The Sauk Wins State AACTFest & Advances To Regionals

The local theatre group will now take the production to the regional contest in April.

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The Sauk, Hillsdale County's community theatre, has won the state level AACTFest competition with their production of Desert Song. The local theatre group will now take the production to the regional contest in April.

Sponsored by the American Association of Community Theatre (AACT), the festival is held in odd-numbered years. AACTFest presents a forum for community theatres from AACT's ten regions to enter productions for adjudication and advancement from the state level to the regional level and finally, to the national level. The Sauk competed in the state competition on March 18.

Two adjudicators from visiting theatres judged the competition. Immediately following the performance, they provided feedback to the cast and crew including constructive criticism to consider if the production advanced. In addition to winning at the state level, The Sauk was awarded two special awards for their production - Outstanding Ensemble Work and Outstanding Special Effects.

Each competing team has a 10×10 foot square on the stage. In each square is everything that can be used for a show - set, props and costumes. A signal is given, and the first show is off and running. Actors and production crew hustle to set up their show in exactly 10 minutes - because that's when their show must begin. Each team's show must be no longer than 60 minutes. They then have exactly 10 minutes to put it all back in their box and leave the stage.

"We are so honored to have had such great feedback on our production," said Sauk Executive Director Trinity Bird who directed the production. "We go back into rehearsal this week to start working to make the production as strong as possible for the next stage of competition."

Desert Song is about a young, struggling musician who seeks out the reclusive muse for one of the most famous love songs ever written, an early seventies tune called "The Ballad of Eliza." It's a song that he has loved all his life. This muse, a woman who would now be in her sixties, has long retreated from public view. Can he find her? Set in the sparse lodgings at Ghost Ranch, a remote retreat in Northern New Mexico, the play explores the elusive and magical nature of inspiration. This production contains strong language, stage blood and self-harm.

The Sauk has a history with both playwright Mark Cornell and the play. The Sauk produced the world premiere production of Cornell's play On Pine Knoll Street in February 2020 as part of the AACT NewPlayFest. Desert Song was part of The Sauk's 2021 Plays-in-Development program prior to a world premiere fully-staged production in September 2022.

The cast for Desert Song consists of Summer Housler as The Maid and Darren Taylor as The Musician. The production is directed by Bird with stage management by Mandee Leigh Howard. The design team consists of Bruce Crews (set), Gianna Green (costumes), Bird (lighting), Joella Hendrickson (sound), Cyndi Baldermann (properties) and MJ Dulmage (makeup). The production crew includes Allison Tappen and Moriah Livingston.

"This is our second AACTFest experience," said Sauk Executive Director Trinity Bird who is directing the production. "In 2019, we were one of seven theatres from Michigan that competed. Although we didn't advance, we had an amazing experience and couldn't wait to participate again."

The Sauk will travel to Beaver Dam, Wisc. for regional competition April 28-30. The group will have a technical rehearsal in the evening of April 28 and perform at 1:30 p.m. (Central time) on Saturday, April 29. A public final dress rehearsal will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at The Sauk. Although the event will be free, donations will be accepted.

"We do need to raise the money to take our show, cast and crew to Beaver Dam," Bird added. "We expect expenses to be near $3,500. Anyone looking for a sponsorship opportunity please call the theatre!"

More information can be found at


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