Big dig into local pastUnravel a mystery rooted in 1921 during the premiere of “The Big Dig,” a new play by local playwright Teddie Meronek. Everyone is invited to dust off their magnifying glasses and join the fun.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Unravel a mystery rooted in 1921 during the premiere of “The Big Dig,” a new play by local playwright Teddie Meronek. Everyone is invited to dust off their magnifying glasses and join the fun.
“This is kind of written like a Nancy Drew mystery,” said Kathy Laakso, director of the Douglas County Historical Society and co-director of the play.
During reconstruction work on Tower Avenue, workers find a body buried among the old pipes. After seeing it on the news a woman comes from Chicago and says she knows who the body was.
The play then flashes back to 1921 during Prohibition. A girl attending the Normal School wants to write a story that will secure her a reporter’s spot on the all-male staff of the school newspaper, “The Peptomist.” She and her two friends set out to research Superior’s “underbelly” and get into a scrape.
The characters are fictional, but the settings are real.
“Everything is set in Superior and it was fun to include sites like the library at the Normal School, the old Saratoga Hotel and Billings Park in the play,” said Meronek, local history librarian for the Superior Public Library. As she was researching the 1920s, the playwright found that “The Peptomist” staff in 1921 included only men, although three-quarters of the students at the college were female. That prompted the setting of the play and its main character, Nell.
Those who enjoyed Meronek’s last play, “You’ll Find it at Roth’s,” will enjoy “The Big Dig,” according to Superior High School teacher Edwin Johnson, who helps backstage.
“Teddie really reached the same level of comedy and even some of the slapstick that was such a big hit with the ‘Roth’ play,” he said. “I don’t want to be a spoiler, but my favorite scene so far involves a local news reporter playing herself in a slightly exaggerated and tongue-in-cheek, overly serious manner. It’s really a hoot.”
Writing “The Big Dig” took only six weeks. Meronek’s last play took two years. To finish so quickly, she immersed herself in research about the 1920s and relied on the help of the History Theatre Troupe.
“They came up with great ideas and scenarios, which I incorporated into my writing,” Meronek said. “This play is definitely a collaborative effort, which is, I think, the best way to do anything.”
There are many new faces in this production, Laakso said.
“As one of the directors (Kim Collins is co-directing), I have watched a couple people in our community who had never performed before just blossom as actors in just a couple of rehearsals,” she said.
In addition, a number of local students are working behind the scenes and on stage.
“I like the fact that we’re pulling in students from the middle school, high school and college,” Laakso said. “Teens need something to be involved in, to interact with others, and like sports, theater does that. There is a job for everyone in theater.”
The students bring a lot of experience to the production, according to Johnson.
“Not necessarily theater experience, but academic and co-curricular experience that are valuable additions to the History Theatre troupe,” he said. In return they get to work with Laakso, Collins and other talented people. “What a portfolio builder that is.”
The new production is now seeking applicants for the role of audience. “The Big Dig” begins at 7:30 p.m. May 2-4 and 2 p.m. May 5 on the DCHS stage, 1101 John Ave. Tickets are $12 each with part of the proceeds earmarked for future History Theatre performances.
The DCHS’ mission is to build community through history. The History Theatre is a way to meet that goal in an entertaining way.
“I don’t think there’s another theater group that consistently stages original productions that have to do with local history,” said Meronek, a member of the DCHS. “It’s a lot of work, but so much fun to be involved with local theater.”
For more information, call 715-392-8449 or go to www.douglashistory.org.