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Lack of actors forces cancellation of Little Crow Players' production in New London, Minn.

NEW LONDON -- There are many components needed to put on a good community play -- a script, a stage and a director.

No doubt the key component is a troupe of actors.

So when the Little Crow Players of New London were preparing for their summer production of "Good Havens," they had the script, stage and director and put out the call for actors to attend auditions.

The trouble was, only two people showed up.

Even with repeated email requests and advertisements, they couldn't muster enough people to fill the 11 posts in the cast.

There was little choice except to cancel the August production, said Ginny Lief, president of the Little Crow Players.

The decision was painful and disappointing, es-pecially since this production was to have been the "world premiere" performance of "Good Havens," a new script written by Marion Stella Blomgren, from Minnetonka.

"It was disappointing. It was a fantastically written play," said Lief. "It would've been fun to do."

Lief is conducting a survey of the community's actors to find out if the lack of participation is a reflection of a moment in time for the theater, or if there's a larger message for the future of the small town stage.

Based on what she's heard so far, the lack of actors could be because the economy has people, including college students -- a mainstay of summer community theater -- working extra night shifts when rehearsals are held.

"We're in hard economic times and I think it's being reflected in our pool of actors," Lief said.

There's also competition for the local actor pool between the Little Crow Players and the larger Barn Theatre in Willmar. Little Crow tries to schedule plays so that they don't conflict with the Barn's schedule.

Lief also speculates that life is just too busy and summers are too short for people to forfeit two months' worth of summer evenings.

"People are busy and summers are precious, especially this year when we didn't get summer until the end of June," Lief said. "It's difficult to say, 'yeah, you can have my next two months and I don't care that I'm not going to be out in the sun or be with my family.'"

Participating in a play is a big commitment that people do for free, Lief said.

"They just have to love it enough to donate two months with two to three hours per night to practice their lines."

Between the actors, director, stage crew, musicians and other volunteers, hundreds of volunteer hours go into a community play. "We don't realize what we ask these people to do for our entertainment -- and to do for free," Lief said.

The Little Crow Players have been putting on about five plays each year, which is unusual for a small town. Most small communities just do one large summer production, said Lief.

Paring back their schedule is something they will consider, but Lief said she's looking for other suggestions to keep the community theater strong.

The theater hasn't given up yet on "Good Havens." The playwright has given them until next summer to produce the play with an original cast before she markets it to another theater.

In the meantime, the Little Crow Players are hosting the "Miss Inferno Beauty Contest" on July 22 at the New London-Spicer High School gym to raise money to purchase fire-retardant curtains for the Little Theater stage.

The participants are eight New London firefighters who will compete in an evening gown competition and perform a four-minute dance routine, including choreography to the Lady Gaga song, "Born This Way."

They hope to raise $2,000 for the theater.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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