Hayes Theatre Comedy a community tradition
Hayes is an unincorporated community in Stanley County, with a territory population of almost zero people per square mile. Yet the Hayes Community Theatre draws in actors from widespread ranches and farmsteads. Packed-house audiences come from hours away, which for some is all gravel, country roads. Every year it is a time to enjoy friends, neighbors, and far-away guests, all the while laughing hilariously over a live comedy performance.
This year’s two-act rib-buster show is “Regrets Only” by L. Don Swartz. Each years’ comedy — always a family-okay performance — raises funds to keep the community hall going. Now, the community is striving to add on to its hall; the plays’ are calling for more seating per performance. The bathrooms also need to be enlarged and updated.
“The Hayes Hall has a widespread community that is dedicated to keeping their community hall up and running by their annual play fundraiser,” said Crystal Neuharth, community member and one of the mainstay actors of the Hayes Community Theatre. “The play has become a tradition of people of nearby communities who look forward to it every year. This will be the 67th consecutive year the community has produced a play. The roots run deep, pulling members of the community together to put the production of the play on each year. It has become a tradition of many of the cast members, as it has the play goers. It’s just like an annual reunion for everyone to gather, catch up, and enjoy each others’ company while enjoying the play.”
Under the direction, for 10 years now, of Judy Fosheim, the crowds have been constantly growing. “To start, I thought it was going to be directing for just one or two years,” said Fosheim. “Then we started having sold-out-plus crowds. I love doing this.” The house holds a little more than 180 seats, “but we have people standing up in back and watching through the entry room’s double doors.”
This year’s comedy’s first scene is the sole talent of two actors. Levi Neuharth plays Hal, a fire hall custodian who serves food at wedding receptions. This is Levi’s 14th Hayes play. Quinn Mortenson plays Sal, the other fire hall custodian who is the disc jockey for the wedding dance, even while he is suffering from a kidney stone. This is Quinn’s 3rd Hayes play. They ‘play’ off of each other to keep the comedy routine fast-moving, and rib-splitting.
The second scene shows off the talent of two actresses. Carissa Zysset plays a crotchety, loudmouth granny who loves to crash wedding receptions. This is Carissa’s 6th Hayes play. Crystal Neuharth plays Bernice’s best friend, a cantankerous granny who complains about everything, and also lives to crash wedding receptions. This is Crystal’s 13th Hayes play. They enter the stage by way of a secret cubby door under the serving table. Uninvited, they show up early to get the best seats, the ones near the restrooms and the kitchen. Regretfully, though all too realistically in many audience members’ minds, the two’s comedy routine hits very close to home. The believable audacity only makes the banter that much more of a hoot.
Everyone is present in the third scene, even the groom — played by Jack Mortenson in his 14th acting year — who might as well not be there with his Bridezilla — played by Mindy Kirkpatrick in her 14th Hayes play. This bride (hopefully not representing too many others) can go from “This is the happiest day of my life” in a lightning-fast monologue to “I wish you were dead.” Hilarious — pity the groom — but hilarious.
She does get her just desserts when the best man — played by Wyatt Johnson in his 2nd Hayes play — drunkenly toasts the newlyweds. He has everyone raise their hands who have previously dated the bride. This raising of hands will probably include a great number of the male audience members.
The rest of the cast joyously add to the chaos that could be witnessed at many wedding receptions. Comedians in their own right are Jamie Kirkpatrick, 1st Hayes play; Luke Jones, 2nd play; Matt Zysset, 4th; David Neuharth, 1st; Emily Trapp, 2nd; Sage Bierle, 1st; Johnathon Neuharth, 3rd; and Justin Neuharth, 2nd.
And, yes, their laugh-out-loud version of the Chicken Dance looks just like the Chicken Dance you had at your wedding (more the pity, and more the laughter). Have a great time along with the cast, and with all your friends and neighbors.