By Jeffrey V. Smith
Get ready to heckle, boo, hiss, laugh and cheer for the local thespians on stage at the annual Mill Creek Valley Historical Society melodrama. Don’t worry, it’s encouraged.
The group, which formed in the early 1980s to save the Dumont Schoolhouse, has been telling tales of good versus evil to raise money for its preservation work since 1999. It’s the organization’s biggest fundraiser, and everyone is invited to join in the fun, Oct. 14-15, 20, 22 and 28-29. A sing-along begins each presentation, and a “boisterous” auctioning of bakery items by the “local ladies” follows each performance.
“We began doing melodramas in the 1990s as a fundraiser, and, except for a couple of years, have done one every year,” Society President and Melodrama Director Larrice Sell said. To conserve resources, Sell took on the chore of writing this year’s melodrama, “The Gypsies Revenge,” after she was challenged to come up with something to make use of a curious skirt someone found in the prop closet.
“A while back, they were going through stuff and found this thing that looks like a gypsy skirt, Sell explained. “It’s got all kinds of stuff that shakes around on it, you know, like a belly dancer’s skirt. So, they said, here, write a play about it. She came up with “The Gypsy’s Revenge” featuring seven characters, played by area residents. There’s a high-society couple, their servant, “spoiled rotten” daughter, local sheriff, lawyer and a certain Denver women named Flossy Floozy. In standard melodrama form, the story includes plenty of comedy, and a twist or two.
This year’s cast includes President of Centennial Bank Idaho Springs Bo Thompson in the lead male role of Donald Dormid and 90-year-old Idaho Springs resident Bruce Bell—a veteran of several previous melodramas—as lawyer Izzy Bigget. Georgetown’s Amanda Rhodes, a theater school student and experience actor, plays Amanda Dormin.
The rest of the cast is from the Dumont area. Sue Grimm and Ann Hector play the sheriff and Nora Nosey respectively. Amy Romine portrays CeeCee Dormin and Kris Miller plays Maggie the family servant. Linda Goymerac is the pianist. Beth Goymerac and Cory Baker also lend a hand and some atmosphere by greeting guests at the door dressed as gypsies.
“For those who have never been to a melodrama, they find they are as important as the cast, and are pulled in and urged to heckle, boo, hiss, and hurrah those on the stage,” Sell explained. “Sometimes the actors pull people into the plot. It is not professional acting, so there is plenty to tease about. At times, we even have had to carry the lines on stage because the actor didn’t get his lines learned, but it just adds to the fun.” Walk-ons by actors in character from other performances are also planned, which are always “good for a few chuckles.”
The melodramas are so much fun, many audience members become dedicated attendees after their first experience with the Mill Valley Players. “A lot of our audience, who had never been to the play before, come back year after year, after coming once,” Sell explained. “One year, when I wrote the play, one couple came to every performance. Now that is stamina. I always tell people they can do this because no performance is the same. This year, I have been told that some of our members are coming out from Illinois to see the play, their first time.”
Cookies, coffee and other beverages are offered during performances. Be sure to bring some cash to take part in the post-production auction of baked goods. Most items sell for a dollar or two, but they did sell a cake for $100 once.
The Historical Society was successful in gaining ownership and saving the schoolhouse, built in 1909 and used as a school until 1959, several years ago. The building’s oak door frames, arched windows, sideboards and ash wood floor have been restored and are now the setting for the melodramas. It is now listed on the State and National Registry of Historic Sites. The work, however, continues.
This summer, a new roof had to be put on the school costing the group close to $16,000. While there was insurance on the building, they denied the claim and the historical society had to come up with he funds themselves. Now that the work is finished, they are working hard to recover the unexpected expense.
The group also continues to fundraise for its other projects including the restoration of the Mill City House. Built in 1858, the “house” is two one-and-one-half-story log cabins which were attached and used as a roadhouse in the 1800s. The building has been added to the National Registry but work to restore it is “a daunting and expensive task” for a small community.
The Mill Creek Valley Historical Society is also the “guardian” of the Dumont Cemetery and the Mill Creek Arastra site, one of the very few arastras still preserved in Colorado. Usually placed near water, a horse or mule would walk around a stone to grind rock that would be washed in a sluice in the search for gold.
Attending the annual melodrama is not only one of the best ways to support the hard work of the Historical Society, it’s also an entertaining night out and great way to get a few laughs. Tickets are $15 or $10 for seniors and children 12 years and younger.
On Oct. 14, 21 and 28, show times are at 7 p.m. Matinee performances at 2 p.m. take place Oct. 15, 22 and 29. No reservations are required, but there is very limited room. Audience members are encouraged to get there early, “or face being put in the front row, something no one wants as they get harassed by the actors,” according to Sell, “but the more involved the audience the better the performance.”
Originally published int he October 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly