UND President To Moonlight As Actor On Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre Stage March 1

New Fire Hall Theatre production, “Dearly Departed,’ kicks off Thursday, Feb. 13

When the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre opens its first show of 2014, “Dearly Departed,” by David Bottrell and Jessie Jones, it will be a star-studded affair.

In fact, University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley will be making his Fire Hall Theatre debut at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 1, in the role of “Uncle Bud.” The play actually kicks off at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, and will run through March 1; and 2 p.m. on Sundays, at the Fire Hall Theatre, 412 N. 2nd Ave., in Grand Forks.

Patrick DeMars (UND alumus, theatre), half of the pair of directors, which includes Lana DeMars, got the idea months ago when first reading the script. There is a small but significant role in the play and Patrick thought it would be fun to fill it each night with a different local celebrity. Because the role is “Uncle Bud,” the celebs must be male, but they had no trouble coming up with a list of local civic leaders, such as President Kelley, Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss and North Dakota State Rep. Eliot Glassheim.

But they’re not the only ones filling the role: journalists and TV reporters, Ryan Bakken (Grand Forks Herald reporter), Chuck Haga (retired Herald reporter), and Kevin Dean (former City Info Officer), Rob Hudson and Terry Dullum (local TV reporters) are also taking to the stage.

Also, longtime fans of the Fire Hall Theatre, will be delighted to find David Paukert, as well as Steve Saari and DeeJay Arens, are returning to take to the same stage where they delighted fans for many years in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Tickets are $15 or $12 for seniors, students and military personnel with I.D.; call 701.777.4090 to reserve.

In bouncing around names of businesses that might help underwrite the production, the directors and the theatre’s management entertained the idea of the Historic Norman Funeral Home. The play does deal with death and a funeral, so it seemed like a good fit.  Greg Norman was approached and embraced the idea from the start. He has not only lent the business name to the production as a co-producer and supported it financially; the casket audiences see is on loan from the Historic Norman Funeral Home as well.

The production crew, which includes many UND students and alumni, has taken the funeral idea and run with it. Black hats (with and without veils) will be available for purchase, audience members are encouraged to wear funeral black, funeral hot dish will be served on the Friday of opening week, Feb. 14, and an organist will play before the show.  Greg Norman may also show up to entertain audiences before the show with a medley of funeral songs.

While death is not typically a funny subject, “Dearly Departed” puts a humorous spin on this aspect of “life.” If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry, so they say, but during this show you might just laugh until you cry.

Cast, other than celebrities: Theresa Knox, Jared Kinney, Houston Scharmer, Gabe Figueroa, Amy Driscoll (alumna – theatre), Jacob Thomas, Kjerstine Trooien (undergraduate student — English), C. J. Leigh (aviation), Erin Hendrickson, Mare Thompson (alumna — music), Frank Sikich (alumus), Laura Sorenson, Kelsey Misialek (undergrad student — accounting).  Karen Braaten (alumna — music), musical accompanist;  Jeff Kinney, Jared Kinney, C. J. Leigh, set construction; Jeff Kinney, lights/sound;  Tim Oneal (graduate student — educational leadership), stage manager; Amy Driscoll, hair and make-up; Mare Thompson, costumes; Lana and Patrick B. DeMars, directors.

Celebrity Cameos:

  • Thursday, Feb. 13, Grand Forks Herald Columnist Ryan Bakken
  • Friday, Feb. 14, WDAZ TV Anchor Terry Dullum
  • Saturday, Feb. 15, Photographer Dave Paukert
  • Sunday, Feb, 16, N.D. Rep. Eliot Glassheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 20, East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss
  • Friday, Feb. 21, Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown
  • Saturday, Feb. 22,  WDAZ TV Anchor Rob Hudson
  • Sunday, Feb. 23, retired Grand Forks Information Officer Kevin Dean
  • Thursday, Feb. 27, retired Grand Forks Herald Reporter Chuck Haga
  • Friday, Feb.28 Authors/Playwrights Steve Saari and Dee Jay Arens
  • Saturday March 1,  UND President Robert Kelley


David L. Dodds
Media Relations Coordinator
Public Relations Group
Division of University and Public Affairs
264 Centennial Drive Stop 7144
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7144
701.777.5529 | 701.777.4616 fax