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Old west melodrama premieres June 20

Battle Lake semi-retiree El. J. Arntson is writing and directing the play "Built Like a Brick Pagoda" to be performed starting June 10.

The Old West Melodrama Dinner Theatre at Elmer's Barbecue is expanding this summer, putting on productions each Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, starting June 10. Each month will feature a different show.

Located in it's own theatre venue out back, Betty Jo's Pavilion, the first four-weekend show is titled "Built Like a Brick Pagoda" or "Everytime I Sneeze, I Sneeze Pennies from Heaven." It is an original two-act melodrama, written and directed by North Dakota Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and recent Battle Lake semi-retiree El. J. Arntson.

"Ask yourself how many World Premieres have you been a part of," Arntson said. "I was involved with last year's melodrama at Elmer's as part of the preshow entertainment. I watched the melodrama every night it was performed and thought to myself, 'I could write one of those.' So this past fall I started writing one."

Arntson won't give away secrets from the play, but it does have one unique feature: an audience member will be asked to volunteer to be on stage for one or both acts.

"Western characters will be mingling with the audience as you arrive around 6," Arntson said. "Then about 6:15, you'll get to experience the joy that is 'Scratch and Sniff,' an original old west version of a well-known Renaissance show."

Later this summer Madhatters Theatre from Wadena will perform the play "Prescription: Murder."

Located just minutes north of Battle Lake, tickets for this show and the others later this summer are available online at