A custom woodworker by trade, he played in a rock 'n' roll band when he met his future wife, Colleen, a
The show returns this summer, opening Thursday, this time with
She's more comfortable working costumes, props and publicity. He would have preferred to stage "Seussical the Musical" -- something they had discussed. He never wanted to do the same show twice. But she thought "Seussical" was too ambitious. And no one answered the newspaper notice seeking a director.
"Nobody can follow him. He was a one-of-a-kind. He had the vision of what he wanted and he made sure it worked," Pelton said. "But we didn't want to let it die."
"It's kind of daunting, I guess, because everybody knows Ian. He was an artist. He was really good at his craft. And now that he's gone and Colleen and I are trying to put on his first show. It's a little scary," Swenson said.
"It's a great way to memorialize him," Swenson said.
"He was a perfectionist. He wouldn't let us rest until everything was exactly how he wanted it," Anderson said before Monday night's rehearsal at
At the same time, Anderson said Pelton would consider actors' ideas about how to portray a character.
"He was never satisfied with a lackluster performance. He would always wring the best out of us. He wouldn't spare our feelings," Anderson said.
Pelton said Ian's productions were known for top-notch acting and beautiful sets, thanks in part to his organization. He'd wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for a show.
The work paid off. The 500-seat high school auditorium usually came close to selling out all four nights. The community theater staged one show a year.
A scene that played out during Monday night's rehearsal seemed to reflect the way
"It's for when we sing together," Maria (played by
"We don't sing," they respond.
Sheila's husband, John, got involved because they needed more male actors.
"For people who had had very little theater experience, he was really good about drawing out the best of you," said
The Merrills said Pelton was not about to let the community theater dissolve. Sheila and John could have spent more time on the lake instead of at rehearsal this summer. But that thought didn't last long.
"We both felt a commitment to Ian,"
While reminders will appear onstage -- some of the set pieces he built will be used, his Minneapolis Aquatennial Commodore Award will be worn -- performers stopped short of calling this show a tribute.
"I think the tribute is five years from now if there's still plays being produced,"
children 12 and younger. Available through www.showtix4u.com, and at local businesses.
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