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  • Writer's pictureKathy Coudle-King

Making the Sausage Part II: Sometimes you need to adapt the recipe

I’d hoped to post this on Sunday, but what did John Lennon say, “[Wo]Man plans, and God laughs”?

The Set

Walter Criswell in chair, Ashley Fredricksen and George on Freud's couch

We made a lot of progress getting the set finished. I’m loving the vibe of the Victorian-era doctor’s office. The “yellow” wallpaper is up, and Eric Castle helped me move some furniture pieces from my house to the Empire. (After the LAST snow storm of the spring!) An Empire volunteer, Riley, helped me remove heavy platforms and “stuff” in the Joan of Arc courtyard. We even set up chairs for the audience. It’s getting real, people!


An absolutely delightful thing happened early last week. Helen Hutton, who works for Valley Senior Living, approached me with a check to help support the production! This was truly unexpected, greatly needed, and appreciated. (If anyone else wants to contribute – let me know -- had some unexpected expenses this week!)

I was also able to add another psychological clinic, The Practice Place , to the three others who are taking out ads in the show program: Kelly Bishop-Diaz, Psychological Services, Therapy Works Midwest, Assessment Therapy Associates., This, too, will help with paying for the rental insurance I need to provide to the Empire, as well as the rental fee. Thank you.

Artifact Hunting

I continue to create “artifacts” for the audience to discover when they explore the “doctor’s office” on set. Early last week, I stumbled upon a set of biennial reports from the Dakota State Hospital for the Insane, beginning in pre-statehood (1896) and found some fascinating details: How many cows they had and how many aprons were made by patients.

Seriously, the biennials quickly become a plea from the first superintendent, Dr. O.W. Archibald, to the legislature for increased funding. (Some things never change.) Archibald worked for the first two years without a salary. The need for the hospital was clear as it quickly filled. By the early 1900s, patients were sleeping two to a bed and the wards were extended to the attic. These were what are referred to a the “dark ages” at what would become the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown. Dr. Archibald urged the state to build another facility for “the feeble minded” and children. This was planned for Rugby, but that was soon scrapped. Eventually, the facility was located in Grafton. This helped lighten the number of patients in Jamestown, but the population continued to grow, and eventually the facility was expanded.


We finished our 3rd week of rehearsals on Sunday and blocked most of the play. We just need to finish blocking the lobotomy scene and the end. Speaking of rehearsals . . .

The Cast

I am truly fortunate to have the cast I have. I told Ashley Fredricksen about the play over a year ago. When I wrote the part of the "Clerk" (this week her name was revealed to me: "Grace"!), I wrote it with Ashley in mind. I also couldn’t ask for a better trouper than Walter Criswell. He’s so busy right now but has made time to play the roles of 8 doctors (9?) and I don’t know how many eugenicists. Then there is Hannah Diers, who replaced the original actor we’d cast for the role of "Lucy".

Hannah Diers as "Lucy"

I’d never worked with Hannah before and what a pleasure it’s been! She brings so much to the role of "Lucy" – such warmth and sweetness.

That brings me to "Becky" and the reason why I did not write this three days ago as planned. The actor we cast as Becky decided that she could not continue in the role for personal reasons. I had really hoped it would work out, but I understand. This play is not a jolly Neil Simon romp. It’s heavy material in spite of my attempt to lace it with gallows’ humor. Never-the less, you can coat medicine in a spoonful of sugar, but it’s still recognizable as medicine. So, this meant I needed to recast with 17 days until opening! I could think of a couple of actors that would be right for the role, but people are busy with other shows or projects, end of the semester "stuff," -- LIFE --so rather than spend the next few days trying to find a new actor, I cast – myself. (gulp)

What does this mean for the sausage?

Honestly, whenever I see the same name for writer, director, and actor in a play, I always think “big ego.” In this case, let me say that I would much rather sit in the back of the house and watch the play. I would much rather turn the directing over to someone else. And the producing. But it is what it is. (I think Buddha said that. Or Mel Brooks.) I really want to bring Retail Therapy to my community, and so "the show must go on."

But what does it mean? It means this is going to be a different kinda sausage than I expected to make. I won’t be able to study the play from the audience since I will now be in it. That changes my perspective. Tremendously. Frankly, it is a loss.

However, I have already had so many discoveries about the play since we’ve begun rehearsal. Last week, I came to a major realization about Grace's journey in the play. These opportunities for greater clarity have already made Retail Therapy a stronger play than it was three weeks ago. I thank all the actors I’ve worked with for that, including the one who can’t do the show. You have revealed aspects of the story I could not have discovered on my own.

George and Jace Erickson; Ashley upstage

Fortunately, I and others have been chipping away at production pieces of the play (there is a 3-page "to-do" list). I have a cracker jack Stage Manager in Jace Erickson, who has offered to take on more tasks than he signed up for originally. (Check your e-mail, Jace.) So, yes, I can find time to study "my" lines. You’d think that would be easy enough since I'm the playwright, but sometimes I find myself asking, Who the hell wrote this?”

Writing prompt: Write about a time when you had to “adapt a recipe." What happened? How did it turn out?


Apr 25, 2023

Hope I'm back in town so I can take this in! Thanks for the ride so far!😊


Pat Danielson
Pat Danielson
Apr 25, 2023

APPLAUSE! APPLAUSE! For you and your intrepid cast and crew! Thanks for continuing to make this important sausage.

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