MARQUETTE - A group of Forest Roberts Theater veterans is making history this summer and needs support from the local community.
The former Northern Michigan University students will be putting on a production called "Waiting for Orson," written by Ian Leahy, a former FRT actor, at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C., this summer. It was chosen as a featured event in the festival.
"Not only are we the first Upper Peninsula group to be featured in a Fringe Festival, we are the very first group from the U.P. to be in one," said Becky Heldt, a Forest Roberts alumnae who is directing the production.
The Capital Fringe Festival, according to its website, is a "nonprofit organization founded in the summer of 2005 with the purpose of infusing energy into performing arts in the Washington, D.C., region through our yearly Fringe Festival and year-round Fringe Training Factory. Our mission is to connect adventurous artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District. Capital Fringe's vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city."
There's a chance the group might be participating in a similar event in another major U.S. city this summer.
"We will know within a few weeks if we will also be traveling to the NYC Fringe Festival with the same production team in August," Heldt said, "We're very excited about this project and have cast local talent and other FRT veterans to take with us to the festivals.
"We will begin rehearsals in Marquette in May and plan to premiere our production in our 'hometown' as a part of our fundraising events on June 21 and 22 before we depart for D.C. on July 7," she said. "In order to travel to the two festivals with our troupe of seven, we need to raise close to $5,000 and hope to offset some of these costs with the help of sponsorship and ticket sales."
The local performances in June will include a preview on Friday the 21st which will include $10 tickets for adults and $5 tickets for students. Then on June 22, the event will carry a $12 ticket price that includes a silent auction, 50/50 raffle and a special dessert "Meet and Greet" with the cast, director and playwright.
That cast includes Christopher Scott Leith, Sherry Bollero, Pat Wagner, Erin Renee Morgan and Craig Grabarczyk. NMU faculty member Charles Leith has a role: Playing his son's father.
"All of the cast members grew up in the U.P.," Heldt said. "Myself and the playwright are technically from the Detroit area, but I have claimed Marquette as home for 10 years while Ian has lived here on and off for about the same time."
Logistics are being finalizes for the local presentations of the play, Heldt said.
"(The play) will be performed in the round at the festivals but will most likely be a more traditional Black Box set-up for our premier here," she said. "During the coming months, we will be looking for donations of all kinds - monetary, in-kind, promotional and items for auction."
The Capital Fringe Festival takes place over 18 days in July.
"We've been asked to present for the entire festival," Heldt said. "This is a great honor since the average shows are only presented for roughly 10 days.
"This is our first Fringe show and 'Waiting for Orson' has become the flagship of our young touring company," she said. "Our hope is that if 'Orson' is as successful as the festivals feel it will be, the other shows we have in the early stages of writing will be able to follow the same path."
For more information on the play, visit earthinstinct.com.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.