County Seat play takes third at state festival


For the past four Minnesota Association of Community Theatres (MACT) festivals the County Seat Theater Company has proven to be one of the best community theaters in the state.

Last weekend the Cloquet theater's production of "The Mad Tea Party" finished with a third place (Second Alternate) finish this year, with individual awards for Outstanding Achievement in Ensemble, Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for Jenn Soukkala and Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design for director Joel Soukkala.

"The quality of productions in this year's state festival were better than I have seen at this level, even better than some that I have seen at a regional level," said Joel Soukkala. "We knew going into it, because both the regional and national festivals were both being held in Minnesota, that everyone would be coming in with their best works."

The County Seat Theater Company is one of nine Minnesota theaters that has advanced to a national festival and one of only three to have advanced to an international festival with its "Wiley and the Hairy Man" production several years ago.

"Our company has proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with at these festivals," Soukkala said.

In "The Mad Tea Party," playwright Brian D. Taylor brings many of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland characters together in an original story. Mad Hatter, Dormouse and March Hare meet for a tea party to honor Time, who has forgiven the Hatter and set time right once again. When the Jabberwock comes and wreaks havoc, the tea party guests — including the Caterpillar, the Duchess, the Frog Footman, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (but not Alice) — decide that something must be done. Time suggests they travel back through time to the moment when the Jabberwock arrives so that they might catch him. They travel back several times, but White Rabbit's watch is fast, Hatter's is slow, and they just can't catch the Jabberwock.

"I am so proud of our production. The comments from the adjudicators and members from other theaters were so complimentary it makes you realize just why we do this," concluded Soukkala. "It's not about winning, it's about the feeling you get when you know you've done all you can do and the audience appreciates it. We had the final performance of the weekend, and our show was a perfect way to end it."

The County Seat Theater Company will present an encore performance of "The Mad Tea Party" at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at the Encore Performing Arts Center in Cloquet with a special ticket price. Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at 218-878-0071 or online at