Guild prepares for 'Death Takes a Holiday' performance

REED CITY — Members of the Crossroads Theatre Guild are hoping to bring some life to death with their newest stage production.

"Death Takes a Holiday," by Alberto Casella and written for the American stage by Walter Ferris, is a romantic drama with splashes of comedy. The story circles around the character of Death, who secretly becomes a human prince for three days to discover why people fear him. During his time in the mortal world, life becomes topsy turvy for the people around him — the old become young again, plants grow to enormous sizes and the ill do not perish. In addition, Death falls in love with a young princess and has to decide whether to take her with him as he returns to his natural form.

The production was chosen by director David Johnson. It is a play he directed while living in California and one he believes is popular with all types of people no matter their beliefs.

"It's a fun show and it appeals to the secular crowd and church crowd," Johnson said. "I hope people walk away thinking death isn't so bad. I hope it makes them think."

The play is underwritten by Corey Funeral Home, Reed City Tool, Vic's Supermarket, Kevin's Auto Repair and Lake-Osceola Bank. It is the first time the guild sought underwriters, and Johnson believed it was necessary to kick the play up a notch. The funds helped create the $3,000 set and rent costumes from The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

"I think it's a huge commitment to the community for the underwriters to support the performing arts," Johnson said. "It feels really good they are supporting us."

Three new cast members, Jerry Hoppes, Heather Wallace and Anna Arzumanova will show their talents during the production.

Hoppes takes the stage as Death himself, rehearsing with the group and on his own for about seven hours each day due to the challenge of memorization and getting into character.

"It's kind of an overwhelming part," he said. "I've had to spend a lot more time on it than I figured."

The character of Death is an interesting, mutli-faceted one that Hoppes said can teach the audience a thing or two about life.

"You can learn that life is what you make of it," he said. "You can choose to make it short and bitter or to make it sweet, happy and long."

Although Hoppes feels nervous about the performances, he said he enjoys being on stage and is confident the production will go well.

Jim White, who has been acting with the Crossroads Theatre Guild from time to time since the 1980s, plays the role of The Baron, and believes theater lovers will enjoy the production.

"It's really different," White said. "It deals with death and the image of death, and it's interesting that that character of Death is thinking about love and life.

"I think everyone involved in the guild has put a lot of work into this play. Just on stage we've been working three nights a week, and that doesn't include what we all do at home."

White believes having a community theater group is something unique and special to the area, and one more activity that can add diversity, fun and local pride.

"Community theater is something that not a lot of small towns have," he added. "We provide a lot of real entertainment, it's affordable and people don't have to leave town."

Performances are slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, Saturday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 1, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Nov. 2, at the Crossroads Theatre Guild Performing Arts Center, located on the corner of Upton Avenue and Park Street. Opening night will host free hors d'oeuvres and beverages.

Johnson said he is looking forward to the performances and seeing audience reactions.

"We kicked it up a notch this time," he added. "We're giving people quite the show."

Tickets to the show are $10 and can be purchased at the Reed City Area Chamber of Commerce office, from guild members or at the door before the performance.

For more information about the Crossroads Theatre Guild, visit or find the group on Facebook.