Wagon Wheel Thespians Love The Theater — And It Shows
By Lauren Zeugner
WARSAW — In 2013 a group of theater lovers came together and formed Center Street Theater. In 2021, the group became Wagon Wheel Community Theater after it was brought in as a “spoke of the wheel” a year or two after the Wagon Wheel went nonprofit.
The community theater has a consistent group of about 50 members; however, at the last audition, 40 people came out, with about half being new. “We’re growing and expanding, which is great,” said Emilie Judy Barr, who is directing the community theater’s upcoming production of “Dearly Beloved.”
Wagon Wheel Community Theater is open to adults 18 and over. The group will look for youth from the community if there’s a role to be filled. Anyone interested in theater is welcome to join the group. “Even if they don’t have a lot of experience, we’re willing to train them,” Judy Barr said.
Members meet a few times a year for get-togethers, but things ramp up when a show is in production. The community theater produces a full-length play in the spring and then a murder-mystery fundraiser in April.
Right now the group is in rehearsal for “Dearly Beloved,” a comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. Judy Barr describes it as a heartfelt comedy about three sisters who are “sort of estranged.” One sister’s daughter is getting married and chaos ensues.
“It’s a feel-good show,” Judy Barr said. “It’s great for kids, great for adults.” Judy Barr explained the community theater determines the choice of the play based on who is directing. The director will then have a discussion with the Wagon Wheel staff as to which would be the best to put on.
Judy Barr had five possible shows and really wanted to do “Dearly Beloved” “It’s lighthearted, fun and it’s something people may not have heard of,” she said.
The cast is made up of 12 people.
The April murder mystery fundraiser is interactive with the audience. The audience comes in for the first act where a murder takes place. During intermission, which lasts about 45 minutes, members of the audience break into teams or, according to Judy-Barr, they can come to the performance as a team, grab a form and start looking for clues.
Actors will then interact with audience members, claiming their innocence. Act two of the performance is the solution to the murder mystery. There are prizes for the team that comes up with the correct solution. This year’s performance will be “Phantom of the Wagon Wheel.”
The Wagon Wheel Community Theater would like to do more shows. Judy Barr said the more opportunities available to have shows, the more people can get involved. “We’re all living life, and trying to throw our love of theater (into the mix),” she said.
Judy Barr has been a huge theater fan since she was in elementary school. The youngest of three, she remembers her oldest sister being involved with her school play, Agatha Christie’s “Mouse Trap.”
Judy Barr was hooked at the performance of the play. As an adult she was looking for a way to be a part of theater when she joined Wagon Wheel Community Theater. Then she learned there may be opportunities to direct. She stage-managed some performances, was an assistant director and then was given the opportunity to direct the community theater in “Mouse Trap.”
“I love we have such a dedicated group of people who consistently come together to tell these stories.”
“Dearly Beloved” will be performed at the Wagon Wheel Theater, 2515 E. Center St., at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 9-11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 12. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the theater or at wagonwheelcenter.org.