Community theatre festival takes place Saturday, March 16
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, COKATO, MN After ending a streak of sold-out performances, the cast of “The Diviners” are preparing a condensed version to present at the Minnesota Association of Community Theatres Festival Saturday, March 16 at North Hennepin Community College.
MACT Fest, as it’s referred to, is a biennial festival in which theatre companies from across the state enter for a chance to become one of the top two shows to advance to the regional festival, which will take place this year in Fargo, ND. From there, the top show will go to the National American Association of Community Theatre, according to Deb Moen, production assistant for DC Community Theatre and MACT board member.
Two years ago, the Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre’s winter production of “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music” presented the one-act version, “Toys for Men,” which went on to compete at the regional festival in Kansas.
As for the cast of “The Diviners,” Moen said, “I think that they absolutely have all the potential to do very well in MACT Fest and could move on.” It depends on the competition, as well, she noted.
Director Dave Metcalf was impressed with the entire cast, as well, saying it was a very talented group of actors.
Isaac Olson, who played Buddy Layman, a boy with a brain injury, had very little theatre experience prior to being cast for the part. Metcalf was amazed and pleased how Olson picked up his suggestions for the role and developed such an interesting character.
Amy Thostenson of Dassel played the part of Jennie Mae in 1986, at St. Peter High School.
“I thought the acting was superb top notch,” she commented. She was impressed with Allison Basney, who played Jennie Mae. “It brought back a lot of good memories. She did a very good job.”
Metcalf noted, too, that all of the actors were flexible and willing to adjust in order to meet the festival criteria.
Rules of the festival involve more than performing the part. As part of the festival, the play must be under an hour, and staging the set and striking the set under 10 minutes.
This is a fairly intense part, Moen said, though on the final day of the performance, the cast set the stage in 7 minutes and 46 seconds, which was their best time.
Because of this requirement, the set also needs to be designed in a certain way that would make it collapsible and able to fit within a 10-foot-by-10-foot square.
“The set builders did such a tremendous job,” Moen said, which was led by John Ryan and Ron Hungerford.
“I designed it in sections that could be movable,” Metcalf said, adding that the crew developed the hinged legs and bracing system so they wouldn’t collapse.
Metcalf had to cut roughly 40 minutes from the show that audiences saw performed at the Dassel History Center.
Unfortunately, this included several of the comical parts of the show, which didn’t lend to the plot, Metcalf noted.
The actors must then work to memorize the shortened version.
It can be even harder to relearn a play after eliminating certain parts, Metcalf said. “You’re fighting the urge to not say what you were trained to say.”
Originally, there were four shows scheduled, but due to demand, a fifth show was added to the schedule.
“We’re very pleased that so many people came out to see it,” Metcalf said.
MACT Fest details
MACT Fest will take place Saturday, March 15 at North Hennepin Community College, 85th Ave. in Brooklyn Park in Brooklyn Park.
Ten plays will be performed that day. “The Diviners” will start around 2:30 p.m.
The cost is $10 a session (three plays per session).
The top two plays will be announced at the awards brunch Sunday.
Two of the main goals of the festival are to provide an optimum learning experience through festival participation which will affirm, support and nurture community theatre companies; and to stimulate and inspire community theatre companies to strive for the best work possible and to recognize them for their achievement through an appropriate adjudication process.
Workshops are also part of the festival, which are open to non-MACT members, Moen noted. Such workshops include acting, sound, lighting, and dance. Workshops are $15.
For more information, visit www.mact.net.