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If you go
What: Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s “Celebrities Act Up: Super Heroes Adventure!”
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Admission: $90 general admission; tickets are limited and available online at FWCivic.org or by calling 422-8641, ext. 226.
Courtesy illustration

Heroes onstage

Area figures become comic book characters to help Civic Theatre

Richards
Busse
Nutter
Ahlersmeyer

It is quite the hassle to get Batman and Superman to commit to any special affair – they run a pretty tight schedule between testing cool gadgets and saving the world.

Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, though, has managed to bring together a real Justice League of leaders to play some of the most famous comic book characters for their annual fundraiser.

Community leaders from across the city will swoop in to support Civic Theatre’s “Celebrities Act Up” fundraiser Saturday. As the evening’s entertainment, Steel Dynamics chairman Keith Busse, Allen County Prosecutor Karen E. Richards and Fort Wayne TinCaps President Mike Nutter along with a roster of notable community members will star in a superhero parody prepared as a stage reading. Civic Theatre’s executive director Philip Colglazier, who is the parody’s writer and director, says the evening will be filled with appetizers, auctions and even Kryptonite cocktails.

The organization would like to raise $50,000 to $60,000 for this year’s general operations budget.

“It’s about supporting the organization in an entertaining manner,” he says. “It’s important for people to come back and feel good about the organization.”

This year’s theme features sponsors as popular superheroes and characters with Fort Wayne as their backdrop. Superman and Batman compete for Wonder Woman’s affection while deflecting the nefarious plots of their villains. Like any good superhero comic book, there are plenty of subplots featuring local actor Bob Ahlersmeyer as Underdog, Bo Geyer of Power Components Corp. as Robin and others.

Colglazier says the stage show has inserted blatant, humorous sponsor plugs, which enhances the farce.

“The main thing is to select a story that is familiar so that people pick up on the parody. With Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and The Underdog all meeting at once, it’s going to come out a little crazy – you have to really stretch the limits,” he says. “It’s fun in that regard when it comes to writing it. It’s OK if they crack up on stage – it’s like a Carol Burnett skit.”

Colglazier says this is the fourth year the organization has put on this event, featuring “Wizard of Oz,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and presidential election parodies in previous years. He was first inspired by a similar fundraiser hosted by the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. Reworking the concept to be a more theatrical presentation, Colglazier says the themed parodies have generated more money in one evening than when the Civic Theatre would host two fundraisers during the year.

“It’s been positive in lightening the workload for the staff and board. It’s a win-win situation,” he says.

Colglazier first reached out to sponsors to participate before developing characters or writing the story. After he knew who would be involved, he tried to connect many of their professions to characters. The TinCaps’ Nutter will play “Bat”-man, Journal Gazette columnist Frank Gray will play Clark Kent’s consistently cranky editor Perry White at the Daily Planet, Journal Gazette publisher Julie Inskeep will play reporter Lois Lane to Busse’s Superman – “The Man of Steel Dynamics.”

From there, the script seemed to write itself, Colglazier says.

“When I sent out the script, I sent instructions on how to make this happen and the pacing. I reassured them they don’t have to memorize anything. It puts them in a comfort zone,” he says. “I sent it out two weeks ahead so they can do a little research or go over the lines, but most of these characters they know from their childhood or from movies today.”

Not looking for Shakespearean performances, Colglazier says that the most important aspect of the show is to celebrate these sponsors who really save the day.

“It’s a great way of bringing in the community and connecting with community leaders,” he says. “We appreciate all their support and we can not exist without their support. We want to make sure they have fun.”

kcarr@jg.net

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