Thursday, July 14, 2011

Courtroom drama at Waldorf College to raise money for Winnebago County Historical Society

The Sunday night jury pronounced Jake Studor guilty of assault. A new verdict from the residents of Forest City, different from the one declared over 100 years ago.

Community members get to decide the fate of Studor in a theatrical representation of the 1900 Murder Trial of Jake Studor , a fundraiser organized by the Winnebago County Historical Society.

Directed by Dr. Bob AuFrance , associate professor of theatre at Waldorf College, the play involves 16 community members in the cast. “While six of them have been in movies before, some have never even acted in front of a live audience,” AuFrance said, who plays the judge.

The idea for the play originated before Puckerbrush Days last year when Riley Lewis, the president of the historical society, approached Dr. AuFrance about the fundraiser. Lewis, who had heard about other cities doing re-enactments of historical cases, wanted the community to produce one on the trial of Jake Studor.  

In the original case, Forest City resident Jake Studor was charged with attempted murder after he shot the local sheriff. In the re-enactment, the audience/jury can either pronounce him guilty of attempted murder, or assault or acquit him as innocent.

The play required actors to research their characters since the whole performance was designed without a script. The cast dug up local as well as statewide newspapers to learn the details of the case.

“A lot of information was missing in the local newspaper,” said Dr. AuFrance who found some new facts in the archives of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids newspapers. “Everyone involved in the process had to become historians.”

He was very pleased with the response the cast received on Sunday night.
“The audience was very appreciative. Just the support from the community is amazing,” he said.  “People I don’t know ask me how the play is going or when is the next show.”

Family members and community supporters filled up the 164 seats in Salveson Hall’s ballroom last Sunday. Dr. AuFrance is hoping the play will also attract visitors to Puckerbrush Days and Winnebago’s Grand National Rally to the shows being held at 7 p.m. Thursday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.  As of Thursday afternoon, every ticket to every performance had been sold.

Play tickets cost $10 each, with all profits benefitting the Winnebago County Historical Society. In addition to ticket sales, the society plans to collect money through sales of popcorn donated by Brad Buffington, the owner of Iowa Gold Kettle Korn.

“The Winnebago County Historical Society hopes to raise about $4,000 through the fundraiser,” said Cindy Carter, the secretary of the society.

The money the society collects through this fundraiser will be used to remodel the mansion annex into historical library and general operating costs for the mansion house.

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