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The Marquee Quest

Civic brings out the stars for a night of comedy, murder, and fundraising

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


For one night only, citizens of Fort Wayne will have the opportunity to witness Paul Helmke, Melissa Long, Lee Kelso and a gaggle of other area luminaries engage in nefarious backstabbing, professional jealousy, and murder…

And it’s all for a good cause.

The occasion is a fundraiser for the Fort Wayne Civic Theater, and the event is a staged reading of The Marquee Quest, written and directed by the Civic’s Executive Director Phillip Colglazier and starring a cast of Fort Wayne public figures, stage veterans, and Civic Theatre alumni.

In addition to former mayor Helmke and news anchors Long and Kelso, The Marquee Quest also features Julia Rose Barr, who played Brook Martin on the soap All My Children, and Jane Lanier, a Tony nominated actress, both of whom got their start in Fort Wayne community theater.

The story is a murder mystery played for laughs. “It’s about three Broadway producers casting their upcoming production, called Paranoia, and how all the actors and producers are plotting to get their name on the Broadway Marquee,” says Coleglazier. “It’s done a little over the top.”

It’s also a staged reading. “That really just means that the entire cast is on stage on stools, at music stands,. It looks choir-like,” says Larry Wardlaw, a frequent performer in local theater who has a small part in The Marquee Quest. “Traditionally, you actually read out to the audience. I think it’s fun because you get a chance to really showcase the script. You really have to use your voice to sell the story. Even the stage directions and the other sound effects are being read by someone (Melissa Long, in this case). It’s almost like if you can picture the old radio theater days. People would read and the audience would have to close their eyes and imagine what that was like.”

The entire cast won’t get together until the day before the performance, so it’s probably a good thing there’s no blocking or memorization involved, or that some of the parts are pretty small. “I have six lines in the whole thing,” explains Steve Penhollow of the Journal Gazette. “I play a Brooklyn cab driver. I’m more than happy to have a six line character, but I have to work on my Brooklyn accent.”

Colglazier not only wrote and directed The Marquee Quest, but he also serves as the producer; it was his task to round up the cast for the play. He wanted to get people who were involved in the community and would be able to draw a crowd. “I looked at the different roles, and wrote down everyone and anyone I thought would be appropriate,” he says. Colglazier knew Jane Lanier from having performed with her many years ago (“I was 15, she was… younger” he says) so approached her first. “She read the script and said ‘I’d love to get involved.’ Once I was able to secure them, then it wasn’t hard at all to get people involved. It fell together.”

Practically everyone Colglazier rounded up had some theater experience, even if it was a while ago. Former mayor Paul Helmke says that he was in a performance of Moon For the Misbegotten at Presbyterian Theater in 1987, the year he first ran for mayor, and he used to joke that his theater experience gave him a taste for politics. “You get up there, you’re on the stage, you’re interacting with the public, you’re hearing the applause… so I got into politics,” he laughs.

Like a lot of the cast, Helmke says he got involved to just help out. “I’ve been a supporter of the Fort Wayne Civic Theater for years and I’ve known Phil for a long time,” he says. “It’s important to have strong local theater, it’s important to have strong local arts program, so when Phillip came up with the idea, I said I’d be happy to help.”

For his part, Colglazier is excited to hear the audience’s reaction to The Marquee Quest. The play has been part of several readings during the development process, but this will be the first performance in a public forum. “Who knows how it’ll end up, but it’ll be great to hear the audience, hear where they respond, where they laugh, where they don’t, and just see what they get out of it,” he says.

The Marquee Quest
A fundraiser for the Fort Wayne Civic Theater
Grand Wayne Center.
Friday, Oct 12
• Stage reading begins at 8PM: $25.00
• Attend the reading and post-show dessert reception: $50.00
• Full evening of events including pre-show meet and greet starting at 7PM, celebrity stage reading and dessert reception: $100.00

During intermission there will be a raffle to guess who gets murdered and by whom. Prizes include two off-Broadway tickets to the new musical Frankenstein and other prizes.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.