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Lakes Area Theatre presents a 'dark' and 'creepy' production for the Halloween season

The play follows state-owned human test subjects held together in confinement.

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The actors for "Category E" work out a scene in which their characters break out into an argument. From left, Katelyn Spangrud, 30, of Alexandria, Kelly Smith, 60, of Evansville, and Cherise Wales, 17, of Millerville.<br/>
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ALEXANDRIA — Lakes Area Theatre's Fire Pit Productions is set to perform a 90-minute piece that takes place in a dystopian future where three captives owned by the state are scientific test subjects imprisoned in a laboratory.

The show is called "Category E" and it begins with two human test subjects — Corcoran, a half-blind paraplegic, and Filigree, a clinical psychopath — held in a state-run laboratory and " utilized for the benefit of higher-valued citizens," according to the show's director Quincy Roers.

The story really begins, however, when a third subject arrives. Her name is Millet and her presence is a mystery but within 36 hours, there will only be two again. Which two? You'll have to attend the show which opens Friday, Oct. 21.

Roers said the show provides a unique perspective on the ethics of animal testing and raises the question, does the end always justify the means?

"I chose the play because I was looking for something darker, or even creepy to fit with the Halloween spirit," Roers said. "After reading this, I felt that it was well written, presented an interesting question, and had realistic set requirements that we could build in our space."

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Those attending the show will watch the action from behind a chain-linked fence like they are observing the test subjects themselves. Like "rats in a cage."

"I wanted to create the feeling that the characters are trapped in a cage. It is their environment, of which there is no escape," said Roers.

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Quincy Roers, executive director of Fire Pit Productions, stands on stage at the Lakes Area Theatre's home in the Indigo Plaza — 4133 Iowa St #108, Alexandria. <br/><br/>
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

He added that people should see the show because it is "performed by three amazing actresses that will take you on a journey of caring and understanding."

"Sometimes cruelty can be kindness," he said. "My hope is that people will watch this and question things. Is this a show about lab rats and their relationships in captivity? Is this a future dystopian society where the needs of the privileged outweigh the lives of those not deemed worthy? Where is the line we shouldn't cross when it comes to scientific study?"

Getting into character

Filigree is played by Cherise Wales, 17, of Millerville. This will be her second performance with the Lakes Area Theatre but by no means is she a stranger to the stage. She estimates that she has performed in nearly 40 different shows since her debut performance as King Herod in a production her church put on when she was in fourth grade.

Wales said to get into character, she did research on experiments performed on animals for testing purposes.

"Researching that and watching videos, I can understand a lot of why my character thinks the way they do," she added. "Filigree was basically a child born in captivity in a dystopian futuristic world. And I guess not having a lot of interaction, like social interaction, has kind of made the character insane."

For theater veteran, Kelly Smith, 60, of Evansville, getting into the mind of Corcoran was a familiar feat. While this will be her first play in nearly 30 years, she has performed countless times at Andria Theatre back when it was known as Quad-A.

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"Quincy is a great director," said Smith. "He's really good at helping you find the direction of your character. He lets you ask so many questions and say, 'OK, how am I saying that?' He's just done a really good job at helping me figure out my character."

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The chain link fence separating the actors from the audience provides the illusion that the characters in the play are trapped like rats, according to director Quincy Roers.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Smith said her character hates the environment she is confined in, and that she has been there so long she wants to die but has become protective of Filigree.

At first, Smith denied Roers' request to be in the play. She considered herself retired from the theater scene. However, when Roers convinced her to come over and read some lines, the intriguing script twisted her arm.

"I just like that it's nothing I've ever done. It's really different," Smith said comparing the play to "big musicals" she has done. "And I'm just thrilled by this theater and the quirky shows that they're doing. We need this little artsy corner."

The shows third character, Millet, is played by Katelyn Spangrud, 30, of Alexandria, and it is her first performance besides a couple of the theater's radio shows.

"I heard about this play, so I came in, read for it and they asked me if I'd give it a go," said Spangrud. "I really enjoyed doing the radio theater, so I thought, 'Why not? It can be a lot of fun.'"

She said what intrigued her most about the play was its futuristic aspect and the "deeper meaning behind it."

"I like that it challenges the audience to think about different topics that we don't always think about every day," she added.

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She said that as a first-time actor, she enjoys working with a smaller cast. It has allowed her to learn the craft rather than getting "lost in the crowd."

Spangrud explained to get into the character, she has really used the practice time, takes in all the feedback Roers offers and tries better on the next run.

"I really hope that people come in and check it out," she said. "It's a great theater and we've been working really hard."

If you go

WHAT: "Category E"

WHEN: Oct. 21- 22 and Oct. 27- 29 at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Lakes Area Theatre, 4133 Iowa Street, Alexandria

TICKETS: Purchase at the door

Cast and Crew

Corcoran- Kelly Smith
Filigree- Cherise Wales
Millet- Katelyn Spangrud
Director- Quincy Roers
Assistant Director- Katelyn Tracy

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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