The Pella Chronicle
---- — Union Street Players (USP), Pella’s award winning community theatre, is kicking off their 2014 season with a comedy written by a local playwright. “Ham Buns and Potato Salad,” written by Tom Vander Well, will make its world premiere on the stage of the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium in the Pella Community Center April 10-13.
The full length comedy in two acts is set in the fictional town of Hebron, Iowa (population 318) and tells the story of a local boy who returns home for the first time since leaving for college. The character’s return has the small town buzzing. Not only because the character made a name for himself, but because of a years old town scandal that was never resolved. Those who have read the script have been surprised when the humor gives way to a serious twist in the second act.
“The play is rooted in my observations and experiences of living in a town that size for a few years, and from memories of visiting my grandparents when I was a kid,” Vander Well said. “Writers are always encouraged to ‘write about what you know,’ and what I know is Iowa, and especially small town Iowans of Dutch heritage. I think local audiences will recognize people they know in the characters. I’ve been encouraged to add a disclaimer that any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental.”
This will be Vander Well’s second original script produced by Union Street Players. In 2009 his one-act “Letters from Pella” premiered at Tulip Time and told a largely forgotten story of scandal and conflict among Pella’s founders. That summer he started writing “Ham Buns” and the script has gone through a series of drafts and revisions over the years. In the fall of 2012, Vander Well was invited to present the script at the Missouri Playwrights Workshop at the University of Missouri.
“Writing a play is a fascinating process,” Vander Well said. “The Playwright’s Workshop in Columbia was an invaluable learning experience. Getting feedback and suggestions from those who teach and are studying the craft was incredible, and it forced me to consider some major changes to the structure of the play.”
Local actors, writers and artists also contributed through a series of table readings in the Vander Wells’ home. The script would be read aloud and then the group provided their feedback and suggestions. After each reading, Vander Well used the feedback to make changes to the script.
Auditions for “Ham Buns and Potato Salad” will be held in the Pella Community Center Sunday, February 2 from 6-8 p.m. and on Saturday, February 8 from 10 a.m. to noon. The play will be directed by Ann Wilkinson. There are roles for five adult males, four adult women and one girl age 11-12. No experience is necessary and no roles are precast. A perusal script can be downloaded in PDF form from www.unionstreetplayers.com. Questions should be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pella resident Tom Vander Well wrote Union Street Players’ spring show, “Ham Buns and Potato Salad.” Photo by Tammy Brice.