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An Inspector Calls

A “Why-Dunnit” with a timely message

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-11-08


In all for One’s productions’ performance of An Inspector Calls, the members of the Birling family learn the hard way that the saying about not being able to hide from the ugly truth is more than just an old cliché.

The story opens with the Birling family — wealthy industrialists in 1912 Britain — celebrating their daughter’s engagement to a young man from a similar background. But the festivities are interrupted by an inspector investigating a young woman’s suicide…

Why did the woman kill herself? And how are the Birling’s involved? That’s the mystery that drives An Inspector Calls. On one level, the play is author J.B. Priestley’s indictment of a class-conscious Britain. On another, it’s about how our everyday cruelties, however small, can have devastating consequences.

“It’s very much a psychological thriller,” says Director Lauren Nichols. “But the main theme is what does it mean to be a community of human beings? What are the repercussions of the choices that we make everyday, that we rationalize as being normal or expedient or the best thing for us personally? Humans never really learn those lessons adequately.”

An Inspector Calls was first published in 1945, and in 1992 enjoyed a successful revival in London, but all for One believes their production — which stars Dennis Nichols, Barbara Quandt, Stacy Munsie, Eli Jared, Scott Klaus, and Michael Wilhelm as the Inspector — marks the debut of the play in Fort Wayne. “We can’t find any evidence that anyone else has done it,” says Nichols. “We could be wrong. It surprises me that someone didn’t do it somewhere down the line, but at least back to the early 70s I’m fairly certain it hasn’t been done.”

The performance also marks all for One’s last production before moving into their “new home” in the renovated Allen County Public Library next year. The company began as a touring company back in 1992, performing at different venues throughout the tri-state area. “We all had come from various background in theater,” says Executive Director Sharon Henderson. “We just really wanted to get out in the community and present family-friendly theater with excellence.”

In 2000, all for One produced a tribute to the American Veteran at the Grand Wayne Center. The piece, an original drama with music called A Sentimental Journey, was a big success; the two dinner theater performances sold out before opening night. They scrambled to do a hold over performance, and during the show’s run provided survey cards to their audience. “We got an unusually high response,” Henderson says. “With a resounding ‘will you do this show again?’ and ‘will you do more work in the community?’”

In 2002, the company decided to focus its resources in Fort Wayne and launched Home Stage Productions. “We decided we’d look for published scripts that were very positive in their values, and could possibly link with an organization in the community that was making a difference in the lives of people,” says Henderson. For the first production, The Curious Savage, the company teamed with Carriage House and the Mental Health Association. A couple years later they produced The Diary of Anne Frank in cooperation with the Jewish Federation who brought the Anne Frank exhibit from Washington DC to the History Center.

An Inspector Calls is the sixth Home Stage production, and the last at the Canterbury High School auditorium that has served the company for the last few plays. Next year, all for One begins its residency at the 250-seat auditorium in the renovated Allen County Public Library. This will let All For One offer a fuller season and programs such as the “spotlight series,” which will bring in professional actors from around the country. “In these other venues, we’ve only been able to do three performances,” Henderson says. “That makes it really hard to build your identity in the community.”

In the future, Henderson says their goal is to stage four Home Stage productions a year, in addition to expanding the Spotlight series and their character-education dramas in area elementary schools.

An Inspector Calls
November 17, 18 and 19
Summers Auditorium on the campus of Canterbury High School, 3210 Smith Road. 8:00 pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 pm Sunday.
Tickets: $15 for adults; $12 for Seniors (60+) and students; and $10 for groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling (260) 622-4610.

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