DUNMORE — Murder. Prostitution. Terrorism. Corruption.
This year’s Dunmore Cemetery Tour, titled, “Criminal Intent,” is about anything and everything related to crime.
Beginning at 2 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 4 and 11, the Dearly Departed Players will present the walking tour with 20 costumed stops throughout the cemetery. Admission is free.
A mix of history, humor and the arts, the production is written and directed by Julie Esty, of Scranton, and performed by a regional cast of 17 actors and actresses, ranging in ages 8 to 77. This year, the Dearly Departed Players will be joined by Kuhn’s Classic Memories, from the Charles M. Noll Funeral Home in South Williamsport, with its Victorian horse-drawn hearse; students from Act Out Theater, The University of Scranton theater and The Ezra Griffin Camp, Sons of Union Veterans.
Wendy Belaski, of South Abington Township, became involved with the Dearly Departed players at the invitation of a friend about eight years ago.
“It’s so much fun to be someone else,” she said. “And also to know how their story ended, see that they were really no different than you or I am. We just have different technology than they did. And they have their secrets, too, just like we do.”
She also enjoys seeing other characters come to life through the skills of her fellow players.
In addition to Etsy and Belaski, the full cast includes Karl Barbee, of Springbrook Township; Megan Esty, of Scranton; Elisabeth Johnson, of Scranton; Bri Kelley, of Newton, New Jersey; Roger Mattes, of Nicholson; Phoebe Mattes, of Nicholson; Nancy McDonald, of Dunmore; Christine McGeachie, of Jessup; Laura Miceli, of Scranton; Jennifer Ochman, of Pittston; Jim Patterson, of Moscow; Maria Poggi-Johnson, of Scranton; S. Robert Powell, of Carbondale; Latrice Smith, of Philadelphia and Nelson Wood, of Scranton.
“What’s amazing to me is, when you first read it (the script), it’s a nice story, but when somebody performs it, when one of the players gets a hold of it, it becomes alive,” Belaski said. “They put in their own little personality and give the person that they’re talking about personality, and I find that really fascinating.”
“We’re bringing back the dead,” Etsy added. “It’s a nifty form, you could say, of reincarnation.”
One person who is “reincarnated” in this year’s tour is former Scranton Police Department Superintendent Lona B. Day, to whom this year’s show is dedicated. According to Etsy, Day served with the department from 1902-1922. His personal life was a difficult one, with three marriages, each ending in the death of his wife. In addition, he went through the loss of a young daughter.
“So, you have to keep in mind that this guy keeps going, doing his job, and he’s got children, he’s got that heartache of losing spouses,” Etsy said. “And during Lona Day’s tenure, the Scranton Police Department thrived.”
Although many topics addressed in the monologues are of a “weighty” nature, Etsy said the event is appropriate for all ages and the group still manages to throw in a good dose of humor where appropriate.
The players also have a few tricks and surprises up their sleeves, to keep people on their toes.
“Sometimes, somebody that you don’t expect will run out — because, you know, why not? — and just stop everybody right in the middle of nowhere,” Etsy said, with Belaski adding, “You never know who might be in the crowd.”
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Etsy continued. “And especially in this tour, since it (the theme) is crime. Everybody needs to be mindful of their wallets and their purses and their belongings.”
“And their jewelry,” Belaski said. “Especially their jewelry.”
Even with all the fun and games, the players strive to maintain an element of respect for the dead during the tour.
“Even though they are gone, they still matter,” Etsy said of the people whose true stories make up the script. She added she doesn’t write anything in the script she wouldn’t want someone saying while standing on her own grave.
“Even though these are crime stories, they have been addressed in a very, I feel, respectful manor. You always have to have respect for them. They were somebody who was loved, somebody who loved. They’re not just stones; they were somebody.”
“They were flesh and blood,” Belaski added. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes have some fun with them.”
“And they can have some fun with us, too,” Etsy said, laughing. “Sometimes I think they do have fun with us.”