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Fulda players set to perform classic adaptation

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Mark Yackel-Juleen (right) and Linda Lund are lead actors in the performance of the 2012 Fulda Community Players presentation of "Welcome to Mitford" this weekend at the Fulda Elementary School gym.

FULDA -- High up in the Appalachian Mountains sits Mitford, a town full of interesting characters and the Lord's Chapel, the church of Father Tim Kavanagh. Not in real life, of course, but in the fictional books by Jan Karon.

The Fulda Community Players will be performing the stage adaptation of the books, written by Robert Inman, titled "Welcome to Mitford" this weekend, starting with a 7:30 p.m. presentation tonight at the Fulda Elementary School gymnasium. The performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

This will be the Fulda group's 28th production in 26 years of performing, according to Director Wilma Lindquist.

"We always get such good support from our community," Lindquist said.

With a cast that ranges from young children to senior citizens and includes approximately 37 actors and stage hands, the show promises to be a crowd-pleaser that all ages will enjoy. Set in the make-believe town of Mitford, the play centers around the actions of Father Kavanagh, a pastor who has been tending to his flock for 40 years.

"He is 60 years old when the play starts," Lindquist said. "It extends over a 10-year period."

Kavanagh, a confirmed bachelor, meets the new neighbor, a woman who writes children's books.

Throughout the two-act production, he adopts the unruly orphaned grandson of the church gardener, falls in love and gets married, wrestles with the idea of retiring and struggles with his health.

The somewhat zany parishioners in his town include a jokester, an heiress, the mayor, his housekeeper and a secretary, as well as other lively citizens of Mitford.

Lindquist said she noticed the play on a front cover of a catalog of stage performances and was intrigued.

"It was one of my favorite series of books," she explained. "When I mentioned it to some others in the group, they were all excited about the idea."

One of the most excited about actors is Rev. Mark Yackel-Juleen, who plays the part of Kavanagh, Lindquist said.

"He said it's the first time he's ever done anything quite like this," Lindquist stated. "He's doing a superb job, and playing that character isn't easy. He's almost never off the stage, so we have some pretty touchy timing for costume changes and things like that."

Even with the serious issues of marriage, health, mortality and retirement, the play contains a lot of comedy.

"Just like in real life," Lindquist quipped. "Just when things get the most serious, there's laughter."

One character the group had to work around is that of Barnabas - Kavanagh's big, lovable and somewhat troublesome dog.

"We just couldn't get a dog that big and work with it on stage," Lindquist admitted. "So Barnabas is there in voice, but not in person."

After 26 years of directing, Lindquist has seen a lot of sets, but believes the set for "Mitford" is one of the most beautiful she has ever seen. The crew painted multiple buildings to include the chapel, the rectory, the neighbor's house and more, creating a make-believe city the cast adores and the audience will find enchanting.

Tickets for the play can be purchased at the door, or in advance at Maynard's Food Center and Ramerth Hardware in Fulda.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at