Local history comes to life: 'Holmes Spun Theatre 2' debuts Friday at Historic Holmes Theatre
Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre -- and to celebrate, the theater will present an updated version of the original, musical play that was the first production to be presented on its stage, making its debut on May 2, 2002.
"This has kind of been in the works for a couple of years now," said Holmes Theatre executive director Amy Stoller Stearns. "We were brainstorming ideas on what to do for our 10th anniversary, and many people had asked us for a reprise of Holmes Spun Theatre, so..."
But recreating that magic a second time turned out to be something of a challenge.
"The magic of the first one probably can't ever be recreated," Stearns said. "It was wonderful -- it was the first thing ever done (as a public performance) in this building as it exists now."
So rather than simply presenting that first production again, Stearns and the theater's staff decided that a sequel was in order instead.
She first approached the show's original writers, Lynn Hummel and Mary Otto, about a penning a possible sequel, and they were "very enthusiastic" -- but Otto did not feel she would be able to commit to participating in the project at that time.
So three new collaborators -- Nikki Caulfield, Erlene DeCock and Cyndi Anderson -- stepped forward to help Hummel write the new script.
Though there were some revisions made, the basic script was completed in time for the start of auditions in January.
"We started brainstorming about some of the local things going on, and that kind of lit the fire for the themes in the show," said Caulfield at that time.
"It was really a lot of fun collaborating -- all four of us having very different points of view was good, especially for a show that represents so many different people," she added.
"I would say the original show focused more on the early history of Detroit Lakes -- the founding of the community -- and this one is more contemporary," Hummel said.
"It has some of the stories that were left out of the first one," Stearns added.
"Holmes Spun Theatre 2" will open on the Holmes stage this Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.
A second performance is planned for Saturday, May 5, also starting at 7:30. No more will be added, so if both shows sell out, that's it.
"There will only be two performances," said the musical's director, Larry Swenson, when tickets went on sale in March. He reiterated that statement earlier this week.
So far, there are still seats left for both performances, said show producer Caitlin Pawlowski on Thursday. But once they're gone, that's it.
When asked whether a third version of the show might be planned in another 10 years, Stearns joked, "Sure, why not do it again in May 2022? Mark your calendars!"
But she quickly identified that remark as being tongue-in-cheek, adding that it was difficult if not impossible to make plans for a show that far in advance.
"We're only 10 years young," she said. "Where this theater will be in 10 years, or 25 years, is anyone's guess, but we encourage people to be involved and share their ideas.
"The Holmes Theatre is about our community, and what we bring in here (for both shows and programming) is for the people -- what we've heard that they want to see here.
"It's been really amazing to see and learn from everyone about what they want for an arts center in Detroit Lakes, and how we can grow it and make it something that impacts even more people.
"We're working on some really cool ideas for the future," Stearns said.
But for now, the theater's staff and volunteers as well as the cast and crew of the upcoming production are focused on making "Holmes Spun Theatre 2" the best show it can be.
"Rehearsals have been coming along really well," said Pawlowski. "Everyone is really embracing their character and bringing that to the stage every time we rehearse their scenes.
"The choreography and music are coming together really nicely, so each scene really does tell its own story."
While each scene in "Holmes Spun 2" can stand on its own, they are interwoven by the narrative of the "Snowmobile Mommas," who reprise their roles from the original show -- though only four of the original "Mommas" will be back for the sequel, Pawlowski said.
Other characters from the original production will show up as well, she added.
"E.G. Holmes will come back to life along with his good friend, R.L. Frazee," said Pawlowski, referring to two well-known figures from Becker County's past who were part of the original show.
The passage of time, and the changes that result in the community, will be a recurring theme in the show.
For instance, the characters from the 1950s high school dance that was depicted earlier in the show will be the same ones that show up for a 2006 dance at the DL Pavilion.
Danny Omdahl, who plays the "young Harry," a DJ at that 1950s dance, set the stage by noting that the scene establishes the ongoing rivalry between him and the straight-laced Eugene, who is attending the dance with Harry's not-so-secret crush, Donna.
"Harry has his eye on Donna, and there's this other guy, Eugene -- they become a couple," Omdahl said.
"But there's another girl named Beatrice, who's kind of cool. Harry ignores her at first."
Eventually, however, Harry and Beatrice get together and head off for California, where they become involved in the "hippie culture" of the 1960s and 70s.
"He (Harry) and Beatrice ran off to California and got into the hippie thing, but they moved back (to Detroit Lakes) because they loved this area," said Rick Kratzke, who plays the role of the mature Harry.
In an "art imitates life" moment, Kratzke's wife Tanzy was cast in the role of his fictional wife Beatrice as well.
"My wife and I heard they were still looking for a few actors, and we thought it would be a fun thing for us to do together," Kratzke said.
The present-day Harry and Beatrice are social and environmental activists, and they once again run afoul of Harry's old rival, Eugene -- played by Doug Schultz.
"Eugene is still pretty straight-laced," Schultz said of his character. "He's a local boy -- he's been a farmer in the area, and he has a past history with some of the other local people like Harry, who once dated his wife.
"They're pretty much polar opposites, in both outlook and experience...that leads to some pretty interesting conversations."
"Interesting conversations" is a euphemism for the kind of verbal shouting match that prompts a memorable comment from one cast member, "You boys are sure having a lively discussion."
Though they all play very different roles, one common thread for Omdahl, Kratzke and Schultz has been the fun they've been having with this production.
"I didn't think it'd be this much fun," Omdahl admitted. "I really like it."
Though his mother often told him that she thought he'd make a good actor, Omdahl took some convincing.
"I wanted to try something new, and I told my friend Dawson that if he did it (audition) I would too -- not thinking that he'd actually do it, but he did."
Though not quite sure of his chances, Omdahl went through with it -- and was cast in the show.
"My mom was surprised when I told her I auditioned -- but happy," he said, adding that he's really looking forward to his family's reaction to seeing him in the show.
"I think it's going to be a good play," he said. "I just hope people come to see it."
"These people are just so much fun to work with," Kratzke said of his castmates. "It's such a fun show -- really humorous. We're having a blast."
"I was not in the first show 10 years ago, but I remember going to see it and enjoying it," Schultz said. So when he heard they were holding auditions for the sequel, he thought to himself, "It sounds like fun."
Schultz is enjoying playing a variety of roles in the show -- he and Kratzke also play the parts of singing "Gruffettes," a group of backup singers for Ole Gruff, one of the characters in the show.
"It's been fun to do a variety of things within the overall show," Schultz said. "It's very different from the stage shows I've done before."
After several months of rehearsals, Pawlowski said, she feels confident that the cast and crew are ready for their first curtain call.
"We'll be rehearsing every evening until the show now," she said.
With a cast of 50 people, not to mention "a whole costume crew, choreography crew and tech crew that are all working very hard," Pawlowski said the pace has been a bit hectic -- but it's all starting to come together.
"We'll be ready -- absolutely," she said.
Tickets for "Holmes Spun Theatre 2" are currently on sale at the Holmes Theatre Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., by phone at 218-844-7469, or online at www.dlccc.org.