By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, COKATO, MN In preparation for its first independent show, the FungusAmongus Players are busy perfecting their lines, lyrics, and choreography for their latest production, “Two by Two.”
The show is a musical retelling of the Biblical story of Noah’s ark, in which the world became so infested with wickedness that God decided to create a massive flood that would kill every living thing, in order to give the Earth a fresh start. The only family who was spared from God’s wrath was that of Noah a “righteous man” who “walked faithfully with God,” according to Genesis 6.
In order to save Noah and his family, God instructed them to build an ark that would house themselves and two of every animal male and female throughout the flood.
While many may be familiar with this Biblical story, director David Metcalf said audiences can expect to see a few twists in its stage version. He explained that as the Bible provides the “bare bones” of the account, the musical considers the “inherent questions” Noah’s family must have had after learning what they must do. Some of these questions, as Metcalf mentioned, might have included: “You’re going to do what,” “You want us to build a what,” “How do we proceed,” and “How do we go on with hope for a new future?”
“The play addresses these questions with warmth and humanity through catchy tunes and dialogue that is both thought-provoking and laced with humor,” Metcalf stated. “We hope audiences will enjoy the comedy, yet ponder the more serious issues of interpreting God’s will and coming to grips with the complications of love and family.”
The journey of being independent
Having a show that thematically deals with starting over is fitting for the FungusAmongus Players, Metcalf commented, as the group embarked on its own adventure earlier this spring in establishing itself as an independent theatrical group.
Prior to their decision to become independent, the community theater group was associated with Dassel-Cokato Community Education, which provided for much of the group’s production needs.
While it may sound inspiring, “starting over from scratch” does come with its fair share of challenges, Metcalf said. Finances are one of the most “obvious and worrisome” among them.
“A musical is always an expensive endeavor; royalties and rights to perform have cost more than $2,500,” explained Metcalf. “Added to that, there’s the expense of all new materials for sets and props, rental of lighting equipment and other necessities formerly provided by community education in our previous arrangement.”
To help build revenue, as the FungusAmongus Players get off the ground again, everyone associated with this and future productions from the actors, to the sound technicians, directors, set builders, and the rest is volunteering their time and skill-set.
The Dassel Area Historical Society also contributed its resources to the FungusAmongus Players by providing the group with some “seed money,” a free performance space, and by sharing its “non-profit umbrella.”
While having a healthy budget is desirable, it isn’t the only factor determining the theater group’s success.
“Our future as a viable community theater will depend largely upon audience attendance,” stated Metcalf. “We sincerely hope folks will flock to ‘Two by Two’ and enjoy the efforts of so many dedicated artists in our ‘maiden voyage.’”
Taking to the stage as Noah’s eight family members is a mixture of local community theater veterans, including Jon Benson, Carolyn Holje, Linda Metcalf, and Ron and Neal Hungerford, as well as the new faces of Kari Wendroth, Heather Halstead, and Will Cronk.
Benson stars as the “cantankerous, but lovable” Noah, who is trying to do what the Lord has asked of him, while also heading his “reluctant and flawed family.”
“Anyone who saw Jon’s bravura performance as Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ should enjoy his interpretation of another Jewish father guiding his family though a very different set of dire circumstances,” Metcalf commented.
Even though the show is not as well-known as “Fiddler on the Roof,” some members of the DC community might recall the 1984 local production performed by the Village Players who proceeded FungusAmongus which took place at Dassel Elementary.
“It was one of the best-attended and most popular shows in that group’s heyday,” Metcalf stated.
Ironically, Benson was the one who directed the 1984 show, while Metcalf, who is now the director, performed as Noah, who is now played by Benson.
Other community members contributing to the show’s needs are Randy Wilson (assisting with music direction), Deb Moen (production coordinator), and Linda Metcalf (national award-winning costumer). Set builders Ron and Becky Hungerford, Tim Paulson, Benson, and John Ryan have also been busy dismantling shipping pallets in order to use the wood for construction.
“We are working hard to build new stock of materials and maintain a satisfying theatrical experience for our loyal DC theater lovers,” said Metcalf.
Show dates and ticket information
The performances will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15; and Wednesday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 22 at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum, located at 901 1st Street south of Dassel. Weekday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m., and Sunday performances are at 2 p.m.
There will not be a performance Friday, Oct. 20.
Tickets are now on sale for $15 each.
A dinner theater performance is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, with social hour beginning at 5 p.m. with wine and beer available for purchase. Dinner will start at 6 p.m., with the show following at 7 p.m. On the menu, all catered by Elbows Allowed in Cokato, will be glazed pork roast with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, salad, bread, and a pumpkin dessert. Dinner show tickets are $35 (covers the meal and show).
Tickets can be purchased at www.fungusamongusplayers.org/tickets, or on the FungusAmongus Players of Dassel-Cokato’s Facebook page. Tickets will also be available at the door, but seating is limited. Due to some mature content, the show is not recommended for younger audiences.