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Doing it for all the right reasons

Cartoon by Kevin Holten

Have you ever volunteered or given of your time for an hour, an afternoon, a day or week and expected nothing in return? I’m sure you have, even if it was just to help a friend, girlfriend, sister or daughter move into a dorm room or out of an old, beat-up house and into a new one.

If you have, you know that it can be a lot of work, give you a sore back or a hernia, and it can also be fun and rewarding.

Whatever the case, sometimes it’s like a dentist appointment, funeral, parent/teacher’s conference or trip to the in-laws; a period of time you’d rather spend doing something else, even if that includes being stalled at the top of a Ferris wheel.

According to Mr. Dictionary, a volunteer is someone who performs a service willingly and without pay. The “without pay” part of the definition is certainly accurate but the “willingly” part can be a bit of a gray area. After all, plenty of volunteers volunteer begrudgingly or have to be sold on the idea. Nevertheless, the bottom line is they get it done and that’s all that matters.

Some years ago, a group of us were sitting around after work sipping on a few toxic beverages and someone said, “We should create a community theater group and put on plays, live radio broadcasts and concerts in an old building downtown that can provide an intimate setting during the chilly months of the year.”

“Good idea,” said another, and soon thereafter Sneak Pique Productions was born. Since then several plays, live radio broadcasts and concerts have entertained the Dickinson masses upstairs at the old Odd Fellows Lodge in downtown Dickinson.

Well, not exactly the masses since it only holds 60 people for each show, but all of them have certainly laughed heartily, heard a wide range of fantastic musicians and spent more time in downtown Dickinson than they would have otherwise and that was the purpose.

That’s right. It wasn’t all about making money.

Instead, it was to give Dickinsonites and people of the region something really fun to do, bring people together, raise money for scholarships and other good causes, and get all of us strolling up and down the streets of downtown again, and it has done all of that.

But it could never have happened without the actors who give us so many of their nights and weeks to make it happen; rehearsing and fine-tuning their lines and timing, like a chef preparing a fabulous meal, for you to enjoy and savor forever.

I know. I have the best seat in the house because I make sure the posters get done, run ads on radio and see that as many of you as possible get a chance to participate.

I also watch a bunch of rehearsals, see the actors become friends, see the whole cast become a family, watch the plays come together and see audiences go home happy. It’s incredible to watch it all evolve.

Sometimes, after a performance, when everyone is long gone, I will sit in the theater by myself with the stage lights still on and live the experience all over again; basking in the energy and ambiance, laughter and memories left behind by those volunteers and realize that it is nothing short of a small miracle.

Sitting there, I find myself chuckling again, sometimes laughing out loud and sometimes I even get a few tears in my eyes.

You see, it’s hard to appropriately thank our volunteers for what they give to you and me, to the students who need scholarships, to the kids who can’t afford dance lessons and to people who are new in town and don’t know what to do.

In fact, some of the “new in town” people are part of the cast and have helped us build the sets.

So I want to thank those volunteers and I want to invite you to enjoy their work from Nov. 14-16 when Sneak Pique Productions puts on its next play, “Nana’s Naughty Knickers,” a great one to see if you love to laugh.

Sure, you can call this an advertisement if you want and yet, while you are sitting there enjoying the play, please remember it’s not that volunteers don’t get paid because they are worthless.

Volunteers don’t get paid because they are priceless.

If ynou would like to attend “Nana’s Naughty Knickers,” please visit and buy a $10 ticket online or call 701-590-3532 for reservations.

Holten is the manager of The Drill and a columnist for The Dickinson Press. Email him at