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MOVP takes virtual route to raise funds and entertain

The cast of “The Rileys’ First Date” is, top row, from left: David Scheimann, Erin O’Neill and Maeghan O’Neill. Second row: Nathaniel Maciag, Vanessa Rake, Mack McHale. Third row: Jeff Walker, Ann McHale, Allison Stollar, J.R. Wells. Bottom row: Kirk McCall, Eliz Kinser, Laurie Rutherford. The show airs at 7 p.m. Friday and reruns at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Players returns with is next presentation of social distance theater at 7 p.m. with the WMOVP Radio Theatre and a segment from the “Life of Riley.”

The troupe will present the episode “The Rileys’ First Date” on the Zoom platform.

Vanessa Rake portrays the young Peg Riley and she promises an evening of laughs and fond remembering.

“Each show we do keeps getting better and better as we learn new techniques to bring these Zoom shows to the screen,” she said. “The Life of Riley is no exception and I can’t wait for our audience to laugh along with our telling of how these characters met.”

First aired in 1950, the episode tells the story of the Rileys first date. As with most things remembered, the versions of events are often recalled in different ways.

Both sides of the story are told as Riley, portrayed by David Scheimann, and Peg, played by Erin O’Neill, try to help Junior, played by Maeghan O’Neill, to have courage for his own first date by recalling their own first date with each other.

With Rake as young peg and Nathaniel Maciag as young Riley, they tell the real story of their first date. Other characters bring the story to life and audiences will see new faces and some WMOVP regulars.

The outreach for WMOVP Radio Theatre has been more than founding Director Suzanne Walker ever imagined.

“We wanted to find a way to provide some entertainment to the valley during a time of isolation and to give our local talent a creative outlet, but it has been so much more,” she said.

Becca Buck, director of this week’s show, said the productions have been calming for participants.

“If it wasn’t for the Mid-Ohio Valley Players during this pandemic, I am sure that I would have lost my mind. Being able to connect with friends and putting our best foot forward into doing something we love is such an awe-inspiring experience,” she said. “Social Distancing Theater may not be an ideal way for us to create the illusions that theater brings to life, but it is what we have and now what we know.”

Each new production brings new ways to entertain audiences, she said.

The series also has encouraged family connections.

Maeghan O’Neill is Erin O’Neill’s daughter.

“My 14-year-old had a major opportunity to attend a highly competitive and well-renowned theater camp in Michigan this summer and it was canceled due to COVID,” Erin said. “Being able to connect remotely with an audience and our friends has been something we both can look forward to and enjoy doing together.”

Her family has been involved with the Mid-Ohio Valley Players since the 1970s.

“And I so appreciate everyone’s efforts to not only keep our community theatre on the minds of our patrons, but to offer an outlet for us to get together and do what we all love,” Erin said. “Plus it’s interesting having my daughter play my son.”

The technical challenge of doing theater on Zoom also has allowed local actors, directors and technicians to grow. Kirk McCall, who plays Digger the undertaker, has enjoyed the challenge.

“It tests the actor’s breadth and depth in ways we never imagined in the pre-COVID world,” he said.

People are making the best of things, according to Mack McHale, a Players veteran.

“When life gives you lemons, we make lemonade with a twist. This unique and terrible time has made us adapt our love of theatre and the need to provide for our treasured audience family to do this odd thing,” he said. “Social distance theater is our twist. We may be either sweet or tart in our productions I’m sure that we leave you satisfied.”

To view the live performance, join on the webinar link at 7 p.m. Friday at https://mariettacollege.zoom.us/j/93626779110 or call in to hear the audio at 301-715-8592 or 312-626-6799, Webinar ID: 936 2677 9110. If unable to join in for the live performance, it will be available on the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Facebook page beginning as a premier video on Saturday, also at 7 p.m.

As COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise and social distancing continues to keep theatres closed the Mid-Ohio Valley Players remains committed to bringing family entertainment to the valley, according to Players President J.R. Wells. Wells asks patrons to help get the word out so that others know to tune in.

“We are thrilled to be able to do this for the area. But now is the time that we need the area’s help as well. Unfortunately, as a non-profit, our revenue comes 100 percent from ticket sales and sponsorships,” he said. “If you enjoy the shows please donate or think about being a sponsor. Every little bit helps us pay the bills.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring a show can contact Walker at newsletter@midohiovalleyplayers.org.

The cast for Friday’s show is:

∫ Announcer: Eliz Kinser

∫ Riley: David Scheimann

∫ Peg: Erin O’Neill

∫ Junior: Maeghan O’Neill

∫ Young Riley: Nathaniel Maciag

∫ Young Peg: Vanessa Rake

∫ Riley’s mom: Laurie Rutherford

∫ Barker, Peg’s dad: Mack McHale

∫ Cop: Jeff Walker

∫ Sidney: J.R. Wells

∫ Waitress: Allison Stollar

∫ Digger: Kirk McCall

∫ Huck’s Spot: Ann McHale

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