Students from P.J. Jacobs Junior High will present “Trouble in Tumbleweed,” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26, at the Theater@1800, 1800 North Point Drive, Stevens Point.
“It is basically a western version of ‘The Inspector General’,” said Scott Price, the play’s director. “The mayor runs a town in Arizona that’s supposed to be built up, but he squanders all the money.”
“The Inspector General” is an 1836 satire of human greed and political corruption by Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol. “Trouble in Tumbleweed” is set in the1880s.
Mayor Oats hires his cousins to important positions in the town. “They’re not really a school teacher or a doctor or a lawyer; they were all disbarred, or it’s not a doctor, it’s a horse doctor, but he’s pretending to be the doctor and taking the pay,” said Price.
The play is set in the lobby of the hotel the mayor and his wife run.
“They get word from the east, where their benefactor was, that there’s somebody coming to see how it’s coming along and they jump to the conclusion that it’s actually this medicine show man whose wagon broke down, and so they just fawn and bribe and everything they can to make this guy like them but he’s not really the inspector… he’s a snake oil salesman.”
Price has been directing the annual play at P.J. Jacobs for four years. He said the students started rehearsing in early November and that the play is coming along well.
“It’s really fun and interesting, because it’s like a mystery almost because nobody knows who’s the person coming in to inspect the town and we have to figure out the perpetrator,” said Henry Schmitz, a ninth-grader who plays the role of Mayor Oats. “It’s definitely going to be funny. There are a lot of punch lines.”
Price said they’ve added in elements of physical comedy to complement the skills of the young actors.
“It’s just silly, it’s really funny,” said Stana Luedtke, a ninth-grader who plays the role of Lily DeLilac, a smart Seattle card shark that helps the misidentified inspector perpetuate his ruse. “It’s like slapstick humor, it’s that kind of humor, you don’t need to think a lot during it. You kind of get the jokes right away.”
The junior high’s production also works in original musical elements to the show.
“We have this music teacher here, Mr. Adsit, and he’s just so wickedly talented… he actually wrote songs, so there are four or five songs in the show that he wrote,” said Price.
Price said the audience for the shows tends to be composed of the friends and relatives of the performers, but that others would enjoy it as well. “It’s comical and quick, it’s got a great farce concept and it’s built on such a great old story,” he said.
The cast includes Schmitz, Luedtke, Natalie Leek, Abbie Ter Matt, Michael Treder, Cole Foster, Ariel Schultz, Kara Milkowski, Sam Aschenbrenner, Mckenzie Schulist, Brandon George, Seth Kluck, Dale Steinmetz, Mary Siebert, Emily Check, Kara Battaglia, Caityn Leahy, Sophie Disher, Perry Scott, Iman Nasif, Allison Hagan, Gabe Nyen, Caitriona Quirk, Nathan Kozak, Josey Soczka, Hayley Clark, Theresa Yonash, Annika Enders, Touking Yang, Noah Tolbert, Sarah Aschenbrenner, Hannah Malleck, Ka Yang, Pang Chia Yang, Yer Yang, Anna Emerson, Brianna Besaw, Haley Chang, Hailey Weinstock, Cameron Vang, Alli Richter, Autumn Pretat and Mikayla Walsh.
The crew includes Claire Oberthaler, Ally Schulist, Laura Poikonun, Hannah Sims, Taryn King, Morgan Frostman, Naomi Ptak, Rebekah Brunner, Olivia Krutza and Faith Lemay.
Lori Kluck is the assistant director.
Tickets for the show cost $4 for reserved seats and $3 for general admission. They may be purchased at the school’s main office from Jan. 21-25 and at the Theater@1800 on the days of the show.