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Herald Journal | DC Enterprise-Dispatch | Delano Herald Journal
‘Plain Hearts’ shares legacy of pioneer women
Feb. 1, 2016

Kristen Miller

DASSEL, MN – The Fungus Amongus Players welcomes audiences to go back to a simpler time, with the winter performance of “Plain Hearts,” opening Friday, Feb. 12 at the Dassel History Center.

“Plain Hearts is a unique play with a story that will touch the hearts and bring a flood of memories to anyone who remembers the sights, sounds, and the aroma of the farm,” explained the show’s director Jon Benson, calling the play “historic and nostalgic.”

Benson, who has a long history in community theatre, has moved from being on stage to behind-the-scenes.

One of the founders of the original Dassel Village Players, Benson took quite a few years off from directing after he began traveling more for his job, though he continued in acting roles.

After retiring last year, Benson decided to return and take on the directorship for the winter performance.

Deciding on the play came fairly easily, as he received “an outpouring of requests” to bring back “Plain Hearts,” a show he directed in 1994.

“Plain Hearts,” written by two Minnesotans, Lance Belville and Eric Peltoniem, examines many topics that range from tragedy to very comical, Benson explained.

“Underneath the pain, as well as the laughter, they show the tremendous drive of these characters to save the farm, as well as the farm family, while at the same time, struggling to gain equality for all women,” Benson explained, noting that the play addresses subjects such as an influenza outbreak, to new inventions, like the telephone.

“Plain Hearts” will take the audience back to a time when “the cows and the chickens all had names . . . and horses pulled the plow and carried you to church . . . A day when people didn’t post every mundane daily event, but neighbors kept abreast of the ‘news’ by rubbernecking on the party line,” which is actually a name of one of the many songs sung during the play, Benson added.

“It is a poignant look back into the lives of women who were true pioneers,” Benson continued. “Not only pioneers on the Minnesota prairie, but women who were the driving force and pioneers in the fight for women’s rights.”

The show offers a wide variety of upbeat music performed by an all-woman cast. “[The audience] will go away humming tunes from the show for days,” Benson said, with catchy songs like “Chickens (Peckin’ Round the Yard),” and “Grandma was a Giant on the Land.”

What is different from the show he directed 20 years ago?

There are more people in the cast and more instruments, Benson explained, adding that there is also a little more of an involved set, being the last performance was part of a traveling show to help raise funds for what is now the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum.

There are 12 women who make up the cast.

“They are amazing,” Benson said. “They surprise me with the talent they bring, and they are fun.”.

The cast of “Plain Hearts” includes Heather Halstead, Carolyn Holje, Becky Hungerford, Sheri Johnson, Lisa Kotila, Rhea Langemo, Shara Marquez, Linda Metcalf, Elisabeth Nelson, Jean Paulson, Kari Wendroth, and Kay Wilson.

Friday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb.13 at 6 p.m. (dinner theatre)

Sunday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now for seven shows performed on the third level of the Dassel History Center, including a Valentine’s dinner theatre Saturday, Feb. 13.

Seats are limited to 70.

Tickets are $15 for adults, and $7 for youth.

Dinner theater tickets are $35 for adults, and $27 for youth.

To reserve seats, call (320) 286-4120, or go online to www.dc.k12.mn.us/pac.

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