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Classic ghost story brought to life in DL's 'The Uninvited'

The ghost of the George Simson Auditorium, if there is one, will have to share the stage with another ghost this week.

The Detroit Lakes Public Schools Department of Performing Arts presents "The Uninvited" April 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Detroit Lakes students are bringing this classic ghost story to life about a brother and sister, Roddy and Pam Fitzgerald (played by Alex Renner and Kaitlyn Lange), who move to a rundown house and soon "discover odd happenings in here," Director Mark Everson said.

The brother and sister meet the previous owners -- Stella (played by Thressa Johnson), a sweet but odd girl, and her grandfather, Commander Brooke (played by Grant Remmen). The two hint at what may have happened to the daughter in the grand portrait above the fireplace, but leave more questions unanswered.

And of course the people around the community have stories and theories, perhaps correct, perhaps pure gossip.

Once the members of the house know there is a ghost, they try to figure out who is haunting the house and why.

Given the eerie theme, this play may not be suitable for children, Everson warns.

"Really, our point is to scare people," he said. There won't be any startling events that make audience members jump, but there will likely be chills and shivers going up spines.

"People will see a ghost," he added.

Although the mystery and horror genre has been on hold for the last several years, Everson said this is the type of show that audiences are drawn to, and the students are having fun because this is the type of show they would likely enjoy seeing themselves.

"I don't want to go to bed at night now. That's kind of the feeling we're going for," he said.

To get that eerie feeling, it's all about the actors.

"If we don't look believable, it's not going to work," he said. "This is a great character show."

The students realize this is a different play, too. It's not just about learning lines and having fun on stage.

"It's very much different in that the effects set it apart from other spring plays," Remmen said.

In the recent past, the school has put on such plays as "Father of the Bride" and "Miracle Worker."

"It has so much to offer in thrills," Bryan Lee said of "The Uninvited." "You're wondering what will come next, thrill or comedy."

Although the actors know it's them playing characters, the eeriness carries through, even making some anxious about driving home afterwards.

But besides getting the thrills right, there are the basic actor concerns about perfecting the characters as well.

"All the characters are so big, so it's hard to keep them toned down," Renner said.

Lange said she was happy to get the role of Pam because she is "more normal" than the characters she's played in the past.

Rachel Skaaland, who plays the title role of The Uninvited, said the favorite part of her role is "how often do you get to be dead."

Andrea Williams, who plays Wendy Craig, a vivacious young actress, said she didn't necessarily get the part she had her heart set on at audition time, but now she can't imagine playing any other role.

Likewise with Paige Johnson. She plays Miss Holloway, Stella's former nurse who is slightly sinister and cold. Johnson said she had no idea how she was going to play the part, "but I fell into it and it got really fun."

Lee, who plays Max Hillard, an artistic friend of Pam and Roddy's, said he was "expecting the part a little" because of his natural artistic personality.

"I came out confident and the character development has come a long way," he said.

Kelsey Dutton said she has played such meek and mild characters in past plays, she was happy to play Lizze Flynn, the loyal but suspicious housekeeper.

"I wanted a role with no accent, but I'm really happy with her," she said of her role that once again has an accent. She is the comic relief in "The Uninvited," which is a lot of fun, especially in a scary play.

And some of the roles aren't necessarily that far from the actors either.

Kelsey Wenner said she likes playing town gossip Mrs. Jessup because she likes to gossip in real life, so she was able to bring that out in her character.

Chris Damlo said his character, Dr. Scott, brings information to the rest of the characters in the play.

"He adds sanity to the rest of the characters," Everson added.

Another plus for the students and director is the small cast this year -- the smallest in several years.

"We feel like a family," Skaaland said.

That family includes a backstage crew of two also. Sydney Henderson serves as stage manager, and Peter Johnson provides the special effects.

"They've been invaluable," Everson said. "We couldn't have pulled it off without them."

So, get ready for some thrills. "The Uninvited" is April 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Central Market.

Cast list:

Pam Fitzgerald, played by Kaitlyn Lange

Roddy Fitzgerald, played by Alex Renner

Stella Meredith, played by Thressa Johnson

Lizzie Flynn, played by Kelsey Dutton

Commander Brooke, played by Grant Remmen

Wendy Craig, played by Andrea Williams

Dr. Scott, played by Chris Damlo

Max Hillard, played by Bryan Lee

Miss Holloway, played by Paige Johnson

Mrs. Jessup, played by Kelsey Wenner

The Uninvited, played by Rachel Skaaland


Stage manager: Sydney Henderson

Special effects: Peter Johnson