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Phillips memories

Former students remember performances in auditorium

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Isaiah Dengen, of Fort Dodge, works on a painting on the stage at the Phillips Auditorium during the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association open house and annual meeting Thursday night. The FDFAA is raising funds to renovate and restore the theater.

The stage in the Phillips Auditorium in the former Phillips Middle School hasn’t seen a scared child trying to remember a few lines of a play in quite some time.

Or one trying to sing on key.

Or one exiting stage right instead of stage left.

It’s probably also been some time since someone set up an easel and painted on the stage, too, but Fort Dodge artist Isaiah Dengen did just that during the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association open house and annual meeting Thursday night.

He was a student there, but managed to avoid the limelight.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Cindy Peterson, of Fort Dodge, stops to snap a photo of the Phillips Auditorium during the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association open house and annual meeting Thursday night as Jim Reed, of Fort Dodge, looks over the seats. The FDFAA is raising funds to renovate and restore the theater.

“I wasn’t in anything,” he said. “I always came to down to watch my classmates, though.”

As the guests mingled on stage and his painting took form, Dengen thought about where it might end up. Perhaps for sale to help the FDFAA in their efforts to restore and renovate the auditorium.

“I’m willing,” he said.

Jim Reed, of Fort Dodge, stood on the stage in costume back in 1977 when he played a character named “Wilber” during a junior high play. It was North Junior High then. He was in ninth grade.

“I was scared to death,” he said. “I was kind of a wall flower when I landed the role. I was scared as hell.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Guests fill the stage Thursday evening during the Phillips Auditorium during the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association open house and annual meeting.

He still remembers one of his lines.

“One of my catch phrases was ‘It’ll shoot a mile,'” he said. “Somebody else would go ‘heck, I’ll shoot two miles.'”

Jerrold Jimmerson, of Fort Dodge, graduated in from Fort Dodge schools in 1962.

“We did all our musicals here,” he said. “During my sophomore year I played in the pit, my junior year it was ‘South Pacific.’ Senior year was ‘The King and I’ and I was back in the pit.”

He feared having a wardrobe malfunction most of all.

“I had a lot of makeup on and a sarong,” he said.

Fortunately, the sarong didn’t fail.

“It never did,” he said.

He looked around the auditorium and scanned the stage.

“It seems small now,” he said.

Cindy Peterson, of Fort Dodge, had three children that attended during the Phillips Middle School years.

It brought back some fun memories.

“They used to have a talent contest,” she said. “My kids were in the contest. It was great.”

While her children’s performances went off without a hitch, she got to be nervous mom in the audience.

“Of course,” she said.

Peterson was happy to see the auditorium still intact after the building’s renovation to apartments.

“I thought it was all gone,” she said. “I’m a very strong supporter. This will be wonderful for Fort Dodge.”

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