NDIANAPOLIS — Local actor Joe Siefker remembers the first time he appeared on stage.
It was in the CrazyLake Acting Company’s production of “Run for Your Wife” back in 2008, and the experience was one unlike any he’d had before.
“It was the live audience,” Siefker said of Greenfield. “I’d never done anything in front of a live audience before, and I wasn’t sure that when I opened my mouth anything would come out, or if what came out would even be close to what I was supposed to say.”
Since that time, however, Siefker has become a familiar sight on the community theater stage, performing with a number of area theater companies. His latest project is with the Epilogue Players in their current production of “Death By Design.”
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The Epilogue Players, housed in the Hedback Theatre at the corner of Alabama and 19th streets, is unique among community theater groups in that its mission statement includes the phrase “… to offer persons aged 50 and over the opportunity to participate in theatre.” The troupe has been presenting shows with seasoned cast members in the 60-seat theater since 1976.
Siefker, having hit the 50 milestone a couple of years back, describes his leading role of the playwright as something of a control freak.
“He has a sarcastic attitude and a nutty side as well,” Siefker said. “The humor of the show is in the off-the-wall things that some of the characters do.”
“Death By Design,” written by Rob Urbanati and directed by Marsha Grant, features a married theater couple: a husband playwright, Edward Bennett, played by Siefker, and his actress wife, Sorel Bennett, played by Molly Schultz. After a disastrous opening night of Edward’s new play starring Sorel, they flee to their country home to escape the public, arguing all the way. One by one, various unexpected and uninvited guests arrive, and — surprise! — one of the guests turns up dead.
Siefker credits his start in theater to his daughter, Erin, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, and her involvement with Greenfield-based KidsPlay Children’s Theater. As a theater parent, Siefker built sets and worked backstage, which gave him plenty of time to observe how much fun his daughter was having. It was Erin who nudged him forward when CrazyLake held auditions for its first show.
A self-described “experience collector,” Siefker said he enjoys spreading his theatrical involvement around to different venues to get a chance to work with a variety of directors on different-size stages. He’s done both comedies and a drama or two, but he prefers comedy.
It’s the instant gratification that got him hooked.
“You get immediate feedback from comedy,” Siefker said. “If you hear laughter, you know you’re on the right track.”
As both a mystery and a comedy, part of the fun of “Death By Design” is in solving the mystery. The audience is given enough clues to figure out the who-dunnit, but it’s the sleuthy maid who makes the connections on stage.
Marsha Grant, an Epilogue alumna, is directing the show. She came late to the production to replace Peg Arbuckle, who had to step down because of health issues. Grant says the mystery and mayhem of the show are very cleverly written with lots of good plays on words.
“Audiences will love it,” Grant said. “If you’re looking for an evening to sit back and laugh, for some relaxing entertainment, this is it.”
Siefker is not sure what’s next for him on stage after this show, but he has enjoyed his time with the Epilogue Players, calling it a strong and dedicated organization with a core group of people that returns consistently with each show to build sets, design costumes and work backstage.
“Death By Design” opens Friday and runs through May 17. Visit the Epilogue Players on Facebook or call 317-926-3139 for reservations.