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Archive for Thursday, July 2, 1998

A LAWRENCE THEATER TROUPE IS STAGING AN OLD-TIME MELODRAMA.

July 2, 1998

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After 20 years of performing melodramas at Ozawkie's Apple Valley Farm, Ric Averill made the decision to pull out of the establishment and concentrate on other career goals.

But a summer without hearing the audience's laughter proved too much for the theater entrepreneur, who could not resist staging at least one show.

``I was hoping audiences might miss us a bit,'' Averill said with a chuckle. ``I know I've already missed the intimacy I experienced performing for an audience.''

As a result, ``Dangerous Damsels'' is showing tonight and Friday at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass.

The melodrama is a vintage, original Averill script, reworked for another summer go-around. The plot revolves around a villainous theater producer (Averill), who forces three beautiful actresses (Jeanne Averill, Laurie McLane-Higginson and Becky Ford) to perform strikingly similar melodramas each night in one town after another.

After the singing cowboy Rodney Duty (Jerry Mitchell) is unable to stop the exploitation, the three ``dangerous damsels'' conspire to kill the producer during an onstage production.

Ric and Jeanne's son, Will Averill, keeps the show in the family by appearing as an audience member ``planted'' to help the actresses gain their freedom and artistic integrity.

Other cast members include Shane Scheel, Kitty Steffens and the Averills' daughter, Trish.

Although the actors enjoy performing the show, they acknowledge its brief run is nothing compared to the four-month, every-weekend productions the Averills devoted themselves to at Apple Valley.

``We're going through withdrawals,'' Averill laughed again. ``We were out eating dinner one Friday evening and I looked at Jeanne and said, `Aren't we supposed to be earning money on Friday nights, instead of spending it?'''

The Averills gave up their regular summer gig to concentrate on other theatrical goals. Ric is writing, publishing and performing children's plays under his umbrella organization, the Seem-To-Be Players, which includes a national touring company and a local troupe.

Jeanne is focusing more on other acting ventures and is represented by Talent Unlimited of Kansas City. Her one-woman show, ``Shame the Devil,'' opens in late July at the Varsity Theatre, 1015 Mass.

Will's own production company, Cardtable Productions, will also perform at the Varsity. His ``Where the Hell are all the Singing Cats?'' opens immediately after ``Shame the Devil.''

Daughter Trish has roles in the Summer Youth Theatre productions of ``West Side Story'' and ``Romeo and Juliet.''

Yet with all their individual projects, Averill still plans on the Ric Averill Players performing a melodrama or two each year, especially in town at Liberty Hall.

``It is a great place for a show,'' Averill said. ``And it's air-conditioned.''

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to jbiles@ljworld.com.

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