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Theater troupe takes stage

Twin Ports Stage is throwing a Tupperware party, and everyone’s invited. 

The nonprofit theater company, founded in memory of University of Wisconsin-Superior theater professor emeritus John Munsell, performs “Sealed for Freshness” Sept. 4-14 in the Manion Theater at UWS.

“I think we’re definitely ready for this next step,” said organization director Victoria Main.

Performing their first full production on Munsell’s stage seems fitting, said Twin Ports Stage member Lori Kempton. Many of the performers are alumni.

“Cheryl (Zupec), Vicky (Main), Merry (Renn Vaughan) and I were at UWS at the same time; we all overlapped,” said Sharon Dixon Obst, who plays the role of Sinclair. “It feels kind of like a homecoming in a way.”

Main said the experience is ghostly at times. She finds herself peering out into the audience, looking for the glowing red ember of Munsell’s cigarette, a common sight when he was directing decades ago.

“So many shows we did there, many with Munsell,” Main said. “It’s almost like he’s there.”

“Sealed with Freshness” centers around what cast members described as “a Tupperware party gone crazy.” The show mixes an eclectic group of women with martinis and the finest form of food preservation known to science.

“It’s hysterical,” said Vaughan, the director.

The 1968 period piece includes vintage clothes, retro furniture and authentic Tupperware, but the emotions would ring just as true in 2014, Zupec said. The comedy offers more than laughs. At times poignant, tender and sad, it revolves around female relationships.

Cathy Podeszwa plays Bonnie, the hostess with more than Tupperware on her mind. Zupec steps into the shoes of top saleslady Diane, who hides a secret behind her smile. Obst predicted her pregnant character Sinclair will be the one audiences love to hate; Main is Sinclair’s sister Jean, a perky Tupperware acolyte; Bridget Ideker plays ditzy blonde Tracy Ann and Nick Elias is Bonnie’s husband Richard.

“Sealed for Freshness” is the group’s first stage production, but far from their first performance. The thespians just recorded episodes seven and eight of their award-winning live radio soap opera “Twin Ports” at a crowded Belknap Lounge last week.

Less than a month ago, the group received its official nonprofit status. That will boost fundraising efforts as Twin Ports Stage strives to raise about $800,000 to purchase and renovate the former Dunbar building on Tower Avenue into a 250-seat theater combined with a café/bar and art gallery. The flexible space of the John D. Munsell Theatre could accommodate touring productions, films, art openings, musical and community events, acting classes and a full season of plays.

Bringing a theater to Superior’s downtown has the potential to increase foot traffic and spark other industries, Main said.

“I believe it’s an exciting opportunity for the community,” said Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen. “I’ve seen this kind of operation add great dimension to the downtown in cities our size and smaller.”

The downtown landscape has been changing. The newly renovated Tower Avenue is home to new businesses like Sweeden Sweets candy shop and ice cream parlor, A Dozen Excuses Donuts and More and Blue Arrow Boutique. Niche stores like that can create atmosphere and excitement, Hagen said, giving people fun places to go and eateries to enjoy.

“We need some quick wins,” the mayor said, and small is good. Some projects, like the John Munsell Theatre, may require a public/private partnership to jumpstart them. Hagen said he’d like to sit down with local business people and explore what it is we want to the city be, what it is we want to have and how we can get there.

Theater supporters can donate to Twin Ports Stage through the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page, or by mailing a check to Twin Ports Stage, P.O. Box 1484, Superior, WI, 54880.

“Sealed for Freshness” takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11, 12, 13. Matinee shows begin at 2 p.m. Sept. 7 and 14. Due to mature content, audience members should be age 17 or older.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students. They can be purchased through brown or call 715-392-1742.