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Locally Grown Theatre debuts at Oltman Middle School

Warren Sampson plays Elwood P. Dowd in the Locally Grown Theatre production of “Harvey.” The comedy runs April 10-14 at the Oltman Middle School. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Veta (Allison Hawley) tries to reason with spoiled daughter Myrtle Mae (Elizabeth Swabey-Keith) in the Locally Grown Theatre production of “Harvey.” The comedy runs April 10-14 at the Oltman Middle School. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Locally Grown Theatre isn't performing "Harvey" to upstage his cousin, the Easter Bunny — nor to ride on his cotton-tails by monetizing the hip-hop spirit of the season.

The Cottage Grove-based troupe has had the comedy classic on its wish list for a good part of its nine-year history.

The production runs April 10-14 at Oltman Middle School Theatre.

Locally Grown Theatre is the first outside group to use the space, artistic director Emily Olson said. Oltman opened in the fall of 2017.

"Renting the brand new Oltman Theater is the first time we have been in an actual theater and we are very excited about this," Olson said. "We've never been able to perform in a space this large before, so we're quite excited."

"Harvey" won a Pulitzer for author Mary Chase following its debut in 1944. The film version starring Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible, 6-foot-3 rabbit.

"It's such a timeless story," Olson said. "Everyone has unique family members."

Warren Sampson plays Elwood, an affable and eccentric bachelor who lives on the family estate with his sister, Veta (Allison Hawley) and his teenage niece Myrtle Mae (Elizabeth Swabey-Keith).

Elwood carries an open conversations with Harvey, who he refers to as a rabbit-shaped "pooka," a term derived from a mischievous gremlin in Celtic folklore.

Trouble looms when the socially ambitious Veta plans a big party at their home. When Elwood and Harvey show up and embarrass her in front of the town gentry, she decides to have her brother committed to a sanitarium.

It's not Elwood who is locked up, however.

Another milestone for Locally Grown Theatre: they've been granted nonprofit status. That means they can collect donations directly instead of through third-party benefactors, Olson said.

"We are so grateful for the community support," she added.

Friday's production of "Harvey" will be dedicated to one of his biggest fans, the late Judy Spooner, who worked decades as a reporter for the South Washington County Bulletin.

"We want to acknowledge that this was Judy Spooner's favorite show," Olson said. "She had put a bug in our ear a number of years ago, wanting us to do 'Harvey.'"

A portion of the ticket proceeds will go to the Oltman Middle School Theatre Boosters.

If you go ...

What: "Harvey"

When: 7 p.m. April 10-13 and 2 p.m. April 14

Where: Oltman Middle School, 6625 Goodhue Ave., Cottage Grove

Tickets: $15 for adults or $10 students/seniors. To buy tickets, visit https://m.bpt.me/event/4094126.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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