By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, COKATO, MN The cast of “The Diviners” came away with several accolades, including Best of Festival, at the Minnesota Association of Community Theatre (MACT) Festival March 16, and now advance to the regional festival in Fargo.
Nine community theater companies performed at the festival, with two of them moving on to the American Association of Community Theatre’s (AACT) Region V festival at the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre. The two theatre companies Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre’s Fungus Amungus, and the Dakota Fine Arts Consortium (Burnsville/Lakeville) are the two from Minnesota that will compete April 25-28 against eight other states for the opportunity to advance to the national competition.
Director Dave Metcalf said he was so pleased with how well the performance was received by the audience there, explaining that many of them were moved by the emotionally-charged performance. “There were lots of tears and a few laughs,” Metcalf said, adding that was very gratifying.
For those who haven’t seen the play, it takes place in small-town Indiana during the Depression era. The story revolves around Buddy Layman, a boy who suffers from a fear of water coupled with a brain injury that was a result of a tragic accident at a very early age.
Since the show was originally an hour and 20 minutes long, the performance needed to be tweaked several times in order to meet the allotted 60 minutes for competition. Metcalf said he had the tough task of finding a total of 20 minutes that could be reasonably eliminated from the show without disrupting the story line.
“It was a difficult process,” he commented.
Audiences will have a chance to view the edited version at two local performances, Sunday, April 7 at 4 p.m., and Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at the Dassel-Cokato Performing Arts Center. Free-will donations will be accepted to help defray the expenses associated with the upcoming AACT Regional Festival.
In addition to advancing to regions, several individual awards were presented to “The Diviners” cast and crew.
Those awards included:
• Outstanding Costumes Linda Metcalf;
• Outstanding Set Design Ron Hungerford and John Ryan;
• Outstanding Lighting and Sound Butch Amundsen;
• Outstanding Actor Tom Langemo for his role as CC Showers;
• Outstanding Actress Alison Basney for her role as Jennie Mae Layman; and
• Outstanding Ensemble the whole cast working together as one unit to create the best impression.
“I’m so proud of the cast. They did such a great job,” Metcalf commented.
Deb Moen, who is the production assistant and a MACT board member, said, “I am so very proud of our cast and crew and I know that they will represent the Dassel-Cokato community very well as we advance to regionals.”
With entries from across the state, there was quite a range in variety, he noted. He particularly admired a show based on the story of Paul Bunyan performed by a Duluth theater company made up of adults with special needs. It was “charming and delightful,” Metcalf said.
The show that will advance to AACT with DC is titled “Leading Ladies.” He described it as being similar to the movie “Some Like it Hot,” based on two guys pretending to be women in order to get an inheritance from a supposedly dying woman.
The cast and crew of “The Diviners” have a few challenges ahead of them as they take on a completely different theater stage, Metcalf explained.
The set was designed for a proscenium, where there is a rectangular frame around the stage. At the Fargo-Moorhead theater, the stage is a thrust stage. Similar to the Guthrie Theatre, the stage extends into the audience on three sides. Added to the challenge is that the stage is a split level, not a flat stage.
Though the theatre is “gorgeous,” Metcalf commented, “it’s not very friendly to our particular show.”
However, Metcalf knows it’s just the “luck of the draw” and they will accept the challenge. “We’re excited to be there,” he said.
“It is an incredible opportunity for all of us not only to compete, but to enjoy the best of community theatre from a seven-state region,” Moen commented.
Michelle Hensley, artistic director at Ten Thousand Things Theater in Minneapolis, commented that the set invited the audience in, but left room for the imagination to create the world of the play. She also commented that the staging of the river was “fantastic.”
Paul Lifton, associate professor of theatre arts at North Dakota State University, commented: The ending of the play was “well done; eerie, spooky, and moving, with honest reactions from the cast.”