MASC set to present its 70th play

Walking into the Capitol Theatre on Main Street in downtown Waterloo, the stage might not look like much.

But with a few chairs, tables and ladders, that stage is already set for Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which will be performed by the Monroe Actors Stage Company this and next weekend.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a simplistic one that can reach all different age groups and all kinds of people. It’s a story of life: the journeys of marriage, children being born, death and everything in between.

Director John Campbell of MASC said the play can be taken both lightheartedly and seriously.

“The (MASC) board of directors goes through and picks our season every year, and they try to mix it up a bit each year,” Campbell said. “‘Our Town’ is the most-produced play ever, so we were bound to do it at some point.”

Everyone has had some exposure to the play, Campbell said, whether it be through reading it in eighth grade or performing it in high school.

“It’s just one of those plays that’s been around forever,” he said. “I understand now why it’s considered the ultimate United States play. It can be a sentimental, postcard kind of fluff, or you can treat it more seriously like we’re doing.”

The play features what Campbell suspects is the largest cast they’ve had in the dozens of performances they’ve given since 1999 — 24 people.

“It’s a challenge,” he said.

The cast started rehearsals in late February and has been practicing three times a week. Now, they’re down to crunch time and will be practicing every day until the show.

“It’s a big demand on your time,” Campbell said.

MASC presents five productions each year, which Campbell says makes this show the 70th show the company has done.

“We have it so good here (at the Capitol Theatre),” he said. “The Oddfellows have been so good to us. They take care of the building and we take care of the utilities.”

The cast features an “unusual” amount of young people, which Campbell said came about thanks to MASC’s grant-funded summer camp.

“We try to get our schools and young people involved so they can be a part of this,” he said. “Our two leads are 14 years old.”

Josh Porter, who plays lead actor George Gibbs, said he has learned so much from working with MASC on this play.

“I have really enjoyed working and learning from all the experienced actors in the group in ‘Our Town,’” Porter said. “I feel this opportunity will help me in my future as an actor.”

The cast also features MASC veterans, and even newcomers like Valmeyer Mayor Howard Heavner, who plays The Constable.

“It has been a great learning experience,” Heavner said. “The cast and director are very dedicated. They have such a wide range of talents within the cast from young kids to mature adults.”

Though this is his MASC debut, Heavner is no stranger to the stage.

“I have acted in the Valmeyer Music Boosters Dinner Theatres for quite a few years and thought it might be fun to try MASC,” he said. “I hope to continue doing this, especially after I retire from teaching.”

He also got into MASC because it is something he and his wife, Ellen, can both do together. She is part of the “Our Town” cast as well.

“My only regret is I am not going to be able to sit in the audience and watch the performance,” Heavner said.

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