‘Dearly Departed’ incorporates local celebrities

Directors leave part open to be played by mayor, UND President, other guests

Actress Kjerstine Trooien performs Friday at the Fire Hall Theater. Trooien is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

“The show must go on” was the attitude Saturday at the Fire Hall Theatre, where the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre and the Historic Norman Funeral Home presented “Dearly Departed” after being one actor short for performance.

Co-director Patrick DeMars said actress Kjerstine Trooien was sick with pneumonia Saturday night, but Mare Thompson filled her place as Marguerite. Thompson performed with script in hand, but remained in full character.

“She is just wonderful as an actor … I felt she would portray (the character) just fine,” Patrick DeMars said.

This one actor wasn’t the only change in cast throughout performances of “Dearly Departed,” which continues until  Mar. 1. Co-director Lana DeMars said the character Bud Turpin would be played by various local celebrities and community members instead of one set actor.

“This allowed for some more people not aware of Fire Hall to hear about it and come watch the show,” Lana DeMars said.

UND President Robert Kelley and Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown were two of the chosen guest stars to play Bud.

“Every one of them has had a very positive response to the potential to get up for their five minute scene and do their best with it,” said Patrick DeMars. “It’s a real ‘Dancing with the Stars’ moment.”

Other than the guest stars, the cast had been practicing for about six weeks. Actress and UND student Kelsey Misialek starred as Delightful in the play.

“There was a lot of times that I would probably get in trouble because I would break character just laughing at everything,” Misialek said.

Misialek’s character, Delightful, didn’t have many lines in the play, but she said she still had to react in character for every scene.

“When we started adding set changes was when the technical part of everything became difficult,” Misialek said. “We had to focus on that and try to stay in character all at the same time.”

The directors said they planned for the show to be simple because that is what the script called for, but the play was developed with help from the crew and supporters of the Fire Hall Theatre. The Historic Norman Funeral Home provided a casket for the play to be made more realistic.

“The script suggested using a table … It was nice that we had an actual casket,” Lana Demars said.

The set of “Dearly Departed” had several scene changes where moved on and off set in the dark. Misialek said this was one of the more difficult things to do.

“It was hard to not run into people with such a small set,” Misialek said. “They did provide us with a blue light that created a silhouette on stage that made it easier to see.”

The play had a total of 17 different scenes that took place on the same stage but was designed to create different areas for different scenes. Lana DeMars said the most difficult thing to figure was how to fit 16 actors on such a small stage.

“The stage being the size it was actually helped get our actors more involved with the audience,” Patrick DeMars said.

Misti Meads is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].