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'Rumors' takes the stage

The Farmington High School Theater Guild will bring Neil Simon’s "Rumors" to the stage at Truman Auditorium for a three-night run.

The classic play will run Thursday through Saturday with doors opening at 6 p.m. and curtain at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $5.

Simon’s comedic farce opened Nov. 17, 1988, on Broadway. The show takes place during a 10th anniversary dinner in a large home just outside of New York City. The first couple to arrive discovers that one of their hosts (Charley) has unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Charley’s wife, Myra, is nowhere to be found and neither are the servants. Through the course of the show, the audience never meets Charley or Myra. As more guests arrive, there are cover-ups, deceptions and mistaken identities.

“I really love Neil Simon plays,” said Director Diana Mays-Nielson. “I felt as if the play would be a challenge for my kids in terms of the play is a farce with a lot of doors opening and slamming, people entering and exiting the stage.”

For Brady Poucher, who plays Glenn Cooper, the comedic timing is exactly what made him want to audition for the classic comedy - yet made the production a challenge as well.

“The hardest part of this play is getting the tempo of all the lines because it is such a fast-moving play,” Poucher said. “I think once you get that, this is when the real comedy comes out.”

Additionally, many of the young actors were drawn to the play because of Simon’s signature style of comedy which relies on timing, wit and a more cerebral sense of humor.

“Neil Simon is known for his zingers and incorporating a lot of hidden jokes into the play,” said Addy Hall, who plays Cassie Cooper. “A lot of plays rely on slapstick. But with him, you have to listen. There is a lot of cool things hidden within. I think we were all pretty excited about doing a play that wasn’t a bunch of people falling over each other.”

Although Mays-Nielson had some trepidation at first about doing the play, she felt confident her students were up for the challenge.

“I kind of said 'let’s try it and see what the kids could do,'” Mays-Nielson said. “I figured I could fill in what they didn’t understand. We did have to have some conversations because of the time it was set in.”

One example of a generational gap came during a dancing scene. The young actors started to dance as if they would today. Mays-Neilson had to tell them “The Dab” was not something they would have done in the '80s or '90s.

Another generational difference in the play for May-Nielson’s actors came with the use of landline phone.

“One of the character is using a landline phone,” Mays-Nielson said. “When she says she wasn’t getting a good connection, she holds the phone in the air like you would do with a cell phone. I had to tell her that was not a thing.”

What excited the actors the most about this play was not the humor nor the cerebral writing, but how each actor was able to develop their character’s personality.

“I don’t think any of us have ever played a character that are not very well developed,” said Hall. “We got to put a lot more of our own personality into our character.

The cast includes Ann Raymer as Chris Gorman; CJ Hart as Ken Gorman; Grace Gilliam as Claire Ganz; Ryan Fuemmeler as Lenny Ganz; Jacob Henderson as Ernie Cusack; Emmagyn Parton as Cookie Cusack; Brady Poucher as Glenn Cooper; Addy Hall as Cassie Cooper; Kirby Fletcher as Officer Welch; Isabella Clubb as Officer Pudney; Assistant Director/Stage manager Marion Burnette and Assistant Director/Assistant Stage Manager Hanna Hughes.

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Proposed rates draw criticism

Citizens packed the Leadwood City Hall Monday evening for an informational meeting with the board of aldermen, and representatives of Taylor Engineering, LLC and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The nearly two and a half hour meeting was held to discuss a proposed increase to service charges for water service in city limits, which would increase standard residential water service to $51.52, for a total utility cost of $93.73 when considering sewer, taxes and other fees.

Mayor Dennis Parks welcomed those in attendance and advised them that the meeting was informational only, with members of the public able to make statements and ask questions in five minutes or less.

The first question posed by a resident had to do with what the city’s specific plan was for improving the quality of water in Leadwood. Parks allowed Taylor Engineering Senior Project Manager Tim Robbs to explain the scope of the work that has been planned.

“The project we’re looking at is, basically, a complete overhaul of the city’s water system,” Robbs said. “A lot of the water lines that you guys are using now were put in back in the '20s, '30s and '40s.

“So our project is to replace the water lines, but not all of them. The city’s water tank is also in need of repair, and we’re going to actually construct a new tank that’s elevated so you’ll have more usable storage in case of power outages and more pressure.”

Robbs was then asked to provide an idea of how long it would take to get the project underway and completed.

“Now, as far as timeframes, we’ve been working on planning for quite some time as you all know,” he said. “It’s a very slow process to secure all of the grants and loans for a project of this kind. We’re looking at a project in the neighborhood of $6 million.

“Mike (Hartmann) is our local representation that’s fighting for the City of Leadwood to get the money to do this project. His superiors in Columbia and Washington are the folks with the purse strings, so we’re trying to make the case to get the funding for it. Once we have that, then we’ll have to do the engineering and design which can take anywhere from six months to a year because of the size of the project.”

Robbs said approval will have to be obtained through entities such as the USDA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources before any work could begin.

“So we’re looking at at least another two years before everything is complete,” Robbs said. “A year to a year and a half before we break ground. And that’s in a perfect world.”

The board was then asked by a citizen what the previous water rate increase had been used for.

“The rates have been so low for so long, we have to bring our rates up to the standards of everybody else around,” Parks said. “It has to be 2 percent of the median household income. And it’s not there yet. For us to get this money from the government, we have to abide by rules and that’s one of the rules.”

Parks said the voters had approved a $10 million bond issue in 2015, and the point of pursuing grants through the USDA is to ensure that the citizens of Leadwood aren’t covering the full cost of the project.

One of the government requirements for the city to be able to qualify for the grants and loans is that the city must show it is able to financially support the loan repayment and future upkeep of the system. This requirement specifically mandates that water rates be at least 2 percent of the median household income, which comes out to about $41 a month.

“They should have been raised a long time ago,” Parks said. “This raise here, it will hopefully get us up there. Hopefully, I don’t think I’ll have to raise them again. I don’t. I can’t swear that I won’t have to, but I don’t think I’ll have to raise it very much.”

USDA Area Specialist Mike Hartmann stepped in after questions about how long the project has been in the works with little evidence of progress.

“Let me talk a little bit about the process,” Hartmann said. “I know the frustration you guys have. I work with many communities and rates are always tough.”

Hartman explained that the income survey undergone by the city recently took time, but was an important step to ensure that water rates would not be increased even more drastically. Before the income survey, Leadwood’s median household income was listed as $38,000 but was found to actually be $25,000 after the survey.

This lowered the minimum water rate that the city could charge while still qualifying for government assistance.

“Grant funds aren’t just automatically given,” Hartmann said. “Your rates have to be set at the 2 percent before they can be kicked in. So unfortunately, the rates have been so low in the past that the infrastructure hasn’t been improved and the reserves haven’t been put back.

“When you take on debt with the federal government, we require reserves. I’m not blaming the city, but this comes from a lack of planning and a lack of raising water rates slowly.”

Hartmann said he understands the frustration of water rates being raised without any immediate evidence of progress being made, but if the rates were not raised until the loan for the project was closed and work began, the rate would go straight to the maximum rate rather than raise slowly with time.

Tensions in the meeting rose as residents began to point out the poor quality of the water they have been getting for years. Several residents questioned if the work would actually be done, given what they have been told by other city officials over the years.

“If we don’t do this, you aren’t going to have any water at all,” Parks said.

Several members of the crowd then shouted to go ahead and shut the city’s water off.

When a resident stated that the city had “dropped the ball”, Alderman Charlie Lewis responded by saying the mistake was made years ago, before the current city officials were in office.

“That ball was dropped back in 1970 and they’ve been dropping it ever since,” Lewis said. “This has been a long time coming and the only way it can happen is if we pay for it.”

After the meeting calmed, a resident said that her daughter left the room in tears because of the anger and shouting going on in the meeting. She asked that those attending the meeting remember to be better examples for children in the community.

The Leadwood Board of Aldermen will next meet Nov. 27 at Leadwood City Hall.

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A play on 'Love, Loss and Life'

Central's Rebel Theatre Troupe will bring a series of special performances to the high school stage this week.

"Love, Loss and Life: An Evening of One Acts: will be performed Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at Central High School’s auditorium. Tickets at the door will be $5 for general admittance and $3 for students.

Troupe Director Jamie Weiss said the performances will present a new format for the troupe, with three shorter stories being performed each night.

“This year’s production is actually made up of three one-act plays,” Weiss said. “We call our production ‘Love, Loss and Life: An Evening of One Acts.’ All of the productions together have to do with themes of love, loss and life.”

Weiss said the three plays all take place in New York City, but are otherwise disconnected except for their similar themes. To make the performances even more interesting, each of the one-act plays are directed by students of the troupe.

“I’ve just got some really good kids and I threw the idea out there and they latched onto it,” Weiss said. “I’ve been very, very impressed with these kids and what they can do.”

The first play tells the story of two stranger on a subway train who make a fleeting connection.

“The first one is called, ‘Moments,’” Weiss said. “It takes place in a subway train and two strangers meet and kind of make a connection in a moment. But because their lives are going different directions, basically, they can’t carry it on.”

"Moments" is directed by Yancy McCarron and features Michael Cantrell as Wayne and Hannah Sansoucie as Anne.

The second play will focus more heavily on the theme of loss, and is called "A New York Minute."

“This one is about two friends,” Weiss said. “Harry has committed suicide and Jasmine comes back to his apartment after the funeral. He appears to her, posthumously, to help her understand what’s going on. And also, in order for him to move on he has to help her move on.”

"A New York Minute" is directed by Haley Francis and features Andrew Wyrick as Harry and Jasmine Jackson as Melissa.

The third play, titled "Labor Pains," focuses on the themes of life and love, with touches of loss.

“That one is about a young, married couple,” Weiss said. “Emily is ripe and ready to have a baby and it’s about how they are dealing with their fears of their relationship changing, and whether they’ll be good parents or not.”

"Labor Pains" is directed by Mikayla Watkins and features Will King as Robert and Stephanie Declue as Emily.

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Murder suspect arrested Tuesday

A man who was wanted on murder charges has been taken into custody in Iron County.

The arrest was made by the Missouri State Highway Patrol after noon Tuesday.

Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley said William King was found near a scrap yard at Highway 21 and Route N, not far from where the murder took place.

“There really wasn’t much to it,” said Medley. “He basically gave himself up ... he is cold and was wet. He didn’t really have any place to go and was still in the area where he spent the night last night. He just never left the general area.”

Medley said King was just ready to give up and get warm. 

“We just got him back in right now and don’t have much more information to give at this time,” said Medley. “The highway patrol are the ones who actually caught him and they brought him back to the sheriff’s office to handle everything.”

King was being sought after the discovery of a murder in Iron County. In an earlier press release the sheriff’s office said that Thomas Ventimiglia was shot and killed in Iron Country at approximately 1:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Medley said Ventimiglia was found on a road that runs parallel with Highway 21 in Graniteville and that they received several tips afterward. Also with information from an unnamed witness they were able to identify King as their primary suspect.

King is being charged with first degree murder, armed criminal action and being a felon in possession of a firearm.