A play full of laughs: Students to perform twist on ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

What happens when you mix two elderly ladies, a pirate, police officers, FBI agents, a jailbird relative and a disgruntled fiancee into one play? You get the comedy “Larceny and Old Lace.”

This is a middle school-friendly twist on the classic play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and will be performed by students at Albert Lea’s Southwest Middle School on Friday. Teachers and students participating in the play shared the work that has gone into the upcoming performance and what they look forward to about the big night.

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Harold, played by Jackson Bighley, is an average man preparing for his upcoming wedding when he discovers that his old aunts Millie and Gertie, played by Bailey Lowe and Baylie Hendriks, are actually serial casino robbers. The stolen money is buried by Uncle Charlie, played by Lydia Thompson, who believes himself to be a pirate. Chaos and hilarity ensues.

Laura Stegman is a math teacher at Southwest Middle School and is the director of the play. Stegman said she read the original play “Arsenic and Old Lace” when she was in high school and thought that it was funny. She decided that it was a great choice for the middle school spring play this year. Auditions were held in December with practices starting in early January and continuing almost every day after school. Art teacher and assistant director Alissa Sauer joined Stegman in building the set while school was not in session.

“We have this wonderful relationship with the Marion Ross, and they help us out in providing some set pieces and costumes,” Stegman said. She also said she is excited to see the students finally perform in front of an audience on Friday night.

“I look forward to the reactions,” she said. “Like the kids, they get so used to saying their lines over and over again in practice, that when they have an audience for the first time, and that first laugh when they didn’t realize it was going to be a laugh there … They get so energized by the clapping and the laughter and stuff like that.”

The students are excited to show the audience what they have been working on as well. Lowe, who plays Millie, is not new to theater as she has been in previous shows at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. She recently portrayed the Ghost of Christmas Past in “A Christmas Carol” this past December.

“This would be my seventh play,” Lowe said. “I’m looking forward to just being the funny little old lady.”

Hendriks, who plays Millie’s sister, Gertie, considers this to be her first “real” play and is looking forward to seeing her family in the audience. She is also excited to show the story to everyone.

Thompson, who plays the role of Uncle Charlie, Millie and Gertie’s insane relative who believes himself to be a pirate, has been in other plays such as “Murder on the 5:18.” She also played Peter Pan in the play of the same name.

Thompson said she is excited to see the audience laugh at the funny scenarios and lines in the play.

“At the beginning of play practice, none of us thought it was going to be funny,” Thompson said. “And all of a sudden, we said it in our character, and we were like ‘that is hilarious.’”

“Larceny and Old Lace” will play at 7 p.m. Friday at the Little Theater in Southwest Middle School. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.

“The kids are doing an awesome job,” Stegman said. “I can’t wait until Friday.”

Harold: Jackson Bighley
Charlie: Lydia Thompson
Gertie: Baylie Hendriks
Millie: Bailey Lowe
Mordred: Lia Broskoff
Lester: Kendra Wellentin
Officer Mcnealy: Ja’Kayla Purdimon
Officer Larson: Trixie Erickson
Agent Klick: Charley Hrdalo
Agent Klack: Graciela Wear
Gloria: Treser Myint
Dr. Shortanoar: Aaron Garcia
Nurse Widget: Evelyn Xayaosa
Judge Taylor: Alivia Bell
Taxi driver: Ryker Paulson
Dr. Pretorious: Miriam Oo

Director: Laura Stegman
Set designer/assistant director: Alissa Sauer
Lights: PJ Ackerman and Grace Depoppe
Spotlight: Kyra Sigman
Sound: Evelyn Omana-Villagomez
Set builders: Laura Stegman and Alissa Sauer