A dedicated troupe of Marion High School thespians are in the thick of preparing for the school’s spring comedy, “Dearly Departed.”
Most of the students will be exercising thick southern accents as the play is set in the Baptist backwoods of the Bible Belt. Director Janet Killough said the play revolves around the beleaguered Turpin family after the death of its patriarch.
“They’re a dysfunctional family,” she said. “They live in a community of misfits, and they have to come together to plan the father’s funeral.”
Killough called Dearly Departed a straightforward comedy without the life lessons that “Fiddler on the Roof” had.
“It doesn’t really have a meaty plot per se,” Killough said. “There’s not so much of a moral to the story like ‘Fiddler’ had. It’s just pure entertainment, and a lot of it has to do with the way different people deal with death.”
Family members wrestle with life and death, funeral bills and financial ruin, suspected infidelity, eating problems, gossip, faith and religion in amusing ways.
Amidst the chaos, the Turpins seek solace in friends, neighbors, and community who manage to pull together and help each other out during a difficult situation.
“People will probably see themselves, a family member, a neighbor or someone they know reflected in the characters,” Killough said. “There is one scene where a group of women gossips horribly about another woman and then they say ‘Oh but God bless her heart.’”
The play has a lot of short scenes and runs about one hour and 40 minutes, she said.
The set will be simplistic, with many pieces that suggest surroundings like the funeral home, a fellowship hall, and several kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms.
Killough said there is not really a true male or female lead part. However, with four seniors, four juniors, three sophomores, and eight freshmen in the production, the script provides many opportunities for the entire cast to shine.
“Many of the older kids are so comfortable together on stage because they have worked together for so long,” Killough said. “It’s encouraging for the program to see so many freshman and sophomores out, too.”
She admires the cast and crew members’ dedication. Many of the cast members also squeeze late night and early morning practices in between homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
“I’m strict with them and I push them hard,” Killough said, “but I love them to pieces and I hope the feeling is mutual.”
She said she will miss her seniors, John Lind, Elizabeth Meyer, Bailey Robson, and Shyla Harris, once the production is over.
“It’s tough for me to let go of my seniors — they’re all so amazing and I’m not just saying that to be nice, they’re talented in so many ways,” Killough said. “They’re kind and so helpful with the other kids, and they can laugh at themselves — if you can laugh at yourself you’re already halfway there.”
Dearly Departed starts at 7 p.m. March 11 and 12 at USD 408’s Performing Arts Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. both nights.
General admission tickets are available at the door. Adult tickets cost $3 and tickets for children under 12 years of age cost $2.