‘Something very different than what we’ve done before’

Published 5:27 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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ACT play to begin this week dealing with life, love and loss

Welcome to Almost, Maine. It’s so far north it’s almost in Canada, but it’s not quite a town because residents never got around to getting organized.

And no, Almost, Maine, isn’t a real town. It’s the title of an 11-person play by John Cariani, comprised of eight short plays exploring life, love and loss in the fictional place. The play is Albert Lea Community Theatre’s newest production, which will begin Thursday at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

According to director Christine Fuller, the play is about the different stories of life and love revolving around the residents of the town.

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“The first time we voted, I didn’t like it, I couldn’t get into it,” she said, referring to the initial Albert Lea Community Theatre board’s vote. “Then we went a second time around.”

The board then asked if she would direct it, so she listened to a YouTube video of it and read the script, and that’s when she started to understand it.

Fuller said each story had its own meaning or underlying theme that applied to love, whether a happy or sad ending.

“Figuring out those underlying storylines, it’s like, ‘I get it,’” she said. “It just clicked. I get it now.”

Prior to making her directorial debut in “Almost, Maine,” Fuller stage-managed and did everything else she could do in theater.

She also believes everyone who sees the show will find something to relate to.

“Everybody’s had relationships in one way, shape or form in their life, and I feel they’ll be able to relate to maybe one or two or some of the little skits and scenarios that go on,” she said. “There’s stuff that makes you want to go, ‘Oh, I feel bad for them.’

“But then there’s funny parts, there’s happy, sad. It’s just very relatable, I feel.”

Auditions were held toward the end of January.

“I have learned that it is actually enjoyable to sit back and not be the one doing everything, all the backstage stuff,” she said. “It is kind of enjoyable to sit there and watch, and be able to help the actors grow into their characters and how they move on stage and how they do things.”

Kristan Dye, who has been involved with ACT for 13 years, plays Marci.

“She’s a frustrated, disenchanted wife,” she said.

Doing this, she has learned to be fluid and “go with the flow.”

“Acting on stage is like a high-wire act,” Dye said. “There’s no cuts, there’s no do-overs. Whatever happens, happens and you have to be able to respond.”

Marci has also taught her an experiment she felt women and/or couples go through after a long marriage.

“Come see the show,” she said. “It’s something very different than we’ve done before. It will be a new experience.”

Some of Dye’s other works include “Gypsy” and “Mousetrap.”

Jon Cochran plays both Pete and Lendall.

“Lendall is a man who is in love with his girlfriend, but he hasn’t asked her to marry him,” he said. “He’s been with her for 10 years, and she kind of comes to him and says she’s going to leave him.”

Cochran has been in theater for 40 years, and he liked the concept, saying it was different then other shows he has been a part of.

“When you first start reading for a character you don’t really know where it’s going to go,” he said. “Then as you dive into it you realize how deep the character really is, or how shallow.

“And I feel like Lendall is definitely in touch with his deeper side.”

Most recently he was in “The Addams Family” in Austin.

Heather Torley plays both a waitress and Shelly.

“Shelly is kind of like a country girl who has just come from a very horrible date,” she said. “Her and her best friend, Deena, both have similar experiences and kind of have a little competition to see who had it worse,” Torley said.

Torley said both she and her father loved theater, and she would perform during Broadway in the Basement at her church, something she loved.

Playing Shelly has helped her to stand up for herself and go for what she wants.
This will be Torley’s debut at ACT.

Fuller’s favorite part of this experience was seeing people grow as actors, and noted there were four making their ACT debut.

On the other hand, delegating responsibility was a challenge for her.

Above all, she wants the audience to enjoy themselves, realize people may share the same challenges in relationships, and find new ways of addressing those challenges.

Fuller’s experience in theater started at a young age and carried her through high school. She also said it was something she’d always been interested in and described theater as a home-away-from-home.

“Had a little break after high school,” she said. “Moving down here I did one show early 2000s, and then in 2014 I tried out for ‘Annie,’ and I’ve been here since.”

“Almost, Maine” runs through March 18.

Jon Cochran: Pete, Lendall
Samantha Weir: Ginette, Sandrine
Brian Mattson: East, Jimmy
Michelle Supalla: Glory, Hope
Heather Torley: Waitress, Shelly
Kristi White: Marvalyn, Gayle
Aaron Zogg: Steve, Dave
Emma McColley: Deena, Rhonda
Lyle Sorenson: Phil
Kristan Dye: Marci
Patrick Bird: Man