The stage is set for "Good Morning Miss America," at the Steyer Opera House in the Hotel Winneshiek, April 18-27.
The stage is set for "Good Morning Miss America," at the Steyer Opera House in the Hotel Winneshiek, April 18-27.

For the first time in recent memory, the Steyer Opera House in Decorah’s Hotel Winneshiek will present live dinner theatre – when Sacred Noise Society, Inc. presents “Good Morning Miss America,” a play by Phyllis Yes and directed by Katie O’Regan, April 18 to April 27.

“Good Morning, Miss America” follows Jane, an independent artist taking care of her mother while navigating a complex web of family obligations, including an irascible father-in-law and an absent sister.

Prior to curtain, a buffet dinner will be available. Tickets for dinner and show are $45; tickets for the show, only, are $25.

This production is steeped in Decorah connections – which all came together in an almost serendipitous way.

Written by Luther College graduate (‘63) and artist Phyllis Yes, of Portland, Ore., “Good Morning, Miss America” is being produced and directed for the Steyer stage by Katie O’Regan – a long-time actor, dancer and director who is originally from the area, having graduated from Turkey Valley High School and who works as a Luther College development officer.

The production will star Luther College Professor Emeritus Richard Simon Hanson, of Decorah and Helen Hustad, of Seattle, Wash. – a native of Decorah, and a former Luther College Regent.

The production also stars New York City-based actor, Kristin Samuelson and Jim O’Regan, of Hudson – the director’s brother, also a Turkey Valley High School graduate.

The most interesting thing about this particular production, Director Katie O’Regan says, is “that it happened very organically.”

She’d heard about the play, and arranged to meet the playwright, ‘63 Luther grad Phyllis Yes, in Portland – “I just loved her as soon as I met her,” O’Regan says.

She asked Yes about the play (her first) and told her, “I love new work. I want to read it.”

Yes e-mailed it to her, and O’Regan read it that night, straight through. The next day, O’Regan met up with her friend, Helen Hustad, a former Luther Regent and an artist, in Seattle. They started talking about “Good Morning, Miss America,” and O’Regan told Hustad, “You could be the mother in this play.”

“I am an actress, you know,” Hustad told O’Regan – who, until that moment, had not known.

She started thinking about the role of the stepdad, and thought Richard Simon Hanson would be perfect for it. She finally called him, and told him about the play. He read it and said, “I like it. I’m going to do the role.”

Everything seemed to be coming together.

“I said to myself, ‘I think I’m supposed to produce this play. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it.’”

O’Regan went to New York to audition the role of the daughter. She had 250 submissions within a couple of days, and after auditioning actor Kristin Samuelson, cast her as Jane. Once O’Regan had brought her actor-brother, Jim on board as Jan’s brother, Sammy, she was ready to get the show on the road.

When she thought about a venue for the show, she says she thought right away of the Steyer Opera House in the Hotel Winneshiek, though she couldn’t recall the Steyer having hosted live theatre before.

She spoke with General Manager Tami Hansen, who thought it was a great idea.
“She works so hard. I really appreciate her,” O’Regan says. “She’s the one who said yes to this; if she hadn’t said yes, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Show dates, times
“Good Morning, Miss America” will be presented Thursday through Saturday, April 18, 19 and 20; and Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27. Dinner is at 5:30 p.m.; the show begins at 6:30 (show length: 1 hour, 45 minutes).

Ticket price is $45 for buffet dinner and show, and $25 for show only. Tickets may be purchased online at sacrednoisesociety.org.

Call 563-419-4490 for more details.

Cast: In order of appearance
Jane: A well known artist from Portland, Ore. and caretaker to her mother and step-father, played by Kristin Samuelson, of New York, N.Y.

Lou: Doris’s second husband, played by Richard Simon Hanson, of Decorah.

Doris: Jane’s and Sammy’s mother, played by Helen Hustad, of Seattle, Wash. (a native of Decorah and a former Luther College Regent).

Sammy: Brother to Jane, played by Jim O’Regan, of Hudson (a Turkey Valley graduate).

The DJ: The background music to the show and radio announcer, played by Katie O’Regan, of Decorah (director, producer).

About the playwright
A native of Austin, Minn., and graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Yes moved to Portland, Ore. in 1978 when she became a professor of art at Lewis & Clark College. She led the college’s off-campus program in New York City, which focuses on exposing students to the city’s unique artistic and theatrical history.

Yes taught at Lewis & Clark for two decades, serving as chair of the art department and dean of arts and humanities, before becoming professor emerita of art, painting and drawing in 1998. Her frequent support of live theatre developed into an interest in writing for it and, in 2015, she began work on a play based on her experiences caring for her aging parents.

“No one wants to talk about aging,” Yes says. “Caregiving can be riddled with complications: guilt, responsibility, unanswered questions, mistakes, dysfunctional family dynamics, and sibling rivalry, among others. I wanted to share real-life challenges of caring for aging parents, and to spark conversation and action preparing for their later years.”

The two-act play reached the semifinals of the Artists Repertory Theatre’s Table/Room/Stage competition in 2016 and met great success in its premiere at the Coho Theater in Portland, March, 2018.

“I’m thrilled,” Yes says of the play’s success. “My story is not unlike millions of others,’ those facing the all-too-familiar scenario of caring for elderly parents. This play is for anyone who has parents or is a parent themselves.”

About the producer/director
Katie O’Regan has written eight plays, two musicals and directed 69 staged productions.

Along with writing and directing, she also has done many shows as an actress, singer and dancer.

O’Regan is artistic director of Sacred Noise Society, Inc., and Klare Productions, Inc. Her love of the arts and education has taken her career from Iowa to New York City, Chicago, Miami, Milwaukee and Door County.

Dinner theater menu
The buffet dinner will feature Norwegian meatballs served in a nutmeg gravy along with seasoned mashed potatoes and carrots, served with a salad and angel-food cake.

The menu Good Friday (April 19) evening will feature seafood lasagna with white-sauce, salad and breadsticks, served with angel-food cake for dessert.