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Morris artists key to Barn's 'Rabbit Hole'

James Aronson (left) and Colin Wasmund (center), both of Morris, in a scene with Stacey Neuhaus in The Barn Theatre's production of "Rabbit Hole." University of Minnesota, Morris professor Siobhan Maya Bremer directs "Rabbit Hole," and UMM student Brittany Ottum is the production's stage manager. The Pulitzer Prize-winning "Rabbit Hole" opens at the Barn on Sept. 22. Photo by Ron Adams, West Central Tribune.1 / 2
From left, James Aronson, Morris Area High School and University of Minnesota, Morris PSEO student, plays Jason. Brittany Ottum, UMM student, serves as stage manager, and UMM theatre professor Siobhan Maya Bremer directs The Barn Theatre's production of "Rabbit Hole."2 / 2

Several people with Morris ties are involved in The Barn Theatre presentation of the drama "Rabbit Hole."

This Pulitzer prize winning play runs Sept. 15-18 and Sept. 22-25 at the theatre in Willmar. The shows are at 7:30 p.m.

"Rabbit Hole," by David Lindsay-Abaire, is a sensitive drama about a family who seemed to have all they wanted and experience a life-shattering accident and the death of their 5-year-old son. The script does a superb job of capturing the couple's painful journey through everyday conversation and actions. It is spirited and often funny.

Playing the parents are Colin Wasmund, formerly of Morris, as Howie, a risk-management broker, and his wife, Becca, played by Stacey Neuhaus.

Izzy, Becca's spirited younger sister is played by Angela Nelson while her somewhat self-absorbed mother is played by Anne Lankey. Morris resident James Aronson rounds out the cast playing Jason, a teen-age boy, and University of Minnesota, Morris student Brittany Ottum is the production's stage manager.

The play is directed by UMM theatre professor Siobhan Maya Bremer with Mike Rindfleisch as technical director. Jim Cofer is the assistant stage manager.

Costumes are by Liz Carlson and Robin Spencer is in charge of properties. The set design is by Christopher McAninch.

Bremer knew that "Rabbit Hole" by David Lindsay-Abaire would be a challenging play to direct. She describes the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning play as "a tough, theatre-lover-type play, real life." Bremer accepted the challenge in part for the play's intense honesty and in part for the deep confidence she holds in her cast and production crew, including three members with Morris ties.

"Part of life is learning to live again after terrible losses," says Bremer, reflecting on the play. "That's the situation Howie and Becca find themselves in after the death of their five-year-old son, Danny. Nothing can change the reality of a dead son. Yet there is still a spark, a spark of light as seen from the bottom of a hole. Each morning, a new day dawns. As a director, immersing myself in the play has been life affirming. I am thankful for a talented cast of actors and an amazing crew."

Bremer says that Rabbit Hole audiences will "feel and see" family members survive a tragedy, "putting one foot in front of another each day," through drama, humor, honesty, and accuracy. The audience experiences real people interacting in a real home. Ottum, a junior from Eden Prairie, was recruited by Bremer to help create the "realness" of the play as stage manager, an opportunity that also serves as a directed study.

"I am very glad to be doing this play," says Ottum, "Working in a nonacademic setting with very high caliber actors the actual ages of the play's characters has been a good learning experience and a challenge. I'm an organized person, but this has to be completely organized. My responsibilities--researching, creating the space, blocking correctly at rehearsals--affects the entire performance. It is like a puzzle, putting everything together."

Ottum, a theatre and English major, has served as assistant stage manager for two campus productions, "Adventures in Mating" and "As You Like It."

Aronson is a junior at Morris Area High School and a post secondary enrollment option (PSEO) student at UMM. Aronson plays the role of Jason, the teenager who struck Danny with his vehicle.

A young actor, Aronson's credits are already long and varied, from Billy in On Golden Pond to Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, but this opportunity, he says, is very different.

"Jason is a very serious role, a new experience for me," shares Aronson. "It is very difficult to show emotions just under the surface."

Wasmund now teaches theatre at Ridgewater Community College after receiving a master of fine arts from Southwest Minnesota State University. Wasmund, an accomplished actor, plays the role of the father, Howie, who clings to the memory of his child.

The cast is completed with Stacey Neuhaus as Becca, Danny's mother, Anne Lankey as Nat, Danny's grandmother, and Angela Nelson as Izzy, Danny's young aunt.

"This particular group working with Rabbit Hole is very flexible, very professional, and has very good instincts," says Bremer. "It is a cast of realistic actors whose characters change--as will the audience."

The Barn Theatre is at 321 Southwest Fourth Street in Willmar. For ticket information, call (320) 235-9500.

This report contains information from the West Central Tribune and the UMM News Service.