Bound by wild desire: Lititz couple ‘Cashes’ in on love of theater

By on February 19, 2018

“I ended up marrying a girl from Lititz.”

This is the long story short on how actor Justin Droegemueller became a Lititz resident. The Minnesota-born performer met fellow thespian Allison Fund seven years ago, and the two were married in November.

Droegemueller tours nationally and has played in notable shows like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Over the years, he has found he enjoys the sense of community theatre provides him. It took him a while to realize theatre was his calling.

“I have a few (high school) friends who now work professionally in theatre. I didn’t know what I had until I left and I grew up,” said Droegemueller.

Looking back, he didn’t realize how much his high school theatre program benefited from connections with the nearby University of Minnesota, Morris. His alma mater’s theatre program excelled, but after high school he attended South Dakota State University where he majored in mathematics.

“I remember I was sitting in Calculus 3 Physics 2 integrated course in my sophomore year … I waited till the end of class and went and saw my advisor and switched my major right away,” said Droegemueller. “I went to an ag school to learn theatre.”

After a few runs with summer stock programs, Droegemueller got a call from a director hoping to cast the guitar playing actor, and a career started to bloom. Now in Lititz, he is a regular performer at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre. So is his wife, Allison Fund.

“I am from Lititz. I went to Warwick. We’ve traveled all over the place with tours and we were trying to figure out where we wanted to live, and we both really like it (in Lititz). He really liked it a lot. I liked it because I grew up here,” said Fund.

Her first role came in first grade as a peanut selling monkey in her elementary school’s production of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” She immediately wanted to act forever. As a youngster, she connected with the now defunct First Stage Theatre in Lititz where she “really started” and at age 12 she landed a role at the Dutch Apple.

“(Acting) started in school and I found ways to branch out and discover theatre,” said Fund, who eventually attended the Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Conservatory and went on to study Musical Theatre at Montclair State University’s College of the Arts in New Jersey.

During their time touring together the two fell in love and decided to make Lititz their home. Both credit Lancaster County’s abundance of theatre opportunities as a deciding factor, plus the area’s proximity to major cities for other stage auditions. They enjoy visiting local breweries and visiting local specialty shops. The two are also an act called Year of Plenty, which is described as a “two-piece band with a whole lot of love.”

“We play out at local bars … tight two-part harmonies with a coffee shop kind of sound,” said Droegemueller.

“Ukulele and guitar,” said Fund.

Year of Plenty has previously played Loxley’s in Centerville, and the duo plans to add more dates at other venues in April. For the next six weeks, the couple is busy playing in “Ring of Fire” at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre.

THE SHOW

“Ring of Fire,” a jukebox musical detailing the life of country music singer Johnny Cash, opened on Broadway on March 12, 2006. Droegemueller and Fund are principal actors in the Dutch Apple production, which opened Thursday, Feb. 8.

“I’ll be honest, I was not a Johnny Cash fan until I did the show for the first time,” said Fund.

“I’ve always been drawn to the show and the music,” said Droegemueller.

Opening night marked the fourth run of “Ring of Fire” the couple has played in together. In the show, each of the 10 players on the stage embodies the spirit of Johnny Cash and other significant people in his life. Droegemueller is found mainly behind the upright bass and delivering bits of comedic relief, while Fund plays an array of stringed instruments while showcasing her strong vocal ability.

“Every time that I have done it, it is always a little bit different in the instrumentation or song order,” said Droegemueller.

The original production featured six performers acting as Cash incarnate and included 38 songs by the country music legend. The current Dutch Apple production, under the direction of Curt Wollan, plays 32 songs by 10 players.

“It works great. There are so many ways to do this as long as you are telling the same story,” said Wollan. “It’s amazing how (Cash) did music that followed his life … from a happy kid even though they were dirt poor … into his dark period and then he found the Lord.”

Wollan’s favorite part of the show is the beginning section he has deemed “boyhood years,” which takes a more historical, documentary look at Cash’s youth in Arkansas. For Wollan, one of the greatest technical aspects of this current run of “Ring of Fire” is the addition of drummer Brandon T. Miller.

“We have a guy that can really keep a beat … and he’s hysterical,” said Wollan.

“Ring of Fire” is not a typical musical, but it contains all the workings of a classic tale: tragedy, humor, heartache, sadness, joy, and redemption.

“He was a real amazing dude,” said Fund of Cash. “And June Carter Cash was the woman behind the man; and she was amazing, too. They’re a really cool couple.”

She would know.

“We are happy as long as we are making a living doing what we love,” she said of her and Droegemueller. “It’s great to be able to do it together.”

“Ring of Fire” runs at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre now through March 17. Tickets and information about the theatre can be found at dutchapple.com.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *