Rick Frazier (Col. Mustard), left, explains his pistol to Marlene Engel (Mrs. Peacock) in a rehearsal scene from Clue, the Musical to be presented at Dakota Stage in Bismarck. "It's a game without an intermission," said LaDonna Carpenter, music director for the play with a cast of six men and two women. Clue, the Musical opens October 5.

Tom Stromme, Tribune

Dakota Stage will kick off its 39th season with seven performances of "Clue, the Musical," beginning Oct. 5.

"We wanted this season to be bright and colorful," said Emmalee Riegler, theater director. "We really wanted to celebrate after last winter, with all the snow and cold. We're really excited for season 39, in which we'll be focusing on laughter and having a lot of fun."

"Clue" is based on the Parker Brothers board game, in which players must solve the mystery of who murdered Mr. Boddy, in what room and with what weapon.

"The audience gets to play along each night so, each night, the show will be different," Riegler said. "It's kind of a whirlwind for the actors."

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-14, with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Oct. 15.

Dakota Stage puts on five community shows each year — two in the fall and three in the spring. Later this fall, audience members will step back in time to the golden age of radio with several performances of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."

In this holiday classic, an angel is sent from heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would've been like if he never existed.

“This one really engages the holiday spirit," Riegler said. “We’ll only have a few actors on the stage at one time, and they’ll be changing their voices to portray all the roles. A sound effects person will be onstage, as well, crunching corn flakes to mimic the sound of crunching through the snow."

Performances of "It's a Wonderful Life" will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 7-9, with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Dec. 10.

Dakota Stage Ltd., a nonprofit organization, has teamed up with local artists since 1979, bringing the culture and creativity of theater productions to Bismarck-Mandan.

"We like to be a spot for the community to gather and experience the arts and have fun in downtown Bismarck," Riegler said. "We really try to focus on the community we’re in and embrace that community and engage them more directly. That’s really our focus and what, I feel, makes us pretty special.”

"Things My Mother Taught Me" takes the stage in January. Written in the style of Neil Simon, this modern family comedy follows the journey of Olivia and Gabe, who travel halfway across the country to start a new life together in Chicago. Once there, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

"The couple arrives in Chicago and they end up getting a chair stuck in the doorway so they can't move in," Riegler said. "It gets very silly, it's sweet and it's fun."

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-4, with a 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 5.

Next up is the Tony Award-winning comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," which tells the story of a dysfunctional family.

While Vanya and Sonia stayed home to care for their ailing parents, sister Masha traveled the world, acting. But as her fame begins to fade, so does her bank account. Masha then swoops in with her boyfriend, Spike, threatening to sell the family home and sending the normally quiet house into utter upheaval.

“It’s witty, well-written and keeps you on your toes,” Riegler said. “And the characters are so realistic.”

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. March 15-17 and March 22-24, with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for March 25.

The final production of the season is "Opera Comique," a witty farce set in 1875 Paris. Rather than watching the opera, "Carmen," unfolding onstage, audience members are busy creating a scandal all their own at the Opera Comique.  

"Set at an opera house, everyone in the audience is so focused on themselves, they're missing out on what's happening onstage," Riegler said. "It's quite fun."

Catch "Opera Comique" at 7:30 p.m. May 3-5 and May 10-12, with a 2 p.m. matinee May 13.

Each season's productions are selected by a committee made up of nine actors, directors, designers and audience members, as well as one Dakota Stage board member.

“The committee takes into great consideration what our audience, actors and producers would enjoy,” Riegler said. “They put in a lot of time to create a season we can all be excited about.”

Next year, Dakota Stage plans to intentionally repeat a production or two from previous years in celebration of its 40th season.

Throughout this season, audience members will vote for their favorite out of three past productions, with the winner making the season 40 playbill.

In addition to the five community shows each year, Dakota Stage offers three comedy nights each spring and fall.

All performances take place at the Dakota Stage Theater, 412 E. Main Ave.

For more information, visit www.dakotastageltd.com.