KENDALLVILLE — Retired theater educator Craig Munk is in the home stretch of achieving a goal that was 40 years in the making.
This weekend, Gaslight Playhouse — the community theater organization he founded in 1975 — will present the musical comedy “Nunsense,” as its first production in its permanent home in the historic auditorium of the Community Learning Center.
The curtain goes up on the show Friday at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets for reserved seating are $15 per person, and $12 per person for students and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased online at www.gaslightplayhouse.org with a card.
Tickets may also be purchased at the CLC box office or at the door before performances with cash or check. Gaslight Playhouse cannot accept PayPal or Venmo, and does not have the ability to swipe cards at the door.
The Gaslight Playhouse board of directors chose “Nunsense” for its first production in its new home, betting that audiences are longing for quality entertainment as pandemic restrictions ease.
“The appeal is the idea of an evening out for pure enjoyment,” Munk said. “It’s musical comedy at its best. It’s pure fun and doesn’t have a heavy message. It’s pure Broadway entertainment.”
“Nunsense” is a full-circle moment for Munk, who came out of retirement to direct this show on the very stage where he began his career. He’s directed “Nunsense” once before.
“I’m thrilled to come back here after 40 years,” he said. “The last show I did here was “The Wiz’ in 1981. I’m honored and thankful to come back. I’m so pleased that the 1940 stage was saved.”
“Nunsense” is an off-Broadway musical comedy about the Little Sisters of Hoboken, a one-time missionary order that ran a leper colony on an island south of France. The cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally killed off 52 convent residents with tainted vichyssoise, but there is no money to bury the last four nuns.
With the deceased nuns preserved in the freezer, five of the 19 surviving nuns decide to stage a benefit variety show in Mount Saint Helen’s School auditorium to raise the necessary funds.
The musical features solo star turns, madcap dance routines and an interactive quiz with the audience.
Cast members include Jennifer Strong as Sister Mary Regina, Abby Cole as Sister Mary Hubert, Renee Engle as Sister Mary Robert Anne, Cathie Kreigh as Sister Mary Amnesia and Naomi Schroeder. Kreigh also serves as the production’s musical director.
Munk describes himself as a visual director, seeing the show’s final look in his mind.
“It’s my guiding light,” he said. “I see the costumes, what the set looks like.”
“Nunsense” will also take advantage of the state-of-the-art technology in the auditorium. Scene backgrounds will be projected onto the new, very large LED screen at the back of the stage. The scenes can be changed with a computer click.
Munk spent many years working with students, but said working with adults in a community theater environment is different. Cast and crew must commit to nightly rehearsals for weeks to bring a production to the stage.
“The challenge of working with adults is their busy schedules,” he said. “One of the ‘nuns’ has seven kids. Once you commit to something, you must follow through.”
Munk’s vision for Gaslight Playhouse is also coming to fruition with the organization’s permanent home at the CLC.
“My vision is a full season of shows,” Munk said. “And season tickets. We used to do three shows a summer.”
Munk is grateful for the opportunity his vagabond organization now has to put down roots and sustain itself into the future, bringing live theater to a new level in the community. Gaslight Playhouse wandered from one venue to another for shows in its 45-year history.
“I’m so pleased the 1940 stage was saved,” he said. “I’m so thankful that there are community people on board to save this building. Gaslight has a real home.”