WINNEBAGO - A visit from the state fire marshal left Winnebago Area Musical Players with no stage curtains. A hometown girl will try to help at a benefit concert March 19.
The fire marshal visited Winnebago elementary last summer and decided the curtains no longer met fire safety regulations.
"They had been there for a number of years and lost what they needed to be flame-retardant," said Lois Willmert, who has directed about two-thirds of the Players 26 productions since 1981.
Treating the curtains would not bring them up to code, leaving replacement as the only option.
The stage is littered with chairs, a ladder and other things - all in plain sight - making it look more like a storage area than a place where theater magic is made.
"You can't do a real production without the curtains," Willmert said. "The front curtains aren't a big deal, but it's the side and back; they hide what we're doing, moving sets."
With other schools and community theaters closing, it was suggested the Players could obtain used curtains.
"The trouble is no theater is the same size," Willmert said. "The rigging in one theater aren't necessarily the same size as in yours. They're pretty much custom-made for your stage area."
That means the Players need new rigging to go with their new curtains.
"So we're trying to raise money here at Winnebago to the tune of $20,000," Willmert said.
The benefit concert - "Call it WAMP's Curtain Call," Willmert joked - is set for 7:30 p.m. March 19. The group asked an old friend to headline the evening.
Kelly Kaduce was a fifth-grader at Winnebago when the Players staged "Annie." She got the title role. Kaduce also performed in other shows by the Players. She went on to major in vocal music in college and went into opera. She has performed "Madame Butterfly" and "La Boheme," earning rave reviews.
Kaduce always points out in interviews that she is from Winnebago, Willmert noted, so the Players asked her if she would help out.
"She's coming back to Minnesota for 'Wuthering Heights' with the Minnesota Opera," Willmert said. "Just before she starts rehearsals for that, she'll come back and do this."
For the Players' benefit, the Minnesota Opera donated two tickets to "Wuthering Heights." A drawing will be held during the event.
There is no admission charge for the benefit, but donations will be taken at the end of the show, Willmert said.
Kaduce will sing arias from operas, and she will perform "Tomorrow," the signature song from "Annie."
Also scheduled to perform is Forever Young, a group of local women who had so much fun performing for the Players that they formed a group. They sing at community functions. Forever Young will perform three numbers.
Individual members of the community will perform several duets with pianist John Engesser of Blue Earth.
A special aspect of the show will be "WAMP Memories," collected from performers and people who have attended shows "on how WAMP affected their lives or how WAMP is special," Willmert said. "We'll intersperse those in the show."
The Players have applied for two grants to help with the purchase of the curtains.
"We have received one and are waiting on another," Willmert said.
But they want to see how much the benefit concert brings in before they look too far into the future.
"We have to have curtains to do another show," Willmert said, adding that the group has not made any decisions about its next production:?"Depends on where we sit financially (after the benefit)."
She hopes the concert is a success.
"People in the Winnebago area have supported WAMP" she noted. "When we've needed something, they've come through. All the work we do means nothing if you don't have that support."