Fire unit's fund-raiser is laughing matter

April 13, 1994|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

Since the 1920s, the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company has been amusing the community every spring -- except for a couple of years during World War II -- with a stage comedy.

The tradition will continue this weekend when yet another loosely organized group of actors presents Edwin S. Day's "Good Night, Ladies," a three-act farce written about 1940.

This is not a theatrical group with a name but folks from the fire company and their relatives and friends -- in short, whoever is interested.

The group's object: to raise money for the fire company and to have fun, not always in that order.

"I think the people that come to the play know most of the people who are in it and enjoy it," said John Timberman, who is his 27th play, having started at age 19.

"Good Night, Ladies" revolves around the three siblings -- two sisters and their brother -- who inherit an old house near a college campus. The problem is that the house is mortgaged and the three are in danger of losing it.

To earn money, the family decides to turn the house into a girls' dormitory, but runs into resistance from the college's bumbling dean of students.

The trio gets some help from the boyfriend of one of the sisters and a college professor with an ulterior motive, played by Mr. Timberman.

Monday night's rehearsal demonstrated why the group has so much fun. The story itself is humorous, as a naughty scheme of deception unfolds to save the home.

Double-entendres in the script kept the actors in giggles, as did improper seating posture and missed cues. When Mr. Timberman delivered one line in a Donald Duck voice, Mary Burke, playing one of the sisters, laughed so hard she almost couldn't continue.

"Comedy is all we do," said Elwin Wagner, who plays the dean of students, who repeatedly misidentifies people and runs into walls. "If we did something serious I don't think anybody would come."

Lynne Feeser is this year's newcomer. She's never acted before, but convincingly portrays a college freshman.

"I'm Angela -- she's kind of a cheerleader type. She's very spirited and excited to be going off to college," Ms. Feeser said. "I go along with the plot to fool the dean."

In her second year, Bobbi Vinson directs the play and takes the role of one of the sisters.

"It's really a contemporary story -- we didn't have to change any lines, so it worked out nicely," said Ms. Vinson, who was good-naturedly fussed at for being late.

She had an excuse, though -- a sick baby.

The Manchester plays boast such alumni as Carroll County Commissioner Elmer Lippy, from whom Mr. Timberman learned much.

"Elmer was very good, and I learned a lot from him about being ready for just about anything," Mr. Timberman said, "for instance, trying to prepare yourself for an ad lib because you never know when the situation is going to warrant it."

The group uses a prompter to aid them with lines, but the help isn't always prompt.

"What the audience really looks for is the human element," Mr. Timberman said. "I've forgot a line on numerous occasions and I'll walk over to the prompter and say, 'I forgot my line, what's next?' and the audience loves it."

In the strictly amateur production, other things happen as well -- pictures plummet to the floor, fake mustaches fall off, men impersonate women and vice versa, making for interesting character appearances.

"The fire siren goes off once in a while and we just stop the play," Mr. Timberman said. "It went off once and I and the lady who was on stage with me did a dance until it stopped."

But, that's what it's all about -- having fun.

"Good Night, Ladies" will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the upstairs auditorium of the firehouse, 3209 Main St. Tickets cost $4 for adults and $2 for children ages 5-12, at the door. Information: 848-8167 (days) or 374-5632 (evenings).

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