“Class in Dramatics, Play Production Offered to Public” read the headline that started it all for the Madhatters Community Theatre. Headed by Miss Marlys Meland, the speech instructor at the high school, the class first met on January 6, 1954 in room 114. Two months later, the dramatics class presented I Remember Mama, an adaptation of the book Mama’s Bank Account, by Katherine Forbes. The play was an unmitigated success, filling the theatre on the first night. They even had to turn people away.
Since that auspicious beginning, The Wadena Madhatters Community Theatre Company has presented over 70 productions. Full length regular productions included plays such as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Miracle Worker, Arsenic and Old Lace (done twice), A Streetcar Named Desire, Steel Magnolias and On Golden Pond. Full length musicals included Annie Get Your Gun, Music Man, Oklahoma, The King and I, Guys and Dolls, The Fantasticks, The Sound of Music, Nunsense and Brigadoon. In 1988, Madhatters started doing dinner theatre productions including Lie, Cheat and Genuflect, The Amazing Adventures of Dan Daredevil, The Odd Couple (female version), Barefoot in the Park, Ole and Lena’s Wedding, and most recently, Don’t Hug Me.
In 1997, Madhatters initiated a drama camp for children from Wadena and surrounding areas. Originally, the camp was only offered every other year, but starting in 2008, it was offered every year in July with a new theme each year. In 2010, Madhatters created MadLab, an opportunity to do more intense, grittier plays such as girl and Rabbit Hole. Finally, recently, Madhatters agreed to collaborate with the Lamplighters Community Theatre from Staples to present A Walk in the Woods in 2012 and True West in 2014.
The goal of that initial class was to bring quality, live entertainment to the Wadena area and the Madhatters Community Theatre has done that very thing for the past 60 years. We hope to keep live theatre alive for another 60 years.