By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Dassel-Cokato Community Theater’s Fungus Amongus Players did very well when hosting the successful 2015 Minnesota Association of Community Theatre Festival (MACTFest) March 201-21, winning Best in Festival for its production of “The Romancers.”
The production moves on to compete at the American Association of Community Theater (AACT) Region V Festival Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Newton Community Theater in Newton, Iowa.
After being participants in MACT for only six years, this being only the third biennial festival in that time, it was a risk to allow DC Community Theater to host it, noted director Dave Metcalf.
However, Deb Moen spear-headed the whole thing, and made sure everything was organized and ran smoothly, Metcalf said.
“A lot of people contributed, but she really made it work,” he added.
“The festival went extremely well,” said Moen, who is a director of the MACT state board and member of DC Community Theater. “We are still receiving great feedback.”
Many people have acknowledged the friendliness of those working at the festival and the community, along with how well-run and organized the festival was.
“It went as well as I could have hoped,” Moen said.
Metcalf also noted that volunteer Irene Bender assisted in acquiring the items for the gift bags participants of MACTFest 2015 each received.
Items in the gift bag included a can of corn, coupons and other information from local businesses, along with information about places and events in both communities.
Welcoming the 10 participating community theaters to DC were banners in the Performing Arts Center lobby made by Becky Hungerford; each community theater was given their banner to take home.
Other awards won by Fungus Amongus Players
In addition to winning Best in Festival, the production won Best Acting Ensemble, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Music.
Tom Langemo, who plays the man hired to commit an abduction in “The Romancers,” or Swashbuckler Number One, won Best Actor.
“Tom’s a great guy to work with, and has tremendous talent,” Metcalf said.
Local community theater fans may remember him in recent productions as Javert from the 2014 summer production of “Les Miserablés” and as Charlie in the 2013-14 winter production of “The Foreigner.”
“The actors really make the play everything it is,” Metcalf said. “They are tremendous people to work with, not only talent-wise, but personality-wise, as well. They are cooperative, adaptable, and just eager to do the best possible performance.”
He noted that the Best Acting Ensemble Award recognizes the entire cast’s ability to work together to make the show what it is.
He added that “The Romancers” cast really shares equal time on the stage, since even those without speaking parts participate in an 11-minute swordfight.
The two young lovers of the production are played by newlyweds Nate and Amanda Byrnes.
“They are terrific great to work with,” Metcalf said.
Although the scenic design for “The Romancers” was Metcalf’s vision, he noted coming up with the vision was the easy part.
It was up to Dan Kyllonen, with assistance from Jim Veith and Ron Hungerford, who turned that vision into reality.
The principle set pieces for “The Romancers” are a wall dividing two properties and two marble pillars.
“It wouldn’t have been near as beautiful if not for Jean Veith and her artistic work,” Metcalf said. “She’s miraculously been able to make plywood look like marble and Styrofoam look like natural stone.”
Sam Ryberg is the talent behind the Best Music Award received by the Fungus Amongus Players. He has been involved in several DC Community Theater shows throughout the years.
“He’s a very talented musician, primarily with string,” Metcalf noted.
Ryberg and Moen also found three additional musicians for the production.
Guitarist Shara Marquez provided underscoring for several scenes, Metcalf noted.
“It adds a beautiful romantic flavor to what otherwise would be boring scene changes,” he added.
As for best costume design, it was up to Metcalf’s wife, Linda, to acquire the costumes, as well as repair them, he noted.
“She had to make tons of repairs,” Metcalf commented, again noting the swordfighting that takes place in “The Romancers.”
His wife also made a few of the costumes, and has been the costumer for every show Metcalf has done, he said.
Helping with the technical side of things for the production were Morgan Berg and Matt Crowe; Butch Amundsen ran the lights.
Metcalf receives Fliehr Award
As director, Metcalf received the Fliehr Award for his outstanding lifelong contributions to community theater.
“It surprises me,” Metcalf said, noting he has only been involved in MACT for three festival seasons. “To give me such an honor is humbling and surprising.”
The award, however, recognizes one’s contributions to community theater, overall.
Metcalf has been involved in community theater locally for many years, and has worked with community theaters in Litchfield, Buffalo, and Hutchinson.
He also worked with Theater in the Round and two theaters in St. Cloud, and had one brief experience at Guthrie Theater.
Several actors in “The Romancers” are former students and actors he has worked with throughout the years.
In fact, Metcalf, a former teacher, still loves teaching others and has started teaching workshops for community theater.
“I love being in the classroom,” he said. “Working with kids, especially. Young people just keep you young with their energy, excitement, and willingness to learn.”
At MACTFest, Metcalf taught a swashbuckling workshop for the first time, and then taught it to about 70 students at St. Michael/Albertville High School Wednesday.
However, many of the adult actors he works with are much like the young students he enjoys, he said, with the same enthusiasm for learning.
For instance, Ron Hungerford and Jon Benson were commended by judges for their work in the production, noting the two “seemed like an old married couple,” Metcalf said.
He is looking forward to doing many workshops in the future, he said.
Preparing for AACTFest Region V
The cast of “The Romancers” will be performing as many shows as it can between now and its competition in April.
One already lined up is at St. Michael/Albertville High School Tuesday, April 7 at 7 p.m.
A local performance will take place (date and time to be determined) to help raise funds for the trip to Iowa.
“We would love to have people come who haven’t seen the play, yet,” Metcalf said. “And, even if they have seen it, share in the event with us and help us out.”
Also moving on to the regional AACTFest is the County Seat Theater Company of Cloquet with its production of “Old Jake’s Skirts.”
Cloquet and DC community theaters have been competing well against each other since DC began participation in MACT, noted Metcalf.