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Grassroots Theatre gets back in gear

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The cast of "Subject to Change" -- (front row, from left) Jessica Hieronimus, Cindy Teerink, John Widboom, Marlene Jueneman, (back, from left) Dave Wiertzema and Cec Burchill -- rehearses in the Village Hall at Pioneer Village in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- After a hiatus of several years, Grassroots Community Theatre will once again stage a comedy, "Subject to Change," during three performances over the coming weekend.

"It just needed to be done," explained Mary Jane Mardesen, director and one of seven members of the newly formed Grassroots Community Theatre Board. "In a town this size, we should be able to support community theater, and I'd been approached by a couple of people who said we'd love to do this, love to do that, love to get involved again. ... The board is all people who are interested in the arts and will not let it fail and are excited about getting going again, with the prospect of being able to act themselves, in some cases, and offering another option for Worthington people to take advantage of."

Eventually, the Grassroots board hopes to offer a full season of community productions, and a comedy seemed like a good initial offering. "Subject to Change," Mardesen noted, has some brash language -- although it has been toned down somewhat -- and is intended for a mature audience.

The plot focuses on two sisters -- Gertrude and Madeline -- who have lived together for most of their lives. Gertrude is a go-getter who does a lot of work for her church and other organizations, plus manages to take care of the house and her sister. Madeline, on the other hand, simply lets her sister take charge. The problem arises -- and hilarity ensues -- when Gertrude decides to get married.

"She's met a guy at the bowling alley, and by golly, it's love," Mardesen described. "When she starts seeing this guy and talking about a future with him, Madeline goes ballistic. She's very sly and cunning and tries to pull every trick in the book to get Gertrude back to taking care of her, because that's what she's done all her life. We see her doing everything from making obscene phone calls to faking a stroke and running away and spending the time in the attic."

Gertrude is played by Cec Burchill, while Marlene Jueneman is tackling the saltier part of Madeline.

"It is an interesting role," Jueneman said. "I guess it was played by Phyllis Diller in the '70s, and she was pretty funny anyway. Madeline has been a lot of fun. She doesn't want to adjust to doing things for herself. She just wants somebody to do things for her."

The play is most definitely a comedy, but it does have a bit of a message, Jueneman noted.

"At one point, Gertrude asks why I didn't ever do anything, and my line is that every time I did anything, I always screwed up," Jueneman explained. "Ever since we were kids, I always screwed everything up, so I just let her do it. I tell her, 'If you were more of a screw-up, I'd be a whole person today.'"

"It's about the fear of change and what lengths we'll go to stop change from happening, whether aggressively or passive aggressively," elaborated Mardesen. "We think it's as appropriate now as it was in the 1970s, and we're going to try to keep it in the '70s -- the clothing will seem a little strange, and the prices they quote, would that they were there again."

Other members of the cast are Jessica Hieronimus, Cindy Teerink, Dave Wiertzema and John Widboom.

Grassroots Theatre's renaissance also comes at a new venue: Pioneer Village. The play will be staged in the historic setting's Village Hall, making for a more intimate theater experience.

"We're so grateful to the Nobles County Historical Society for letting us use Pioneer Village. They have been so hospitable," Mardesen said, who particularly credited Pioneer Village Director Roy Reimer's efforts in making the cast feel welcome.

"The stage is really small, but warmer, we think, too," Mardesen said about the venue. "There are a lot of advantages of having a smaller stage, like we don't have to have such strong lights."

Contributing to the cozy feeling of the venue will be a wine and cheese reception between the acts.

"The Worthington Liquor Store and local dairymen's association will be providing wine and cheese for the intermission, which will be served in the saloon next door," Mardesen said.

With only about 100 seats available for each production, Mardesen advises people purchase their tickets in advance. Tickets are available from cast members and at Ax Photo, The Stag and Schafer's Health Food Store, all in Worthington.

Performances of "Subject to Change" are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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