the board this year.