'Mad' talent of community thespians flexed in Madhatters One Act Play Showcase

Actors from Wadena, New York Mills and Browerville gathered at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium to perform their one-act shows on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Browerville High School's performance of "Beast of Baskerville" by Tim Kelly won both the special Producer's Award for production design and the Best Show Award.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal
Adrianna Eckel (right), portraying Cordelia, growls at Ian Vedraaten, portraying Sir Henry in "Beast of Baskerville." Eckel won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA — For the third year in a row, performers and viewers alike gathered in the Wadena Memorial Auditorium for the Madhatters One Act Play Showcase (MOAPS) on Saturday, Feb. 11. Though the show was postponed from its original date in December 2022, that didn't stop crowds from showing up for an entertaining evening.

"We had like, over twice as many audience members; there's 41 kids in the show," said Michelle Curtis, a performer with Madhatters. "This was by far the biggest (MOAPS), so it's amazing. We're so, so happy."

Jessa Lenz, portraying Edson, yells at Elliot Kangas, portraying Carter in "A Game" by Dennis E. Noble. Kangas earned the award for Outstanding Actor.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal

In a night packed with both humorous and dramatic one-act shows, four different groups competed to win their own MOAPIE awards — earned through audience votes — for Best Show, Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actor, Outstanding Supporting Actress and the special Producer's Award for production design.

Curtis herself performed in one of these shows alongside her Wild Hare Players costar, Doug Curtis, in a two-person comedy set at a pet store entitled "The Parrot Sketch" by Monty Python Flying Circus. The New York Mills Intro To Acting Class showed off their knack for humor in "No Show" by Alan Haehnel, a comedy following an acting class as they wing a performance they didn't prepare for.

The Mills Players performed "A Game" by Dennis E. Noble, donning multi-colored face paint as they acted out the drama-comedy of three people trapped in a science experiment. The last show was "Beast of Baskerville" by Tim Kelly, portrayed by Browerville High School One Act Play. The cast brandished their acting skills in this historical drama-comedy about the mystery of a curse haunting the characters' manor.


Mackenzie Uhlenkamp, portraying Kathy Stapleton, holds a hand to her heart as Ian Vedbraaten, portraying Sir Henry, kneels before her in "Beast of Baskerville." Uhlenkamp earned the Outstanding Actress Award.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal
The New York Mills intro to acting class runs around the stage acting out "No Show" by Alan Haehnel. The performance was runner-up for Best Show.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Performers earned cheers and applause when they returned to stage for their bows, the audience murmuring about just how impressive and hilarious each performance was. Set and production design for each play also awed the audience, with functioning lights, furniture and even a working door.

"It's great to be able to stage something like this — and at a historical auditorium, that's been around for nearly 100 years where they've performed Shakespeare and classical concerts," said Madhatters member and MOAPS host Dan Touchette. "We're very grateful that we have participation and especially the travelers because we know it's expensive to get everybody in the car to come over to Wadena. Usually people like to stay in their town. We're very happy to have Browerville and New York Mills represented. They're very artistic communities, and I was very impressed by their shows."

When the lights came back up on the Mills Players' performance of "A Game," Jessa Lenz (left) and Elliot Kangas (right) stood on stage splattered in fake blood.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal
Browerville High School One Act Play performers grapple with one another on stage in "Beast of Baskerville."
Elizabeth Vierkant / Wadena Pioneer Journal

At the end of the night, audience members turned in their votes. Individual winners each received their own trophies. The Best Show winner earned $500 and the runner-up received $200.

Each winner walked up to gather their prizes as they were announced, earning more applause from audience members:

  • Best Show: "Beast of Baskerville" performed by Browerville High School One Act Play
  • Best Show Runner-Up: "No Show" performed by New York Mills Intro to Acting Class
  • Producer's Award: "Beast of Baskerville" production design by Browerville High School One Act Play
  • Outstanding Actor: Elliot Kangas as Carter in "A Game"
  • Outstanding Actress: Mackenzie Uhlenkamp as Kathy Stapleton in "Beast of Baskerville"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor: Alexander Stormoen as Mr. Barrymore in "Beast of Baskerville"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress: Adrianna Eckel as Cordelia in "Beast of Baskerville"

Though MOAPS won't return until fall 2023, Madhatters Community Theatre has a few other upcoming events for interested community members. The musical, "Chicago" will be performed at the Wadena Memorial Theatre March 23-25 at 7 p.m. and March 26 at 2 p.m. The Madhatters drama camp showcase performance will be at 2 p.m. on Aug. 4.
The evening of performances and a large audience is exactly what MOAPS was supposed to be when they first dreamed it up, Curtis shared. "People from all over — and everybody looked like they were having a great time."

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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