A zany mystery; Summerset to bring ‘The Murder Room’ to life next week

Published 10:30 am Friday, July 8, 2016

Summerset Theatre will bring a dash of British charm and culture to the stage July 13-17.

The theatre will continue its 49th season with the fast-paced, comedic mystery, “The Murder Room” at 7:30 p.m. July 13-16. It will conclude with a 2 p.m. performance July 17 at Frank W. Bridges Theatre on Riverland Community College’s east campus in Austin.

“I’m excited,” director Randy Forster said. “It’s been a great process to see all of the characters develop.”

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Forster describes the show as “witty and well-written.” Penned by Jack Sharkley, “The Murder Room” is a zany spoof of British mysteries featuring a cast of seven actors. Taking place in 1934 at Bynewood Cottage in the northern part of England, “The Murder Room” engages and entertains audiences with a twisting plot and melodramatic characters.

According to Forster, this is a genre Summerset hasn’t tackled in a while. The group started rehearsing in early June and Forster is excited to see the play take it’s full form.

“I’m looking forward to getting the actors in front of an audience,” he said. “It doesn’t come to life until you have an audience there to enjoy it.”

Jennifer Bute will play Mavis Templeton Hollister, a gold digger who marries an older man and attempts to murder him on their wedding night.

“[The character] is a challenge for me because I have never done a lot of comedy,” Bute said. “I get to push my boundaries by doing a different style of character development.”

Bute is excited for Summerset Theatre to perform a play that is different from their norm.

“I think it’s not something your normally see on our stage,” she said. “Doing something based in British culture is different for our community here. It shows a more diverse range of theatre.”

“The Murder Room” is sponsored by Theatre Friends in Memory of David Dahlquist. Dahlquist, who participated in every Summerset Season since Summerset II as an actor, director or board member, passed away in 2015. To honor his legacy, the Theatre Friends in Memory of David Dahlquist raised $2,400 in donations during last summer’s production of The 39 Steps to be used to sponsor “The Murder Room.”

Donations will again be collected this year to sponsor a show in Dahlquist’s memory during next summer’s 50th Anniversary Summerset Theatre season. A goal of $2,500 has been set and donations can be made to Summerset Theatre through the Riverland Community College Foundation Office marked as David Dalhquist 2017 Memorial Show.

“I am thrilled to be directing ‘The Murder Room’ this season, especially since it is honoring David Dalhquist,” Forster said in a press release. “I thought of him often during the rehearsal process and can’t help to think that he is smiling down upon us and laughing at all the silly things we are doing on stage.”

Summerset Theatre recently received a SEMAC (Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council) grant to help aid this summer’s production costs. According to its website, SEMAC is one of eleven Regional Arts Councils designated by the State of Minnesota “to make final decisions on the use of appropriations for local/regional arts development.”

Tickets to “The Murder Room” are $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 12 and under. They are currently on sale at the Summerset Theatre Box Office in room E107 in Riverland’s east building in Austin or online at www.summersettheatre.org. The box office can be contacted at 507-433-0595 or by emailing boxoffice@riverland.edu.

Summerset will return for one more play for its 49th season with “Harvey” at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3-6 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 7.

‘The Murder Room’ cast

Edgar Hollister, played by James Zschunke

Mavis Templeton Hollister, played by Jennifer Bute

Mrs. Lottie Molloy, played by Joanne Fox

James Crandall, played by Ian Bearden

Abel Howard, played by James Zschunke

Susan Hollister, played by Reba Landers

Barry Draper, played by Jacob Mueller

Production Staff:

Director/Designer: Randy Forster

Stage Manager: Mandie Siems

Costumes/Prop Master: Mandlain Vander

Lighting/Sound Design: John Deyo

Sound Operator: Ian Gearhart

Light Operator: Erin Williams

Set Construction: Gordy Handeland

Painting: Katie Hunerdosse