OFP reboots playhouse with “The Queen of Bingo”

Actors Richar Abel and Dorothy Schulte rehearse their roles as Sis and Babe for "The Queen of Bingo."

BY DOROTHY SCHULTE
Old Fort Players

FORT MADISON – Third time is a charm! That’s their story and they’re sticking to it anyway, because the show must go on. Originally cast and rehearsed for May 2020, “The Queen of Bingo” was put on indeterminate hold due to the Covid lockdown. There was a brief time that it was scheduled for December, but now confirmed performance dates are set for the first two weeks in February. 

Robbie & Lea Phillips are the directing team who will bring this hilarious comedy to the stage. “The Queen of Bingo” features ‘Sis’ and ‘Babe,’ two sisters on the other side of 50 who are looking to add a little fun and excitement to their lives. 

OFP veteran (Actor & Director) Dorothy Schulte will portray the role of Sis. Sis is a good loser who just loves to play Bingo. Babe, played by Youth Theater Director and veteran actor, Richar Abel, is a player who always has to win. Sis is naturally fit and trim. Babe is naturally overweight and always fighting the battle of the bulge. Sis is content in her widowhood. Babe is still looking for love. On this particular night, Babe and Sis share something new as they each confess a secret and find a special kind of redemption. 

On any Bingo night at St. Joseph’s, you can find Father Mac, Lonnie and Cindy Conklin, Marge Meranski, Coach Anderson, and the many off beat, colorful regulars we meet through the eyes of Sis and Babe. They dish the dirt, giggle like school girls and share old memories. Sis and Babe are sisters and best friends. They’ve been coming to play Bingo together for years because they love it. 

Robbie Phillips readies the sound effects and light board before heading onstage to play Father Mac. Courtesy photo.

Father Mac is a kindly, hard-working priest whose role has been filled by Robbie Phillips. The role was cast and re-cast when finally, Robbie decided to dust off his Irish accent and take on the small part. After many years in the theater, yet still unable to avoid typecasting, Ty Clute will fill the role of the Bingo Caller, a smooth-talking ladies’ man. 

Schulte commented, “I try to see as much Community theater as I can. When I saw “Queen” in Mount Pleasant a few years ago, my mom and I laughed so hard we cried. I knew I had to get that show on the schedule for OFP one day. When Lea and Robbie read and loved the script as much as I did and signed on to direct, I was first in line to audition.”

Sponsoring the show is Lee County Bank. They are a regular sponsor for Old Fort Players and were generous enough to up their sponsorship amount recently. “With all the upkeep and regular bills to pay and no money coming in, we feel truly blessed that our sponsorship partner came through for us when we needed them most,” OFP Secretary Lea Phillips said.

The cast and crew have been following all the Covid guidelines during rehearsals. They have also decided to forego their usual practice of greeting the audience in the lobby after each performance. They ask that you show your appreciation by posting on social media about how much you enjoyed the show and telling your friends to come see the show.

Also, by offering some bingo prizes for the audience, OFP is hoping to draw a big, though socially distanced crowd. Right before intermission the audience will participate in a Bingo game called ‘The Middle Bird Special.’ The prizes (a store voucher for a turkey) have been donated by HyVee. A raffle will also be held during each show for a basket of goodies including a LULAC Bingo packet (for redemption at the LULAC when Bingo playing resumes). Raffle tickets will be $2 each or 3 for $5.

“The Queen of Bingo’s” original production staged by Rowan Joseph. Originally produced by Shane T. Partlow and Robert B. Shaffer with Rowan Joseph and Kevin Eberly as presented by Chicago’s Theatre a Go-Go, Inc. “The Queen of Bingo” will be presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York. 

Performances run February 5-7 & 12-14, 2021. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and the curtain rises on Sundays at 2:00 pm. (Adult $15; Senior, Military, Vet $12; Student $10.) Tickets will be available online starting January 22nd and the link to purchase will be posted on www.oldfortplayers.com and the theater’s Facebook page.  For those wanting to pay cash or credit for tickets at the door, you can and should reserve your seat by phone or Facebook Messenger. Seating is limited due to COVID-19. Masks will be required. 

This season would have been Old Fort Players’ 40th anniversary but the celebration has been postponed until the Covid lockdown ends and a full season can be scheduled. The theater is located in downtown Fort Madison at 725 Avenue G. Send a Facebook message, send an email to oldfortplayersfm@gmail.comor call 319-372-9559 for more information. Like them on Facebook (Fb@oldfortplayers) or visit www.oldfortplayers.com to keep up with everything that’s going on at the theater.

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