DASSEL, COKATO, MN The cast of the Dassel-Cokato one-act play, “Flowers for Algernon” is gearing up for subsections this Saturday, Jan. 30 in Delano, and hoping to advance.
The play centers on Charlie Gordon, a mentally-challenged 32-year-old man, who is chosen by a team of scientists to undergo an experimental surgery designed to boost his intelligence.
Charlie is played by Dassel-Cokato senior Isaac Olson, who is no stranger to this type of character, having performed a similar role with Buddy Layman in the crowd-pleasing community theatre play “The Diviners” when he was just a freshman.
Alice Kinnian, played by Natalie Dahlin, is Charlie’s teacher at a state institution for the mentally challenged, and recommends Charlie for the experiment because of his eagerness to learn.
The directors of the experiment, Dr. Strauss (played by Ethan Langemo), and Professor Nemur (played by Henry Von Ohlen), ask Charlie to keep a journal. The entire narrative of “Flowers for Algernon” is composed of the “progress reports” that Charlie writes, explained the one-act play’s director, James Frickstad.
This is Frickstad’s first time directing a one-act play. He chose this production because he saw it performed once before. Though, in his opinion he found that performance to be substandard, he could see the potential in it.
He put his own creative twist to the production, making it more abstract by adding maze walls, and even a test mouse (not a live one).
“It’s never been put on this way,” he said.
Frickstad also had to cut quite a bit in order for it to be within the one-act time frame of 35 minutes or less. One of the cuts had to be a part of the ending, which included the flowers in the play’s title.
For Olson, playing Charlie has been very interesting, but difficult at the same time.
“It’s difficult to show the progression of the character as far as his mental stability,” Olson said, noting that he is portraying it with both his voice and body movements.
Throughout the rehearsal process, Frickstad has been impressed with his students and how well they take direction.
“I can say with 100-percent confidence we have quite the mature and professional group of kids here,” he said. “I’m excited to see what they can do at competition.”
With subsections coming up Jan. 30 at Delano High School, Frickstad is hoping to put on the best show they can.
“It’s an easy out to say our goal is just to advance it’s more than that,” he said. “I want the judges and audience to really come away thinking about what they just saw something to stir up conversation,” he said.
The Saturday, Jan. 30 competition begins at 9 a.m., with DC competing at 2 p.m. at Delano High School.
There will be a free public performance of “Flowers for Algernon” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 at the Dassel-Cokato Performing Arts Center.
Additional cast and crew include:
Miranda Pokornowski as Burt Seldon and the mouse, William Frickstad (maze), Sam Olson (maze), Marissa Engquist (maze), Maddie Schut, (maze) Nathan Dahlseng (tech), Jackson Lambrecht (tech), Marit Thostenson (tech), and Stephen Hansen (head tech).