Naomi Fleetwood Pyle finds a strong similarity between the footlights and footwork of her life.
The longtime leader of the Columbus Clogging Company is now directing and acting in the comedy “The Dixie Swim Club,” at the Harlequin Theatre at FairOaks Mall. The production opens at 7 p.m today. and continues on Nov. 10, 16 and 17 also at 7 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 18. Tickets are $12 in advance at the mall, Flowers From the Woods and Viewpoint Books on Washington Street.
“When you’re clogging, there’s nothing quite like hearing those whoops and hollers from people,” she said. “And I get almost the same feeling in theater when I’m able to deliver a great line and I hear people nearly falling out of their chair laughing.”
Pyle suggested the play about a college female swim team’s reunion, full of reminiscing and wisecracking, to Harlequin founder Robert Hay-Smith after she saw it presented by separate casts in Indianapolis and Clarksville.
“It is funny, funny, funny,” she said.
Besides directing, the 63-year-old Pyle plays a lawyer from Georgia in the show.
“It has so many zingers — and a really warm-fuzzy ending,” she said.
The Columbus native first launched into drama during national clogging conventions, where she has been a speaker and led workshops. She also has traveled overseas 12 times to teach the energetic, mountain-style dance. In 1989, she became the first U.S. clogging instructor to teach in Europe.
In 1996, she earned the Clogging Leaders Organization of Georgia — seen as the birthplace of structured clogging gatherings — Pioneer Award for promoting clogging in Europe.
Why did you delve into theater beginning a few years ago?
It was always on my bucket list. I guess I love the attention.
Is there any similarity between directing and clogging?
Actually, there is. I’ve been telling cloggers what to do for years now.
You maintain a pretty hectic schedule, between frequent, clogging-related travel, operating two flower stores, and in recent years, community theater. Don’t you ever want to slow down?
I tell everybody that I’m trying to outrun Alzheimer’s and death. And theater is good for your brain because you have to memorize.
It sounds like you lend a lot more than your own time and talent to this production.
I know this: If your own furniture is on stage more than you are, you know you’re in community theater. (Pyle does indeed use her own pieces in “The Dixie Swim Club”). My aspiration certainly is not to go to Broadway. But I do love community theater — and especially comedies.
What else is on your bucket list?
I don’t know yet. But I am having lots of fun. When I die, I want to slide in at the end and say, ‘Wow. What a ride.’