With just weeks to go before the debut of this year’s production, members of the Heartland Arts Troupe Society are hard at work preparing to hit the stage.
The theatre group will present Exit the Body as a dinner theatre with four performances from Nov. 12 to 15 at the Stettler Community Hall.
Director Wayne Smith said the cast and crew are now doing two rehearsals per week, with each one taking between three and five hours.
“I’m just amazed that these people are willing to put in so much time,” said Smith. “It takes a lot of work to put this production together.”
Smith said the process of choosing, preparing and rehearsing the play is a lengthy one, starting at the beginning of the year.
After sifting through scripts, Smith said he presented his choice to the board in March, with auditions and cast selections taking place in June. Though only 10 roles were available, about 25 people showed up for rehearsals.
The cast was given the rest of the summer to review the script, with full-on rehearsals beginning at the end of August.
Cast members for Exit the Body include Andrea Muhlbach, Sue Stratulate, Sara Humphreys, Dennis Smyth, Jeff Weibe, Harry Brook, Malcolm Fischer and newcomers Nancy Hamilton, Santana Scarff and Justin Tanner.
In addition to the cast, the production requires the efforts of many volunteers, including producer Jean Bischke, stage manager Fran Pidgeon, assistant director Chris Leinweber, costumer Sue Jones, lighting and sound crews, and set designers and builders.
“It’s quite an orchestrated effort to get all the things done that need to be done,” said Smith.
Exit the Body, a three act mystery farce written by Fred Carmichael, is set in New England in the early 1960s, where a female mystery writer has rented a house. Upon her arrival she discovers a body in the closet, and the plot thickens from there.
This is Smith’s first time in the director’s chair; he acted in the group’s previous two productions, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Leading Ladies, the latter of which was HATS’s highest grossing production yet.
Smith said the reception for Leading Ladies last year was “fantastic,” noting that the group could likely have added another performance.
“I think we’re in a really good place right now in terms of community interest,” he said, adding that ticket sales have been brisk so far.
Originally known as the Stettler Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the group has produced more than 40 shows since 1972, averaging one production annually in recent years.
Tickets to Exit the Body are available for $50 each at Wells Furniture in downtown Stettler; the price of admission includes a catered meal. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the meal served at 6:30 and the show to follow.