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Metcalf makes directing debut at Theatre in the Round
March 14, 2016

'The Secret Garden' will run for five weekends

Kristen Miller

COKATO, MN – Having directed a number of local community theatre productions, former Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) English teacher Dave Metcalf has taken a brief hiatus as he makes his directing debut at the Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis.

Both Metcalf and his wife, Linda, have performed in past productions of the Theatre in the Round Players, Inc., the oldest continuously-running community theatre in the state, and nine years ago, he joined the theatre’s reading committee.

Metcalf applied to be a director and was selected in February 2015 to direct the play “The Secret Garden,” based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The story is about Mary Lennox. After her parents pass away, she is sent to live with her uncle, and cousin Colin, a young invalid who never leaves his room. Exploring their gloomy old estate, she discovers a strange walled garden that has been locked up for years — and sets about to uncover its mystery.

What was a full year coming, Metcalf began auditions for “The Secret Garden” in January. Rehearsals have been underway ever since.

There are 10 speaking parts and eight “shadows and spirits,” including three local actors – Ron Hungerford, Sam Rydberg, and Laura Rostomily.

Local craftsmen contributed to the set, as well.

Because of the difficulty with the arena staging, Hungerford volunteered to engineer a fold-up bed that will be used during various scenes in the garden.

Hungerford, with the help of former Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted industrial arts teacher Dan Kyllonen and Jim Veith, built the bed accordingly, so it can be easily added or removed from the scene in a discrete manner.

As a community theatre, everyone involved in the production is a volunteer, and many are professionals who work at various theatres in the Twin Cities, Metcalf explained.

With the theatre being more than 50 years old, the Theatre in the Round also has a devout following, he said. The stage, which is surrounded by the audience, makes it that much more unique and prestigious.

“It’s really an honor to work for them,” Metcalf said.

“The whole cast is very experienced and great to work with,” he said, noting the children actors who play Mary and Colin have previous acting experience at the Guthrie Theater and Children’s Theatre Company.

Metcalf has found the unique stage to be a “real challenging space to work,” explaining that it’s literally in the round. “The audience totally surrounds the actors,” he said, which creates all sorts of challenges with scenery and staging. He also has to make sure the actors don’t always have their backs turned to the same part of the theatre.

Because of the scenery constraints, Metcalf found there were limitations in depicting the changing seasons in a garden, which is why, after auditions took place, he recruited Rostomily, Hungerford, and Rydberg. The actors will be on stage and manifest as the garden. Rydberg, for example will be a puppeteer of a robin, an essential character in the show, Metcalf said.

All of this adds to the enchantment of the performance.

While it’s been exciting for Metcalf to direct elsewhere, he hasn’t given up on the local theatre.

“This is still home,” Metcalf said.

In July, the Dassel-Cokato community can look forward to the summer musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which Metcalf will direct. Performances begin Friday, July 22 at the Dassel-Cokato Performing Arts Center.

Until then, Metcalf encourages people to check out one of the performances of “The Secret Garden,” and experience the unique stage that is the Theatre in the Round.

There will be five weekends of performances between March 18 and April 17. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $22, $18 for seniors. To purchase tickets, call (612) 333-3010, or CLICK HERE.

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