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A piece of original art: Madhatters cast set to perform “The Piece’

Devin Tooker (left) and Michelle Curtis are focused on other things as Kevin Klawitter lurks in the background in a rehearsal for "The Piece" a future production of Madhatter's Community Theatre. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
Devin Tooker (left), Patrick Mertens and Kevin Klawitter act out a scene from "The Piece" at the Robertson Theater in Wadena. Show dates for “The Piece” are March 15-17 and 22-24 at The Robertson Theater at W-DC High School, all shows at 7 p.m. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

When the Wadena Madhatters Community Theater members were looking to bring a performance to Wadena this spring they didn't have to look far to find one.

Wadena residents and theatre members Michelle and Doug Curtis had just written a play that was ripe for picking.

"It all came together really fast," Michelle said, remembering how it came together in a few short weeks.

The performance is titled "The Piece" and is currently being rehearsed by seven actors and actresses in Wadena. The cast includes Kendra Burger, Kacie Hataaja, Christian Holliman, Kevin Klawitter, Patrick Mertens, Devin Tooker and Bronwynn Touchette. The group ranges from age 19-45.

Michelle Curtis said writing a play is not something new, but she and her husband consider it a gift to be able to do it and share it in the community. The two have acted, written and directed on numerous performances since high school.

Rehearsals started in January for the play, which consists of 10 skits. "The Piece" is a collection of comedic sketches, ranging from four to eight minutes, with varying themes. The "Piece" is a piece of furniture that is utilized in each skit. The set is extremely minimal—just the Piece, a garment rack and six chairs for the actors who are not in the scene. The props and costumes are very minimal as well, just small things that set each sketch apart from the next.

Within each skit, the actors change characters making each skit a standalone performance. In the few skits performed during a recent rehearsal, there was no shortage of humor and imagination coming from the performers. They practice quick-thinking exercises before rehearsal in order to stay on their toes through it all.

"It can get confusing," Patrick Mertens, one of the actors, said of the variety of roles.

Michelle said the plan was to have six actors, but because of the talent witnessed, they decided to add one more spot. Still, each actor must perform about nine different parts.

The skits bounce from offices to cafes, park benches and even snowball fights. To come up with all the skits took quite an effort from the Curtises.

"I think it took both of us," Michelle said. You'll see the two playing off each other in some skits, while others were mostly Michelle or mostly Doug putting the thoughts and words together to make something they hope the community can enjoy.

"It's been fun to see our words come to flesh," Doug said of the rehearsals. "They (actors and actresses) take on things and give it an additional dimension."

And while there is great variety, Doug said the show is entirely family friendly. Some parts are goofy, some parts are serious and as the group shared, if you don't like a certain skit, just wait a few minutes and another one will soon begin.

Aside from writing, acting and directing, Michelle is the owner/manager/stylist at 2nd Look Family Hair and Doug works at Greiman's.

Show dates for "The Piece" are March 15-17 and 22-24 at The Robertson Theater at W-DC High School, all shows at 7 p.m. Tickets can be bought in advance at Thrifty White Drug or online at the madhattersinc.org, or at the door the night of the performance.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Wadena Madhatters Community Theatre, contact Michelle at 218-640-3268.

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