Lights, camera, action this weekend in Lucas
By DAWNE LEIKER
A dramatization of an 1893 Russell County murder will lend an unusual yet historically based dimension to Lucas' 125th celebration this weekend.
"The Mystery of Fred Dininny" centers on a real-life murder that occurred somewhere between Russell and Lucas in 1893. Brought to life by the Fort Hays State University Fringe Theatre Company, the play is a glimpse into vigilante justice as meted out by Lucas townspeople following the discovery of 22-year-old Fred Dininny's body buried in a shallow grave outside Lucas.
The play, written by Kay Kuhlmann, is based on a story written by James Jones in 1894. A sequel by Lucy Miller, Russell, along with the original story will be available for sale at the time of the performances at Lucas Area Community Theater.
The showings will be at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Directed by Amanda Steinle, FHSU radiologic technology student and Lucas native, the play has been a natural outgrowth of her interest in promoting her hometown.
She is the great-great-niece of Samuel Dinsmore, creator of Lucas' Garden of Eden, and has worked with the town's Grassroots Arts Center and many of its unique art projects.
"That's kind of why I'm directing the play for Lucas, because I was so involved," Steinle said. "Now I'm over here at Hays and involved with the theater department and decided I might as well bring the two together."
FHSU's Fringe Theatre uses the talents of theater majors, as well as non-majors, for a wide range of productions.
It's Steinle's first foray into the world of directing. For many of her cast of 20, it's their first experience with the theater company. Special challenges surrounded an out-of-town performance as final week practices took place in Lucas, an hour's drive from Hays.
Time, for many of the actors, has been stretched thin due to several other productions now in rehearsals.
"A lot of stuff is happening all at once," Steinle said. "It has been a real struggle to get (actors) all here."
The play's two female roles are portrayed by Shley Snider, FHSU graduate student, and Melody Miller, a recent FHSU graduate. Both have been Fringe members for several years and are rehearsing with four different productions.
Miller plays Elizabeth Gay, the wife and mother of two of the accused killers.
"I'm worn down and very flustered," she said of her character. "I know what's going on, but I don't want to let anyone else know that."
Snider plays the part of Dininny's mother, who remained in Oregon following the murder, never attending his inquest or funeral. Her character is depicted as she reacts to letters and other communication received from Kansas following the murder.
Jamison Green, an FHSU senior playing the role of Green Burton, one of the three accused of killing Dininny, said his character is "just bad."
"I feel like he was guilty," Green said.
Green said he thought justice had been served in the original case.
"But it was served in the wrong way," he said.
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A sampling of other Lucas 125th Celebration events:
6 p.m.: Fireside cook-out at the city park .
10 a.m.: Main Street parade.
11 a.m.: Grassroots Art Center open house featuring Craig Lilak's presentation, Visions of the Past (Native American Petroglyphs).
Noon and 3 p.m.: Thad Beach performance at Mini Park.
1 p.m.: Smoky Hill Brass Quintet at Lucas Area Community Theater.
5 p.m.: Chuck wagon supper and Thad Beach concert at city park.
10:30 a.m.: Church in the park.
Noon: Potluck and basket dinner.
3 p.m.: Pedal pull contest at the basketball court.