By Ian Teal
Last year Wega Arts thrilled audiences with Tommy G’s, an interactive dinner theater effort, set in the Roaring Twenties, complete with flappers, temperance leaders, and guns. “Breaking down the 4th wall is as exciting for the actors as it is for the audience. They become players in the reality of the play, ” said Holly Martin, Wega Arts General Manager. “This year we have a really big treat. We’re doing a Halloween immersion dinner theater event, Secrets of the Dead that will include special effects, seances, ghosts, and a murder mystery. Secrets of the Dead is set in 1917. The audience will make up the townspeople determined to protect their beloved Mayor. I think this will top anything we have done so far. The audience is encouraged to come in costume as they did for Tommy G’s and it was great.” Dates for Secret are: October 30,31 and November 1. The house opens at 6:30 PM. Tickets are available online at www.wegaarts.org and are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
Wega Arts is bringing in some heavy hitters in terms of talent for Secrets of the Dead. Laila Salins, who will handle the lead role, has sung leading roles with the Zurich Opera, Music Theater Group (NY), the Latvian National Opera, Opera Factory Zurich, the New Riga Theater, and Connecticut Grand Opera, among others, and has given recitals throughout Europe, Australia and North America. “We are so excited to be able to bring talent of Laila’s caliber to the production” said Kathy Fehl, Creative Director of Wega Arts.
Craig Anthony Knitt, a Marion, WI native will take the role opposite Salins. Knitt is one of the founders and directors of the Wildwood Film Festival held annually in Appleton as well as an award winning filmmaker, garnering an Artistic Achievement award from the Milwaukee Short Film Festival. Knitt is an accomplished improvisational comedy actor delighting the audiences of Comedy City in DePere.
Featured actors include Monica Barden, local chanteuse, who performs with the Uptown Jazz Band and the Charlie Justman Band, among others.
Sabrina Loehrke, currently a senior at Weyauwega/Fremont High, is the set designer. Ian Teal said “Sabrina did a wonderful job with the One Act Plays last spring, bringing creativity and skill to the table. We’re so glad to be working with her again!”
Piano player Larry Rothbard will be joining us again. He did a fantastic job in Tommy G’s. Larry is Pianist/Music Director at the Comedy Shrine in Chicago, besides being an accompanist for diverse performances and classes around the city.
Secrets of the Dead author is Kathy Fehl. Fehl is a veteran playwright and filmmaker. With New York theater experience as a writer, director and producer she brings great breadth of expertise to Secrets of the Dead. Fehl said, “It’s been so much fun bringing this story together; some great singers, members of our local high school band, and a violinist from the Waupaca Area Orchestra…and Larry, such a wonderful accompanist!” Fehl and Ian Teal, Executive Director of Wega Arts, recently attended the Paul Sills Theater Games workshop in Door County. The Sills family were key founders of Second City, where the improvisation techniques developed by Paul Sills’ mother, Viola Spolin, were used. Improv became part of the language of comedy and, to a degree, all theater, from Saturday Night Live to Broadway. “I can bring everything I learned to life in Secrets of the Dead”, Fehl says.
Secrets of the Dead is dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose famous detective, Sherlock Holmes was a paragon of clinical observation. Doyle, meanwhile, was a great support of the revival of spiritualism that took place during the era Secrets is set in. Fehl is fascinated by this contradiction. Doyle was friends with Houdini, and though Houdini denied it, believed that Houdini had supernatural powers.
The venue is the wonderful Gerold Opera House in downtown Weyauwega, about twenty-five minutes from the Valley. The Opera House will be one hundred years old next year!
Wega Arts will also present the 4th annual Weyauwega International Film Festival beginning November 12 – 15. They are currently in the selection process. Watch the website, wegaarts.org, for more information.