There is no curtain call at the Fountain City Auditorium because there is no curtain.
The community center is home to the Fountain City River Players’ spring production. The gymnasium with basketball hoops, scoreboards and bowling alleys below transforms into a makeshift stage on glorified folding tables.
This year the group put on a production of “You Can’t Take It With You,” a three-act play performed over five nights.
Judee Brone’s grey curly locks bounce as she stands in front of the stage clapping while simultaneously acting and dramatically shouting cues to her 15 volunteers. Brone, a Fountain City, Wis. resident, has been running theater productions for the Fountain City River Players for 23 years.
“It’s hard work and I’m not going to keep doing this forever,” said Brone. “But I love it.”
When she first started directing shows in the Fountain City auditorium there was no air conditioning, no chairs for audience members and no up-to-date equipment. The auditorium, which doubles as a performance venue for the annual spring play and summer musical also hosts a variety of other community events, sometimes forcing rehearsals to the nearby bank or other local sites.
Being a small theater means Brone and the volunteering actors are extra busy. From set building to costume making to prop design most actors must take on duties outside of learning their lines.
“It’s purely hands-on. You’re everything,” said Tegan Blank, four-year member of the acting group. “But that’s what makes it.”
Brone prepares by sketching out every character, their costumes and what she hopes the set will look like. She holds auditions and organizes rehearsals, but the play is the result of a small band of spirited volunteers.
“There’s more freedom here,” said Andrew Zimmerman, who is in his second performance with the group. “You really get to be creative.”
Brone is sometimes forced to improvise with the limitations of actors and materials. Out of this year’s performers, one actor is playing three roles and the group’s technical director Jeffrey Hosch juggles the Fountain City performances with shows at Winona Senior High and Home and Community Options.
“You don’t really deal with ego here,” said Karen Dulak, four-year member who also dabbles in prop and costume design. “You get such a dynamic of people.”
Though many are veterans, the group, ranging from ages 19 to 75, usually brings in a new cast member each year.
“You make friends and it’s even better when they come back,” said Blank. “I come back for the people and the friends- to do it all over again.”
Each year ticket sales average around $600-$700 and the profits are recycled into materials for the performances and to renovating the auditorium.
“People like to support it,” said Brone. “The more they see the more they like.”
Brianna Klapperich contributed to the information of this story
Video by Brianna Klapperich