For 15 years Ric Averill has produced rollicking, summer-fun-type plays at the Apple Valley Farm. And yet he's not afraid he'll run out of material.
"As long as Hollywood makes mistakes, we'll make plays,'' said Averill, who recently launched yet another Ric Averill Players season at the dinner theater near Ozawkie.
Averill's latest contribution to the literature of parody is "Robin Hood, Prince of Ducks,'' which will be performed at 8:30 p.m. Fridays through the summer. The show joins "The Wild Western Show'' at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and "Phantom of Reunion High'' at 8:30 p.m. Saturdays. Buffet dinners start at 5:30 p.m.
Beth Derringer co-wrote "Ducks'' with Averill, and the show promises to draw all the blood it can from the recent Kevin Costner remake.
"THE WHOLE play is intended to correct the inaccuracies of history,'' Averill explained in a recent interview. "Most people think Robin Hood robbed the rich and gave to the poor. He actually robbed from the rich to give to ducks. The evil Sheriff of Naughty Ham (sic) tries to drain the rivers and ponds and destroy the ecosystem of England and oppress the ducks.''
Jeanne Averill, Ric Averill's wife, plays the evil Queen Mother, and Willie Averill, their son, plays Prince John, who tries to usurp power from his brother, Richard the Duck-Hearted. Averill plays the sheriff, and the three participate in several scenes together.
"Some of the dialogue is taken straight from our kitchen table,'' he said.
IN THE spirit of Robin Hood, Averill also "steals'' from Mark Twain and himself. A contemporary character from a previous Averill production accidentally takes a time-machine ride back to medieval England, where he gets a "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court'' treatment.
"We have this modern character wandering through the play,'' Averill said. "The other characters think he's a technical genius.''
Both Ric and Jeanne Averill began working at Apple Valley 20 years ago, about the same time Averill's Seem-to-be Players started; Averill began producing plays five years later. After all that time, he still enjoys working out there.
"It's a real vibrant form of theater,'' he said. "It really comes out of the tent show tradition of Midwestern Americana. The plays all had to have two acts and stock characters. It was almost a (Italian) commedia style. You'd see the same characters in different siutations that were topical and comical.''
HE ALSO says these plays are good for what ails you, which comes in handy in an era with so much to worry about.
"It lets people come into the theater and relax and not think about anything else, like LA or loans or taxes,'' he said. "It's theraputic, and it feels good to provide that service.''
These kinds of entertainment also provide good training for young performers, Averill said.
"Even if they do dramatic roles later, they'll have a much better sense of where the audience is,'' he said. "You get to feel the whole sense of theater.''
Averill orients the Thursday show toward a family audience, which is one reason it starts earlier than the Friday or Saturday performances.
"It's very much a fun show with a lot of audience participation,'' he siad. "It's very G-rated and user friendly.''
In addition to Apple Valley, Averill in late June will direct the Summer Youth Theatre production of "Threepenny Opera'' at the Lawrence Arts Center. Then in the fall he will mark the 20th anniversary of the Seem-to-be Players, a professional children's theater company, with productions in September of "Puss 'N' Boots'' and in October of "Thirteen Bells of Boglewood'' by Max Bush. He also will take the company on the road to points in Kansas as well as Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas and Nebraska.