OZAWKIE The St. Louis-based company specializes in melodramas, mysteries and family comedies.
When the curtain rises on the 28th theater season at Apple Valley Farm, theatergoers might notice a few changes -- like a new resident acting company, for starters.
Upstage Productions, starring Kevin O'Brien, is taking over for Lawrence playwright-actor Ric Averill and his troupe, who had performed at the Dale Easton Theater every summer weekend for the last 20 seasons.
``So far, people really like what we are doing,'' O'Brien said. ``Hopefully, people will get used to the change.''
Based out of St. Louis, O'Brien and his troupe tour nationally and play extensive dates in the Midwest. But the group was looking for a place to play regular summer dates, and they found it with Apple Valley Farm.
``We are strictly focusing on Apple Valley all summer,'' O'Brien said. ``It's nice to be living in this area and have a place to perform regularly.''
O'Brien writes all the group's material, which currently includes a collection of 14 murder mysteries and three melodramas. While he and four actors reside in Ozawkie, O'Brien will have other actors on the road performing the company shows.
``Yeah, it is fun and challenging to do the writing, and it takes time to figure out what an audience will laugh at in dinner theater,'' O'Brien said. ``But I know what I can play so I always give myself good parts.''
To take advantage of the new shows, Apple Valley farm has adjusted the season schedule. Friday and Saturday performances still feature melodramas, while the Thursday production is a murder mystery. A Sunday matinee family show has also been added.
``The Sunday show is a bit shorter, but with a bit of work we hope people will be coming out on Sunday,'' O'Brien said.
All of the productions feature the actors in multiple roles and allow for audience participation. Not knowing what an audience will do keeps the actors on their toes and is a challenge they relish.
``This is a dying art, but hopefully we can keep it on a respirator,'' O'Brien said.
The summer shows are:
- ``Murder at Apple Valley Farm,'' Thursdays. A hilarious ``who dunnit'' involving the audience as characters. During the performance one of the actors is murdered, and the audience is invited to try and solve the crime along with the performers.
- ``Went With The Wind,'' Fridays. A melodrama telling a rather skewered version of a romance set in the Civil War.
- ``Mr. Smith Goes to Topeka,'' Saturdays. A melodrama featuring a bright young man who enters local politics, only to find corruption and intrigue. The show takes its fair share of jabs at the state capital.
- ``The Adventures of Dudley Do-Good,'' Sundays. Dudley Do-Good must save the world from the deadly Teenage Mutant Morphin Barneys. A family show.
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