Ripon College stages imaginative mystery “Play Nice!” Oct 9-12

“Play Nice!”, a “modern, dark fairy tale” by Robin Rice, will be presented Oct. 9-12 at Ripon College. Show times are 7:30 in Benstead Theatre, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended by contacting 920-748-8791 or [email protected]).

The play’s director, Robert Amsden, Ripon College director emeritus, says this exciting contemporary play has an ebb and flow of theatricality and role-playing, but he believes there is more behind the play.

“The descriptor of ‘fairy tale’ is appropriate, but we, as a culture, tend to devalue the category of fairy tale as if those stories are strictly the domain of children,” Amsden says. “In this play, we have adolescents under duress who are facing a world of impossible challenges.”

The characters find the resources to address their challenges through imagination, support for each other and force of will. “These descriptors seem to me to include the tools we all use to make our way in this human life, not just in adolescence,” Amsden says. The play is for adult audiences and will appeal to all patrons 11 or 12 years of age and older.

The plot is centered on a “crime” mystery with the main character, Isabel Diamond (Lanie Kish ’22 of Jefferson, Wisconsin), as the detective whose personal mission is to solve “Who poisoned Mummy?”. Her method of inquiry is role-play. While Isabel is trying to figure out the reason her older sister Matilda (Dakota Marlega ’21 of Waupaca, Wisconsin) wants to keep her safe in the attic from the apparently abusive 300-pound harridan that is their mother, her brother Luce (Logan Zeinert ’22 of Wittenberg, Wisconsin) has his own problem to solve through what might be called a “vision quest” that includes a companion, or perhaps “spirit guide,” in the character of Joanie (Mackenzie Swart ’20 of Brookfield, Wisconsin).

Isabel is confronted by “the big impossible” of making the transition into early adolescence from childhood; a psychological place where we all feel completely alone and with no valid guidelines. The playwright has woven issues present in our culture that rise as challenges to anyone growing up now (or anyone in our culture): oppression (sexism, racism, abuse/bullying), abandonment, entrapment, values confusion, etc. Amsden thinks the family’s last name was chosen by the playwright Robin Rice to show the play “has ‘facets’ that reflect issues in the culture but is not particularly about those issues.” He also thinks the name ‘diamond’ points to their courage and resilience in the face of hardship. The play is a wildly imaginative adventure story with hints of The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, but is set in a contemporary suburb. “The magical reality built into the play should keep everybody happy!”

The scenic, lighting and sound designs are executed by Associate Professor of Theatre John Dalziel, who is also the technical director. The costume designer and costumer is Visiting Professor of Theatre Susan Hill. Bailey Jerrick ’20 of Stoughton, Wisconsin, is the makeup supervisor, and Mattie Ryback ’22 of New Berlin, Wisconsin, is the assistant director, stage manager and female understudy.

(Photo, left to right: Logan Zeinert ’22 as Luce, Mckenzie Swart ’20 as Joanie and Lanie Kish ’22 as Isabel. Photo by Dane O’Donnell ’22)

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