By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN The Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre Fungus Amongus Players won first place for its performance of “The Romancers” at the seven-state Region V American Association of Community Theatres (AACT) Festival April 24-26 in Newton, IA.
The troupe is advancing to the AACT National Festival, which takes place in Grand Rapids, MI Tuesday through Saturday, June 23-27.
“There were some superb productions at the Region V Festival, and we feel deeply honored to have been selected to represent our region at nationals,” said Deb Moen, member of Dassel-Cokato Community Theater and director of the Minnesota Association of Community Theaters.
Although the troupe has advanced to regions twice in the past, it has never before placed, let alone made it to the national festival, Moen noted.
The Fungus Amongus Players won first place at the Minnesota Association of Community Theaters Festival in order to gain entry to the Region V Festival.
In addition to winning first place, the Fungus Amongus Players also received the following awards:
• Excellence in Directing David Metcalf;
• Outstanding Ensemble the entire cast;
• Excellence in Scenic Design David Metcalf;
• Excellence in Costume Design Linda Metcalf;
• Excellence in Acting Tom Langemo;
• Excellence in Acting Amanda (Imberg) Byrne;
• Excellence in Fight Choreography David Metcalf.
Langemo plays Swashbuckler Number One in the production, a man who is hired to commit an abduction.
Byrne plays one of the two young lovers in “The Romancers;” her husband, Nate, plays the other.
Both Langemo and Byrne noted they were incredibly honored to receive the acting award.
“As an actor, I crave feedback,” Byrne said. “I like to know if my performance was well-received, so it is also very gratifying to know that the energy and hard work that was put into the performance was recognized.”
Byrne has been acting in productions since the age of 12, when she played a flying monkey in Litchfield Community Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Humble beginnings for my experience in theatre,” she joked.
Throughout high school and college, she was involved in musicals, one-act competitions, and plays. She has also “dabbled” in directing.
“I have been blessed to participate in community theatres in Litchfield, Dassel-Cokato, and Duluth,” Byrne said.
“Of course, it felt great,” Langemo said of receiving the acting award, noting he was uncertain he would receive it. “There’s incredible talent in our cast and the other community theatres that participated in both festivals.”
Langemo has been in four Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre productions since 2013 “The Diviners,” “The Foreigner,” “Les Miserables,” and “The Romancers.”
“I have a theatre minor, but, until ‘The Diviners,’ didn’t do any stage work since college,” he said, joking that it had been a 16-year drought.
“While getting the award is an incredible feeling, doing this solely for an award doesn’t seem productive to me, and, once received, it’s not a laurel upon which to rest,” Langemo added.
Both actors agree that working with a great cast and production staff is what allows them to shine, as well as enjoy the time spent acting.
“We would not have the current recognition for our theatrical contribution without the full weight of all talent involved thrown against it, and a supportive community,” Langemo said. “It takes a village.”
“What I love the most about community theatre is the passion that drives and motivates the actors and people involved in the production,” Byrne said, noting all of the actors in “The Romancers” have day jobs.
“The Fungus Amongus Players have a lot of heart, and I think that’s evident in our performances of ‘The Romancers,” she added.
“Being involved in theatre is about having a creative outlet, surrounded by talented and passionate people, and providing a community with something from which they can learn, be challenged, and find joy,” Langemo said.
“Acting is a collaborative art; that’s the beauty of it,” he added, noting it is a collaboration between cast and crew; cast members sharing a stage; and, cast, crew, and audience members.