Church group presents a Who-dunit in Glenwood Springs

Stina SiegGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – At first blush, the rehearsal seemed a frenzy. The players were still bellowing a few incorrect lines, and everyone was trying to remember the stage directions. The Grinch’s sled, outfitted with wheels, kept breaking, and at one point nearly spilled him onto the floor at a high speed. In that instant, the entire town of Who-ville burst into laughter.OK, it looked like a fun frenzy. To director Ruth Mollman, it was all part of the creative process – a process she’s always loved.Mollman, 50, spoke last week from New Creation Church, where its production company was rehearsing its latest piece, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

“I just love watching them come alive on stage and how the community responds,” Mollman said. The dinner theater celebrating the “Grinch’s” 50th birthday opens tonight at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. A lifelong artist with a degree in music performance, she’s been with NCC Productions since the beginning. A church member for more than 20 years, she started with the performances 15 years ago. When the idea of the dinner theaters was proposed several years back, she saw it as a chance for a real holiday event in the valley.For the last six years, something about the wholesome quality of the shows, combined with the excitement of a gourmet meal, has made her productions a tradition with locals. Without fail, the performances are packed every night. What excites Mollman is just sharing the “true spirit” of Christmas with so many. “I want them to feel welcomed, wonderful,” she said, smiling and moving her hands in emphasis. “I want them to laugh. I want their bellies to be full.”During the practice, she was completely engaged, intimately involved with every detail. When the Whos danced, she swayed along. When the Grinch let out a comic monologue, she mouthed the words. She stressed, however, that the show had very little to do with her. In her mind, she was simply herding the Whos, but they were doing the work.

Her actors, on the other hand, saw it differently. Everyone seemed to agree: She has the vision.”I don’t know how she does it, quite frankly,” said Chris Vashus, the title character. “By the grace of God, I guess.” Vashus, who had no prior acting experience before the dinner theaters, is celebrating his sixth year on stage. He described being in the group as a “blessing.”Alethia Koronkiewicz, 11, who plays Cindy Lou Who, felt that, of all the plays she’d been in, this one has been the most enjoyable.”She (Mollman) doesn’t take everything so serious,” she said, “so I like it a lot.”What impressed fifth-year actor Jackie Kneedler is Mollman’s ability to be loving, while remaining the consummate professional.”She’s hard-core. She’s fun and then, in the end, she snaps us together,” Kneedler said.

During last year’s production, Kneedler had to shift dialect – and gender – to play a British fellow. Though Kneedler had reservations, Mollman knew it would be fine.”That’s what’s so awesome about her,” Kneedler said.Meanwhile, Mollman continued to negotiate the stops and starts of the rehearsal. She sounded confident about the piece – sure it would all fall into place. When asked what keeps her coming back, year after year, she paused. It seemed she’d never thought to question it.”It’s fulfilling,” she said, finally. “It’s just very fulfilling. There are no words to describe how much it means to me.” And then she had to go. There was work to be done.Contact Stina Sieg:

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