Nuncrackers, the Nunsense Christmas Musical

The Swans/Russian dancers: Diana Mickelson as Sister Robert Anne and Christy McGraw as Sister Amnesia. (Provided photo / Adrienne Douke)

by Jim Mickelson

There have been, over the years, experiments with performance dates and times, but the standard has been performances on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday around Playday. In the first five years of the company’s existence two productions were presented each year, one at Playday and the other in the fall. That proved to be too ambitious for a small theatre in a small town with a limited number of people to count on, so since then there has been one performance each year.

The first presentation was in 1993. There have been performances every Playday except for four since then but only three years with no production at all. So, 26 years of existence, 23 years of performances, 29 productions with three repeats. Kinds of shows have ranged from Broadway hits to mass produced scripts geared for school/community theatre production to scripts by our own local author to locally organized variety shows; full length musicals and plays to one act plays, either one or two at a time. Financially, the company has been able to maintain an account with just enough funds to keep afloat. It has always been a non-profit entity, first as the Mansfield Theatrical Company as part of the Chamber of Mansfield Business and Activities, and then when that was no longer an option, as its own non-profit small business, Mansfield Theatricals. A small balance has been maintained through receipts from ticket sales and every once in a while donations from local businesses.

So, how did this all get started, you may well ask. And a bit of a quirky and also trite answer you will get.

The trite comes because it all starts in what can only be called an “Andy Hardy” way; somebody actually did say, “Hey, everybody! Let’s all get together and put on a show!” The quirky comes from a connection with Chelan Valley Players and the 1992 production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The Founders: Jim and Diana Mickelson, teachers at Mansfield School and Tom Martin, maintenance supervisor for Mansfield School District. All of them had been actively involved in theatre since high school. There were and still are some parts the Jim would like to play; when he read in the Wenatchee World that Chelan Valley Players were holding tryouts for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” he just had to try out. So he did. And he got the part he wanted. There was still a part to be filled; he talked Tom into meeting the director and reading for the part. He got it. The play calls for someone to play a body (actually two bodies); the Mickelson’s daughter Jami filled that role. And Diana became the assistant to the director and make-up supervisor. It was a great production; really a lot of fun to be part of.

That production was in August/September of 1992. Over the winter, conversations led to the idea of doing a local production, one that wouldn’t require driving anywhere. Can a cast be found? Apparently so: Tom and Diana, plus Ric Bayless, who ran the local market; Bill Redfield, a Douglas County deputy; Rose Tupling and Darla Avenell, parents; and Nancy Hansen, Mansfield town clerk. What kind of show? A musical; Margaret Hanson, another teacher, would play the piano. What musical in particular? Either Tom or Diana came up with “Beauty and the Beast. Really.” A very funny take on the old fairy tale. Where would this musical take place? Chris and Nancy Hansen had just purchased the old Masonic Lodge on Main Street; it even came with a piano. And who to direct and put together a workable set and lighting? That would be Jim’s part in all this.

So they all met and started rehearsing. The performance license was acquired; there would be three performances. Flats and lights were borrowed from the school; they were used in the old school building still standing at that time. The flats were eleven feet tall but that was ok because the ceiling in the Lodge was twelve feet high. The whole concept was intriguing; it appeared that everybody in town was requesting a ticket. The three initial performances sold out; the licensor was asked to allow a fourth performance which also sold out. (That success has never been duplicated.)

Well, we had a theatre troupe. What next? Do a show that fall, of course. New people were brought in: Ken Peters, who has been very helpful with technical problems over the years; Deena Jenkins, another teacher; Kristie Tupling; Linda Bayless; Patti Peters. There have been a lot of changes. A stage was built for that fall production, but it had to be temporary because the Hansens expected to sell the property at any time. When that didn’t work out, the Mickelsons rented the building. The stage was redesigned for the next Playday production, and the stage curtains and traveler from the old school building were borrowed and installed. Eventually, the Mickelsons purchased the building which is now a permanent theatre. When the company had to disassociate from the Chamber, a name change was required to maintain the non-profit status; so now the troupe is Mansfield Theatricals performing in the Mansfield Theatrical Company building. The poor old sign, almost readable, over the front door so attests.

Some big name Broadway musicals and plays have been performed: ” A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Promises, Promises,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Seussical,” “Harvey,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Nunsense musicals seem to be popular; the company has done five of them over the years, including this year’s production of “Nuncrackers, the Nunsense Christmas Musical.” Diana has a knack for writing plays; she has written four one-act plays that have been produced.

The future is not exactly bright. Actors that have been counted on in the past are no longer participating; some have limited their commitment, others have moved away. Sadly, some are no longer with us. And people get older. It takes the people of course. Anyone who comes into the theatre when it is open, either for rehearsal or upkeep work being done and expresses an interest is invited to join. The poor old building is also showing its age. It is one of the oldest buildings in Mansfield; we know for sure that it was once a hardware store and the Masonic Lodge used by the Rebeccahs until they shut down Mansfield operations and consolidated with Waterville. The roof has been repaired once since the Mickelsons became the owners; it needs doing again. The basement floods every spring now, probably because the ground and the foundation at the back of the building are saturated. The roof does leak, which isn’t doing the ceiling any good.

So, we shall see. We will of course keep going as long as we can. There is no telling how long that will be. Performing in front of a live audience is still one of the greatest sensations possible. It’s just plain fun!

For those interested, the 2018 production “Nuncrackers, the Nunsense Christmas Musical” will be presented on June 7 at 7 p.m., June 9 at 7 p.m., and June 10 at 3:00 p.m. Ticket prices have been $5 since the start in 1993; seating is limited. Officially, for licensing purposes, seating is listed as 50; a few more can be accommodated if necessary.

The cast from Nunsense- The Nutcracker (Provided photo / Adrienne Douke )