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Hawkeye presents dinner and a thriller — kind of

Shoopman directs ‘Bride of Brackenloch,’ an over-the-top farce, spoofing Gothic novels

March 4, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

It's described as a descent into totally funny madness, featuring mysterious deaths, men in kilts and an ancient Gothic manor while Scottish accents fly all over the place.

This year's dinner theater from Hawkeye Community Theatre is "The Bride of Brackenloch," and one word the actors use to describe it is "over-the-top."

That's actually three words. But in this kind of show, it doesn't seem to matter.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Comfort Grody played by Mari Newman, left, and Glynis Prescott played by Katelyn Helgevold, right, try their best to put up with Janet Magleesh played by Brandy Vrchoticky, in this scene from “The Bride of Brackenloch.”

"(Director) Mike (Shoopman) works very hard to get us to act over-the-top," said Katelyn Helgevold, the 16-year-old Fort Dodge native who plays Glynis Prescott in the show. "When you've worked with him in the past, it's been the exact opposite."

The show is a farce, a spoof of Gothic novels where the heroine is brought to the ancient manor by her handsome, brooding groom. Jabez Thorngall, played by Jim Vol Dolteren, brings his new bride-to-be, Daphne, to the Brackenloch Manor after losing his first wife to the family curse. Any bride at the Manor, it is said, is doomed to die on her wedding day.

Tensions erupt early on between Daphne, played by Kiana Vrchoticky, and Jabez's former lover Comfort Grody, played by Mari Newman. The housekeeper, the maid, the sister, the cook, the handyman, the aunt, and the female neighbor all become suspects as mysterious disappearances create further chaos.

Fact Box

If you go:

What: "The Bride of Brackenloch," Dinner Theater

Where: Hawkeye Community Theater, 521 N. 12th St.

When: Thursday through Saturday, and March 15-17. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: Reservations required. Cost is $33, including dinner, drink, tax, gratuity and show. Call 576-6061, or order online at Indicate night of attendance and food choice.


Catering by Tea Thyme at Sadie's

Choices: Melt Away Roast Beef and Pork Combo, Chicken Marcel, seafood lasagna, corned beef and cabbage

Thursday: Beef and pork combo or chicken

Friday: Beef and pork combo or lasagna

Saturday: Beef and pork combo or chicken

March 15: Beef and pork combo or chicken

March 16: Beef and pork combo or lasagna

March 17: Corned beef and cabbage or chicken

The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week and March 15-17. Catering is provided by Tea Thyme at Sadie's.

"It's done right," Shoopman said of the food. "They serve on china, there's tablecloths and silver, the whole bit."

Shoopman said he had been directing for a long time at Hawkeye, and had been involved on and off with the theater since 1971. The troupe has been doing dinner theaters since the '80s. He said one of the challenges this year was in getting that 19th century Gothic look just right.

"The hard part is finding period costumes and authentic set pieces. These are bona fide 19th century," he said. "Getting the actors to dress, look and sound like another time and place is always a challenge. The goal is always to tell a story, and to do that effectively you have to have the right things in place."

Parts of the set even came from the 100-year-old theater building, which was once a church.

"That fireplace came from the old building. I think it was a wrap-around for the organ."

When asked what was fun this year, he quickly responded, "Scottish accents."

"Just listening to that many actors working on Scottish accents is funny in itself. You've got 12 people sounding like Shrek," he said.

Helgevold has been in community theater for about four years now. She said the play has been a lot of fun, but the craziness of this show does introduce some challenges.

"He keeps telling us this is a farce, so overact everything. It's a challenge to act over the top, but not be too crazy," she said. "It's hard to project well with a Scottish accent. You have to make sure everyone can understand you."

Once you learn the accents, they tend to stick with you, she said.

"We've had trouble because we'll start talking like this in public. We did that at Fazoli's and freaked some people out."

Amanda Von Dolternen, a 13-year-old student from Pomeroy who plays Phinella the maid, said the comedy made it more fun for the actors.

"It's a lot easier, off-stage. You get a lot of laughs between lines. You have to teach yourself not to laugh," she said.

Since Vrchoticky plays a new bride, she gets to wear a fancy lacy wedding gown for some of her scenes.

"This was actually my mom's when she got married," Vrchoticky said. "My other costume is one of her opera dresses."

Vrchoticky has been involved in the theater in some capacity for 12 shows. A Fort Dodge resident, she is a home-schooled high school senior this year, and is training to go into the Marines next year.

Jeff Bluml has been in the theater for 12 years.

"It's fun being up here," he said. "You get to be somebody you're usually not. You can be somebody spectacular, or somebody really creepy and make the audience cringe when you come on stage.

"This year we have a really good cast; they have a lot of energy. I've been to towns three or four times the size of Fort Dodge, that don't have a quality community theater like this one. We've had incredible talent over the years."

Contact Joe Sutter at or (515) 573-2141



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