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March 12, 2013
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The people set 'The Foreigner' apart

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - An all-star cast of local actors who enjoy working with one another make "The Foreigner," now being performed at the Snowmass Chapel.

"The Foreigner" is a comedy play about a socially awkward man who pretends not to speak English so that he can have some peace and quiet while staying at a fishing lodge in Georgia - and then overhears more than he should. The Snowmass Chapel is hosting the play two nights a week through March 23.

The way people react to someone from another country is something all too familiar to Michael Schoepe, an actor from Germany who is playing the title character, Charlie Baker.

"The things that happen to him as a foreign person are very common," Schoepe said. "It's kind of funny to slip into that role."

"My character is a character with a big journey through the play," Schoepe said. "He starts out as a very shy person. Throughout the play he basically discovers ... his own strengths. At the end, he has to rise to the occasion."

Schoepe first heard about the play because chapel music director Paul Dankers, also acting in the play, sent him an audio recording of it while he was still living overseas.

"It was one of the first things I ever listened to in English," he said. "Now that we can bring it out on stage, it's a wonderful opportunity."

Schoepe said one of his favorite things about this play is the cast.

"It's just such a fun time with these people," he said. "We had a ball at the rehearsals."

Cast member Wendy Perkins expressed a similar sentiment. Perkins plays Betty Meeks, the owner of the Georgia fishing lodge where the play is set. She has acted in the Roaring Fork Valley since the early 1980s and said she enjoyed getting to work with some new people for this play.

Acting again also has been therapeutic for Perkins, who just recently underwent treatment for breast cancer. "The Foreigner" is her first play since then.

"This is kind of my coming-out back into the theater," Perkins said. "It's been a wonderful process. ... It's like riding a bike; you have to get back on it."

Betty Meeks is "backwoods Georgia," Perkins said, and she is "just tickled that she actually has a foreigner in her home."

Meanwhile, Charlie builds up relationships with the other people in the lodge.

"That builds them up and makes them happy and needed," Perkins said.

Dankers produces a play at the chapel every winter. Because of sponsorships, he is able to pay the actors for performing in the free play.

"It's not much," he said. "But it allows me to attract some of the best actors in the valley."

Dankers has wanted to put "The Foreigner" on for some time.

"It's funny," he said. "It's dramatic. It hits your heart. It hits you on every level."

The characters are "so real," he said. "These are real people that you can play completely real, ... and it just cracks you up."

"The Foreigner" was directed by Wendy Moore and then Graham Northrup, of Theatre Aspen, when Moore had to leave to start on another production. It is Moore's 50th project since retiring.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Mar 14, 2013 04:06PM Published Mar 12, 2013 05:38PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.