SIOUX CITY -- If you see Joey Hartshorn talking to herself while barreling down Interstate 29, don't worry. The veteran actress is merely getting into character.

"When I'm alone in my car, I'm running lines, practicing songs and picturing dance moves in my head," she explained. "I can only imagine what other people think when they see me driving by."

Indeed, Hartshorn has been traveling a lot as of late. The Sioux City resident recently won a juicy supporting role in the Omaha Community Playhouse production of "The Bridges of Madison County."

The show, which runs for 18 performances March 1-24 at the Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St., is a musical adaptation of Robert James Waller's best-selling novel.

Set in Winterset, Iowa, in 1965, the show revolves around lonely Italian war bride Francesca, whose husband, Bud, and two children are away at a state fair when a mysterious "National Geographic" photographer named Robert Kinkaid stops by the farm.

Each feeling a connection, Robert and Francesca embark on a whirlwind affair, which they keep a secret, even from Francesca's neighbor Marge (Hartshorn) and Marge's farmer husband Charlie (played by actor Kevin Olsen).

Even though Hartshorn read the novel when it came out in 1992, she never referred back to it while auditioning for the play, her first with the Omaha Community Playhouse.

"When you're playing a character, it's best not to watch another actor's interpretation of the role," she said. "It's best to put your own spin on the part."

That was easy for Hartshorn, since Marge was a supporting character in the novel and was more of a walk-on role in the 1995 film adaptation that starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

"The stage version opens up the story considerably," Hartshorn said. "Instead of being Francesca's story, it is now told from multiple points of view."

This includes the point of view of Marge, who is older than Francesca and more settled into married life than her best friend.

"Marge is more than just a sassy neighbor," Hartshorn said. "She's strong and lovable and has experienced a lot of the same isolation that Francesca did."

Hartshorn credited director Kimberly Faith Hickman for guiding her through the role.

"Although I've acted and directed in more productions than I can count, I've never performed in a company the size of the Omaha Community Playhouse," she said. "I've also never been in a production that's had so many performances."

The curtain will rise on "The Bridges of Madison County" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Performances begin Friday and end March 24.

Which means Hartshorn will have plenty of alone time to rehearse her lines.

"You'd be surprised at how much you can accomplish in an hour-and-fifteen-minute commute," she said.

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