Firehall production pokes fun at hunting

THEATRE “Escanaba in da Moonlight” opens 66th Firehall Theatre season with much hunting-related humor.

“Escanaba in da Moonlight,” the latest play at the Firehall Theatre in downtown Grand Forks, entertains with hunting humor, dedicated cast.

(From left) Hyrum Patterson, Jared Kinney and Gabe Figueroa play characters on a hunting trip. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura.

Just in time for deer-hunting season, “Escanaba in da Moonlight” is now running at the Firehall Theatre in downtown Grand Forks.

The comedic play is set in a cabin in the Michigan woods and features a cast of five male actors: CJ Leigh, Hyrum Patterson, Gabe Figueroa, Jared Kinney and Jed Hendrickson.

“This has been one of my favorite all-male casts,” said Kinney, who has been acting in shows at the Firehall Theatre for 17 years. “There are a lot of multi-talented people who can swing a hammer and point a drill, as well as sing and act.”

Patterson and Figueroa play two brothers, Reuben and Remnar Soady, who are celebrating the deer-season opener. They are joined by their father, Albert, played by Leigh, and their close friend Jimmer Neganamee, played by Kinney.

At 35 years old, Reuben has never successfully shot his own buck before and is desperately trying to break his embarrassing streak. He thinks this because of his family’s strict deer-hunting traditions of drinking homemade whiskey and eating homemade “pasties” are the cause of his back luck. Rueben refuses to bring those items with him this time, disappointing the whole group enough for Jimmer to almost shoot him with his rifle.

Reuben instead brings homemade milkshakes and syrup made with “traditional Ojibwe” recipes he got from his wife, Wolf Moon Dance Soady. Although they receive a positive response at first, this changes when the rest of the group finds out what is in them — squirrel poop.

The group later experiences a series of unusual events involving bright flashing lights, loud alien-like voices and a visit from Ranger Tom Treado, played by Hendrickson. Confusion ensues as the hunters are unable to tell if these signs are caused by UFOs or God.

Much of the play’s humor involves alcohol, farting and Jimmer’s fast and awkward mumbling.

“A man without a drink in his hand is a man on his way to get a drink,” Albert (Leigh) said in his opening monologue.

Before the curtain

Escanaba’s cast and crew worked hard over the course of five weeks to get the show ready, according to Director Nicole Quam.

Although the theater held auditions, finding committed cast members was difficult because the cast doesn’t get paid; they volunteer 15-18 hours per week.

“If the original actor we picked drops out, we have to just find someone else who has enough time,” Kinney said. “Gabe was our third Remnar.”

Many of the the shows performed at the Firehall Theatre involve a loyal group of cast and crew members who are there because they enjoy it.

“We’re here because we all love what we do,” said Patterson, who has a master’s degree in theatre arts from UND. “We’re not here for pay, and we often end up spending our own money for it.”

The money the cast and crew spends mainly goes to props and technology equipment. To save money on props, Patterson used his father’s vintage (unloaded) rifle from the 1960s on stage.

“We donate our time and props,” Leigh said. “The couch and the fish pillow are mine. The director brought in most of the guns.”

The Firehall Theatre’s staff has wanted to perform “Escanaba” for a few years, according to Quam.

“It’s a fun show about support and family,” Quam said. “Hunters and non-hunters should come and enjoy it.”

“Escanaba in da Moonlight’s” next shows will beSept. 27-29 and Oct. 4-5 at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 or $12 for students and can be purchased at the door or by calling (701) 777-4090.

Jaye Millspaugh is the multimedia editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].