The Herald Bulletin

January 30, 2013

Curtain rises on new stage in Alexandria

Church renovation nearly complete

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — On stage Saturday night at Church Street Commons here, the house lights will go down and actors will take their appointed places for a performance of “Murder, Medium-Rare.”

The mystery, penned by Eileen Moushey, will be the debut play performed on the community center’s renovated stage.

In one sense, the play represents the culmination of a renovation project that Scott Owens, founder and president of the ministry, began six years ago. In another sense, it embodies a deeper level of community involvement he first envisioned 13 years ago.

The 9,000-square-foot church at 204 W. Church St. was in terrible shape when his group acquired the building, which Owen said “had to be almost completely rebuilt.”

There was widespread water and termite damage; and it needed new plaster, extensive electrical and plumbing work, and new heat and air conditioning systems.

The previous owners, a Baptist congregation, was told renovating the church would cost $2 million.

They moved to a new location, said Owens, adding that another church group held services there for a time, but couldn’t afford the maintenance and upkeep.

Owens said he restored the building for $70,000. But the work had to be done in stages with all-volunteer help. Renovations are now about 90 percent complete.

“Everything I do is for Jesus Christ,” said Owens, a construction contractor by trade. “He has provided everything I needed. This has been a very long process. At times I wanted to give up, but it’s paid off.”

When a friend told Steve Fleck about the renovation, he went down to have a look.

The choral and drama director at Alexandria Community Schools for the past six years, Fleck has directed a number of mystery plays with his advanced drama students.

All those previous productions were mounted in schools. And no matter how hard they tried to hide the fact the performances took place at school, you could always tell.

He was looking for something different. A real theater.

“I went down and walked in and thought ‘Oh my gosh, it’s perfect!’” Fleck said. He said Owens’ renovation of the sanctuary, the cherry and oak hardwood stage and other features supplied the real theater and authentic cabaret feel he was looking for.

“It just looks absolutely wonderful,” he said.

And is the perfect setting for Saturday’s dinner-theater murder mystery.

The setting for “Murder, Medium-Rare,” is this, according to a synopsis on Moushey’s website: Noted cookbook author and critic, Marjorie Richmond is attending a dinner in her honor. She makes a grand entrance accompanied by her much-younger, henpecked husband, Jeffrey. The characters/actors in this mystery are part of the wait staff at the banquet.

There’s nerdy, near-sighted Milton, ever-emotional Blanche, and the sweet-young-thing (and Jeffrey’s former girlfriend), Kim. Chef Roberto Di Napoli is there as well, fussing over the food and vainly trying to win Marjorie’s approval and endorsement. When Marjorie is murdered, two undercover cops take over the investigation.

Members of the audience, prompted when necessary by Fleck’s student actors, will question the suspects and eventually try and guess who the murderer is.

Owens said his goal with renovation is to “reach youth who are interested in the arts. I’m a sports guy, but sports is well-funded. The arts aren’t. We want to use the building to encourage an interest in acting, music and live music performance.”

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.