‘Enemy’ lurks at Smyrna Opera House

Members of the Smyrna Opera House Dessert Theater production of “Enemy” are, back row, from left, Jordan Roche, playwright Jim Hawkins, Barry Hudson, Stephanie Cooper and Austin Topper. Front row, from left, are Terri Anderson, director Pat Musto and Ashley Parks. Missing from the photo is Alisha McCanney. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Muller)

SMYRNA — More than two decades ago, 30 people gathered to come up with fundraising ideas for the Smyrna Opera House to begin its restoration after a devastating fire. Pat Musto suggested doing a dessert theater and since the theater’s reopening in 2003, it has been part of every spring lineup.

This year’s show, “Enemy” focuses on a sibling rivalry and small town politics.

Pat Musto of Smyrna has directed these annual performances since the start, 20 years ago, and this is the first original show she has done.

“He had a few of us over to read his play one night and I suggested some revisions and I ended up deciding to do it,” Ms. Musto said of the play’s writer, Jim Hawkins.

Since the show isn’t put on by an established theater group, the cast changes every year depending on who comes out to audition.

“This is the second one of Pat’s plays I’ve been in and I was the first male to audition so I read for all three parts,” said Austin Topper, originally of New York.

Cast members of “Enemy” rehearse for the upcoming play at the Smyrna Opera House. They are from left, Terri Anderson (Dr. Cassandra Stockmann), Barry Hudson (Gary), Austin Topper (Greg Thomas) and Stephanie Cooper (Mayor Julie Stockmann). The production will be staged April 26-28.

Mr. Topper has been acting since the fifth grade and has performed locally with the Kent County Theatre Guild. In “Enemy” he landed the part of Greg, husband of lead character Cassandra.

Cassandra is the mayor’s sister and discovers a danger that could destroy the town of Newbold. She has to carefully go about sharing the information with her powerful sister Julie to make sure Julie chooses what is best for the town.

“He’s very caring and affectionate but also acts as the voice of reason for his wife,” he said.

While Mr. Topper and Ms. Musto are used to performing comedies at the Smyrna Opera House, “Enemy” is a drama.

“It can be very serious at times so my favorite parts of rehearsal are actually when someone breaks character or says a line wrong. It gets everyone laughing and brings some levity to the situation,” said Jordan Roche, originally of Texas.

“Enemy” is Mr. Roche’s first performance, but he’s confident he’ll do well in front of an audience.

“I had always thought about trying acting because I like doing characters, and my girlfriend was in the show last year and I came to a lot of rehearsals and when I saw the show, I realized I knew almost every line from the script and realized it was something I’d probably be able to do so I’m giving it a shot,” he said.

The tale was inspired by “An Enemy of the People,” written by Henrik Ibsen in 1882.

“This is a modern take on the story, but keeps with the theme of bringing a community together and just doing the right thing,” Mr. Hawkins said.

Mr. Hawkins has been a writer all of his life and began writing small plays while he was a Methodist pastor and incorporated skits into his services.

“It had me wondering if I could write a full-length play some day so I took Playwriting 101 at University of Iowa and really enjoyed it so I went on to Villanova’s graduate theater program,” he said.

“Enemy” is his third play performed before an audience and he’s placed his trust fully in Ms. Musto.

“This is actually only the third rehearsal I’ve been to,” he said one week before the show. “I came to the first reading just to get a feel for everything and it seems like Pat really has everything under control and is bringing my story to life.”

The show will be followed by a dessert reception with the cast in the third-floor Dickinson Room.

Mr. Topper said events like this make local theater more relatable.

“I think that local art, especially local theater has been something that has fallen off the map for a lot of people when they’re looking for something to do,” he said.

From left are Stephanie Cooper (Mayor Julie Stockmann), Austin Topper (Greg Thomas) and Ashley Parks (Barbara). A variety of desserts will be served in the Smyrna Opera House’s third-floor Dickinson Room after the performance.

“The more that people come out to see shows and meet local actors, they’ll realize it’s very enjoyable and something worth considering more often.”

Sticking with the show’s theme of making the community a better place, nonperishable food items will be collected for the Smyrna-Clayton Ministerium Food Pantry housed at Asbury United Methodist Church.

The food pantry especially needs donations of peanut butter and canned meat items (beef stew, tuna fish, chicken, Spam and small hams).

“Enemy” will be performed at the Smyrna Opera House on April 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and April 28 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $16 for Smyrna Opera House members, senior citizens (65-plus), military, $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets may be purchased online at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4071914, by calling 302-653-4236, or at the Smyrna Opera House box office, 7 W. South St., Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Some content may not be considered appropriate for children. Attendance by children is at the discretion of parents.

Doors open 45 minutes prior to showtime. A bar will be available.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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