From left: Bobby Doran

Interactive play puts fun back in funeral

Web Lead

Octogenarian billionaire Mortimer Johnson was a key figure in the Creston Valley economy. His factories — local and abroad — kept thousands employed. And now that he’s dead, his family, friends and acquaintances want a piece of his fortune.

That’s the premise of The Funeral of Mortimer Johnson, an interactive, improvisational comedy and dinner theatre that will be presented by the Sasquatch Arts and Music Society on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.

“Our goal was to create a fun and entertaining — not to mention grown-up — evening of entertainment,” said Ann Deatherage, who created the play with Jason Smith as a fundraiser for the Snoring Sasquatch arts house.

They got the idea from the Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, the popular “environmental theatre” event that enjoyed long runs in Vancouver (14 years), Toronto and New York, and is still running in Las Vegas and San Francisco, among others. Rather than simply watching, ticket holders are seated among the performers, effectively becoming part of the action.

In the case of Mortimer Johnson, the play begins with a funeral at the Snoring Sasquatch, which is followed by a buffet dinner and wake at Coffee Creek Cafe. After dinner, guests will return to the Snoring Sasquatch for the reading of the will.

The play is changing shape with each rehearsal, as much of the dialogue is improvised by the actors, guided by Deatherage and Smith’s plot outline.

“It’s exciting to see the characters we created brought to life,” said Smith. “When everyone is in character, it makes the situation feel very realistic — other than the fact that some of the situations are completely ludicrous.”

Characters include family members of the deceased, played by Gail Kitt (mother), Kelly Mehrer (brother), Roxy Schmalz (widow) and Bobby Doran (daughter). Deatherage and Smith also play roles, joined by Suzanne Chubb, Derek Doyle, Jordan Koop, Jon Smith, Stephanie Sweet, and Dan Caverly.

“These actors are amazing when it comes to improv,” said Smith. “If rehearsals are any indication, this is going to be a very entertaining evening.”

The event, which features a licensed dinner, is open to adults only. Tickets will be $30 at Kingfisher Used Books or Black Bear Books, and include the three-act play and the licensed dinner (cash bar).

— SASQUATCH ARTS AND MUSIC SOCIETY