Imagine having the Panama Canal in your basement while finding out an usual, zany family dynamic. “Arsenic and Old Lace” premiered in the Manion Theater at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Holden Fine Arts building on Nov. 11. This play featured 13 actors like Sheri Tesareck, Rob Larson, and Kathy Laasco, and was directed by retired UWS professor Cathy Fank.
This is the first alumni play that the UWS Theatre Department put on after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled “The Octette Bridge Club” last fall.
The story of “Arsenic and Old Lace” follows Mortimer Brewster, played by Rob Larson, as he discovers a body hidden in the window seat. From there, Mortimer grasps for his sanity as he finds out that his aunts, his uncle, and even his estranged brother are crazier than he thought. All while trying to reassure his new finance Elaine Harper, played by Sydney Adkins, that everything is alright.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” has impacted Fank to dedicate a show, which broke one of her self-imposed rules. Fank said, “I have never been fond of ‘dedicating’ my working on production to someone, but this year I am breaking that rule. In August, university theater alum Jessica Gast lost her valiant battle against ovarian cancer.” A composite of support came from the director, stage manager, and assistant stage manager.
The set for “Arsenic and Old Lace” was built by Communicating Arts Professor Sue Wegan, her COMM 350 Creative Collaboration class and her COMM 180 Intro to Technical Theatre class. Additional help came from Wegan’s COMM 122 Theatre Appreciation class with some of the props.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” was written by Joseph Kesselring and premiered on Jan. 10, 1941, in the Fulton Theater on Broadway. The film based on the play was written by Julius J. Epstein and Phillip G. Epstein and opened in 1944.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” performed on Nov. 11, 12, 18, and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov 13 and 20 for a 2 p.m. matinee.
The UWS Theater Department will have auditions at the start of the spring 2023 semester for Rossini’s Cinderella opera. Auditions will be paired with an opera workshop class.