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"Spitfire Grill" Marks Final Show Of McPherson College Theatre Season

posted Feb 25, 2014 in CAMPUS EVENTS

The show “The Spitfire Grill” by Lee David Zlotoff - showing at 7:30 p.m. in Mingenback Theatre Feb. 28 and March 1, 7 and 8 - is a play about endings and new beginnings.

Likewise, the show marks the end of the 2013-2014 season at the college and the end of a long college theatre career for three MC seniors.

E.H. Petropulos, Larkspur, Colo., Sarah Schowengerdt, McPherson, Kan., and Alyese Crist, Quinter, Kan., all started on the college stage as underclassmen - one of the advantages of attending a small liberal arts college.

“Starting with ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ I basically lived over there,” Petropulos said. “It’s all the time you can spare and then some time you can’t spare.”

Crist started at MC pursuing elementary education, but soon switched to the performing arts department. Developing confidence has proved a challenge for Crist, but she’s come a long way since her first performance in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” she said.

“They kept saying, ‘Sing louder,’” Crist said with a laugh.

Petropulos chimed in, saying, “You really did come out of your shell.”

Crist demonstrated with a soft, understated “Whee.”

Schowengerdt also said she appreciated being able to stretch into areas of theatre such as singing and dance, as well as the opportunity to act more like what she feels is her true self on stage.

“I’m extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity because I didn’t have the confidence before,” she said. “In acting, I have an excuse to be weird, when in real life I don’t.”

“The Spitfire Grill” will allow these three the opportunity to show how far they’ve come since they were newbies to college theatre.

A musical based on the 1996 movie by the same name, “The Spitfire Grill” follows a feisty woman named Percy, who is newly released from prison. Based only on an entry in an aging travel book, she ends up in Wisconsin and lands a job at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill. When Percy learns that the restaurant is for sale but without takers, she suggests that Hannah raffle off the restaurant for $100 along with the best essay on why one wants the grill. Letters inundate the restaurant and lead to a surprising rebirth of the diner.

Schowengerdt plays the owner of the grill, Hannah - one of many roles she’s played of “bitter old women,” as she described it.
Crist plays Shelby, a young woman who works at the grill and befriends Percy. Petropulos plays Effy - a 50-something who is the town gossip.

“This is probably a role I won’t get to play again until I’m actually that age,” Petropulos said.

She said audiences should come to see the play for the incredible set - featuring huge birch trees rising into the battens of the theatre - and the catch music sung by the talented players in the show.

“It’s not ‘Broadway!’“ Petropulos said, emphasizing the last word with a sing-song voice and jazz hands. “It’s down home, folksy and bluesy. I really like it.”

The cast of “The Spitfire Grill” includes: Petropulos; Crist; Schowengerdt; Rebecca Leite, freshman, Salina Kan.; Joshua Hall, sophomore, Kansas City, Kan.; and Charles Moore, freshman, Fort Riley, Kan.

The crew includes: Jd. Bowman, associate professor of theatre, director; Dr. Joshua Norris, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, music director; Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre, set and light design; Haleigh Orand, sophomore, Wichita, Kan., props; and Petropulos, costumes.

All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to all shows cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at

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