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'Baywatch' Actress Brings Virtual Love to Campus

Sandra Lafferty

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

March 11, 2004 -- A Jacksonville State University drama instructor who has appeared in more than 20 television shows, including Baywatch, is now bringing Virtual Love to JSU.

Sandra Lafferty says she was in high school when bitten by the acting "bug," and her passion for theater led to major roles in more than 25 plays, 18 movies, and 20 commercials.

Lafferty has appeared in more than 20 television shows, including Baywatch, N.Y.P.D. Blue, Melrose Place, and Unsolved Mysteries. Now, the Fort Payne residentís current project is directing and reading the leading female role in a JSU production of the staged reading of the musical Virtual Love on Saturday, March 13 at 6 p.m. at JSU's Stone Center.

Lafferty has a family connection to the musical. Her brother, Jerry Ellis, wrote it. He's also written four non-fiction books, including, Walking The Trail: One Man's Journey Along the Trail of Tears, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

"I got involved with Virtual Love because I think this musical has a good chance to become a professional production, maybe wind up in New York," said Lafferty.

The musical is a romantic comedy about a woman from a small town in Alabama who is preparing for the Annual Country Roundup Contest. The contest, according to the musical's lead character, Mary Lou, includes cooking, hog calling, watermelon eating and quilt making.

What happens to the protagonist next incorporates the elements of fantasy. Mary Lou finds herself transported through cyberspace to Spain, where a love interest she's never heard of before awaits.

The leading male actor's part is read by JSU English Professor Steve Whitton.

"It's a complicated story," said Lafferty, who saw the musical first when it was a play two years ago. Her sister-in-law, Debbie, has a musical background and was instrumental in suggesting the play's transformation into a musical.

Another contributor to the creation of Virtual Love is lyricist and composer Debi Holmes-Binney from the Pacific northwest.

"I like to see plays workshopped," said Lafferty. "It provides a place for play development and provides opportunities for the playwriting and the lyricist."

Lafferty hopes the audience will hang around afterwards and offer feedback to those involved in the musical's creation. Also a questionnaire will be distributed to the audience soliciting comments. Admission is free.

Sherry Kughn can be contacted at

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