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MCAP performer wins acting award
By By Alica P. Thiele
Challenger reporter

April 04. 2013 9:27AM
In the Mighty Corson Art Players’ first foray into community theater competition, the group came home with an Outstanding Actress award, bestowed on Terry Zerfas. She plays the lead in a three-person comedy “Let Me Hear You Smile,” which will be performed at the Corson Playhouse in April.

Nancy Tapken, MCAP president, said this year seemed right for the theater group to branch out into competition. “2012 was a big year for MCAP,” she said. “We celebrated our 30th season and began a major structural renovation-addition. … MCAP is ready to broaden our horizons and take on new challenges,” she said.

MCAP was one of four groups that competed in Fargo earlier this month in the American Association of Community Theatre’s Dakota’s festival. The Aberdeen Community Theatre won the competition with their production of the musical “The Top Job!” They will advance to the regional AACTFest, which will be held April 25-28, also in Fargo. The winner there will join winners from the other nine U.S. regions at the national competition, to be held June 17-23 in Carmel, Ind.

MCAP treasurer Martha Smith said MCAP board member Jim Leyse, who also directs “Let Me Hear You Smile,” brought the play to the board with the suggestion of using it as a competition piece. To do that, the production needed a sponsor. “We had not been members of AACT,” Smith said, “so we joined and paid the fees.”

Besides Zerfas, the “Smile” cast also includes Chad Eggen and Tom Chleborad. All three are veteran actors in the area.

Chleborad said he auditioned for “Smile” because he wanted to be in a competition again. He, Leyse and Zerfas had gone to a state competition in 2005 with a Sioux Empire Community Theater production of “The Dining Room.” Zerfas won an acting award that year as well. He remembers the competition as a “great time,” meeting theater enthusiasts from other towns and watching other performances.

“The AACTSFest competition is not only for performance competition,” Zerfas said. “It’s also a way for community theater folks from other places to meet, greet, network and provide each other with support.”

MCAP presented two preview performances of “Smile” in March to raise money for a trailer and traveling expenses to send the show to competition. Smith said First Premier Bank showed support by sponsoring one of the preview performances.
In competition, each performance can be no longer than 60 minutes, so theater troupes often make a cutting from a full-length play.

“Smile,” though, is a three-act play in which each act is self-contained. It centers on a couple who ages during the course of the play. The act MCAP took to competition shows the characters in their retirement years.

Zerfas, who researched plays with Leyse to find a good performance piece, said “Smile” was a clear winner for competition.

“(We looked) for something that would have depth, relate well to the community and, if possible, tickle the funny bone as well,” she said.

“We also wanted to have a cast that would have the talent to make the play choice a distinctive ‘actor’s piece,’ one where each cast member would be pushed to work hard at character development.”

At competition, not only is the performance time limited, but the set up and take down are limited as well, to 10 minutes each. In addition, the set must be contained within a 10-foot-square space. To achieve this, MCAP used furniture pieces to suggest a setting, along with a couple of set pieces.

“We performed well,” Zerfas said, “with special mention of our costume design by Cindy Bakke, our Victorian set that included a bay window and arched doorway, and our actors’ ability to portray their characters with eloquence.”

Zerfas said she is looking forward to performing “Smile” in Corson for six performances in April.

“MCAP is the perfect theater to showcase this piece,” she said. “Its intimate setting helps the audience to be very much a fly on the wall as they peer into the living room of the Heywood family.”
2013 Dakota’s AACTFest results
Award Winner: Aberdeen Community Theatre, "The Top Job!"

Alternate advancing production: Sioux Empire Community Theatre (Sioux Falls), "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)"

Ensemble Acting Award: Sioux Empire Community Theatre,
"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)"

Outstanding Director / Designer: Brian T. Schultz, Aberdeen Community Theatre, "The Top Job!"

Outstanding Actress: Terry Zerfas as Hannah Heywood in "Let Me Hear You Smile”, Mighty Corson Art Players (Brandon)

Outstanding Actor: Rick Forsgren as Man in "The Waiting Room", Hatton (N.D.) Community Theatre

Terry Zerfas won the "Outstanding Actress award" at the American Association of Community Theatre’s Dakota’s festival last month. Submitted photo

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