Your children – you feed, celebrate, advise, clothe, love, and, hopefully, teach them how to stand on their own two feet and not make the same mistakes you did. 

Even when they’re adults, you make a point to be there – whether they ask for it or not! 

Humorous and incredibly relatable, Cumberland County Playhouse’s fun production of “Things My Mother Taught Me” by Katherine DiSavino opened March 17. 

The play is a romantic and generational physical comedy directed by Brenda Sparks.

“Especially the comedy, it has to be grounded; it has to be true,” Sparks said. “Those laughs have to be earned.” 

Olivia (DeAnna Helgeson) and Gabe (Riley Wesson) are beginning their new life as a young couple, moving halfway across the country to their new apartment managed by Max (Daniel Black) in Chicago, IL. 

But, nothing goes right on moving day. 

Cue the helicopter parents (Lauren Marshall and Britt Hancock) and the overbearing ones (Weslie Webster and Jason Ross) who insert themselves into the couple’s first big adventure. 

With three couples squeezed into a small two-bedroom apartment, it’s one hilarious show. 

“I just want to make people laugh and cry for the same ticket price,” Sparks said.

CCP company member Weslie Webster draws on her lovely relationship with her beautiful mother and then does the opposite for the role of Olivia’s mother, Karen Keegan.

“It’s a sitcom with heart,” Weslie said. “It’s funny and touching and moving. It makes you think about things your parents taught you that you carry with you today.” 

The Websters lived in Graham, NC, where Julie taught eighth-grade English, reading, history and spelling. Julie was also a pianist and mother to daughters, Weslie and Erica. 

Weslie said she grew up singing harmonies with her mom.

“Me and Mama used to sing a lot of ‘Delta Dawn,’” Weslie said, smiling at the memory. 

Weslie was also in the church and middle school choirs. The middle school choir director had been a student of her mother’s, and Weslie began performing in the school productions he directed. 

She was valedictorian of her graduating class from Graham High School in 1987. 

In 1988, she won the title of Miss Burlington and moved on to compete in the Miss North Carolina Pageant, where one of the judges was the assistant dean at Cincinnati Conservatory. He encouraged her to audition to attend. 

She did and was accepted, earning a bachelor’s in musical theater. 

She was invited to the White House to sing for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Just out of college, in 1993, Webster came to Crossville and worked two seasons at CCP before moving to New York. 

She was a cast member of “Carousel” on the national Broadway tour in 1996, traveling all over the country. 

“There’s more magic there with musical theater because you get to express yourself in so many different ways,” Weslie said. “And because I grew up singing with my mom, I’ve always been very musical. So the magic of musical theater is just something I could never get out of my blood.” 

She came back to Crossville and began a musical theater class at CCP, which she taught on Saturday mornings as an extension of the educational program’s dance classes. 

That was the birth of the musical theater program at CCP. 

“My joy has always been working through musical theater and acting with the kids,” she said.

When she suffered vocal damage, she went back home and acquired her massage therapy degree. 

But, the gravity of the stage was beckoning her.  

“Everybody tries to leave,” Webster said, “and then they realize how good it is here, and everybody comes back.”

Returning to CCP, she resumed performing as a resident company member. In 2008, she became educational director and continued to build the musical theater program, adding acting to the curriculum.

“My mom, being a teacher, I feel like I have teaching in my blood,” Weslie said. “One of the biggest pulls for me was that I could work with kids on a more individualized basis than, say, the school system allows. I like to encourage their creativity, and it’s hard in a standard classroom.”

The CCP Triple Threat educational program was developed and incorporated singing, dancing and acting.

“I think it’s important to include them all,” she said. 

In 2012, Weslie bought a house and officially made Crossville her home. She said her parents were supportive and came to see all her shows at CCP. 

Her dad would even stay weeks to watch her perform and wrote a special toast that the company now recites in his honor before most show openings.

“I come from a very supportive village,” she said. “When my mom passed, she wanted to make sure that all of her extensive costume jewelry selection was donated here. We call it ‘Julie’s Jewels.’ So, she’s represented in almost every show.”

“Julie’s Jewels and the Webster Toast,” she continued, “living legacies at Cumberland County Playhouse.” 

Appearing in more than 100 Playhouse productions, Weslie said, “I’ve been very lucky with the roles. I’ve crossed quite a few off my bucket list because of working here. You just get to do such a wide variety of stuff being part of this resident company, things you never knew you could do.” 

No doubt, Weslie remembers what her mother taught her. 

“She made the best chocolate chip cookies and vegetable soup. She always called me ‘Shoog,’ and she always looked for four-leaf clovers,” Weslie said. 

But, more than that, having such an excellent example, Weslie gracefully embodies the role of the Playhouse matriarch – the gentle, caring and supportive mother figure – not just on the Playhouse stage but to all the children participating in the CCP Triple Threat education program she directs. 

“I just think that’s what I was born to be. I think I was born to be part of the village that helps people bring their kids up,” she said. 

“It’s so rewarding to me because teaching is in my blood. I just never needed my own [kids] because I have so many of other people’s. 

“It just gives me more of the time to be able to dedicate to the village. It’s just what I find fulfilling.” 

She hopes to be an extra role model for the children. 

“We are not an island unto ourselves. It does take a community to make an impression upon a child, a whole village. It takes a village to raise them,” she said. 

“I’m extremely proud of being part of that village, and I feel very lucky to be part of such a big village. It’s such a great opportunity here where the arts are so important, and you can be creative with the kids and help them be better community members later, direct them in paths that empower them to contribute to society, but also be really compassionate people,” Weslie added.

“It’s just not easy to put yourself out there on the line,” she continued, “and if you can encourage these kids to take those chances, they’ll be better off later. They won’t be so fearful of life itself.” 

Then she shared a few gems she learned from her mother. 

“She certainly gave me the love of music and the love of working with kids,” she said. “She also taught me that if you bake chocolate chip cookies, if they’re calling for snow, it will make it snow. And grocery stores have the best bathrooms if you’re traveling.”  

“Things My Mother Taught Me” is rated PG and will run through April 30 on the Adventure Theater stage. Purchase tickets online at or by calling the box office at 931-484-5000.

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