Starlighters II Theatre came into the world in the spring of 1974 in Monticello, Iowa as the brainchild of high school student Ron Ketelsen. Ron's desire to have more opportunities for individuals to participate in theatre in the community of Monticello led him to his decision to try to start a community theatre. Such a move would expand theatre in Monticello beyond the walls of the high school auditorium.
Ron's first move was to enlist the support of Bob Furino, a senior at Upper Iowa University, who was student teaching at Shannon Elementary in Monticello. At the time, Ron was also working at Shannon school as a teacher's assistant, a program developed to give a taste of teaching to high school students interested in pursuing a career in education. Having written a musical theatre production and radio theatre presentations that had been performed at the university, Bob found himself immediately interested in Ketelsen's plan, and the two shared ideas on how to make the theatre idea become a reality.
The move turned out to be a fortuitous one, as the combined membership made for a strong and progressive new group. During the six years to follow, under the strong and imaginative leadership of Hoffman and Smith, Starlighters II staged twenty-six productions beginning with "The Sound Of Music," the theatre's first musical. It was the first show to be presented in both Anamosa and Monticello. The production weekend for "The Sound of Music" proved to be a monumental undertaking, never duplicated by the theatre since then. The show was staged at the Monticello High School auditorium on Friday and Saturday nights. The set was struck after the Saturday night performance. Sunday morning the set was transported to the Anamosa Junior High School auditorium and reconstructed. A full-scale dress rehearsal was performed Sunday afternoon, and the production was staged Sunday and Monday night, with the set being struck and returned to storage after the Monday night show.
Starlighters II reached another milestone on February 15, 1979. On that date, the troupe achieved non-profit status under section 501 (c) (3) of the U.S. Code of Law. This was culmination of a long quest to attain the level of a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation. Starlighters II, Inc. was born!
From 1978 to 1983 Starlighters II moved ahead at a frantic pace, producing an average of nearly five shows a year. Towards the end of this period of expansion, however, the theatre suffered a tragic loss with the sudden death of Emil Prull. Some time before that, Ron Ketelsen had been lured out of Iowa by a job opportunity, and the other founder, Bob Furino, had seen his involvement severely curtailed by the expansion of his job commitments helping to build a fast-growing computer program at Monticello's elementary schools. In 1983 the Board of Directors also suffered the loss of its visionary leaders of the last half-decade, Tom Hoffman and Ron Smith, whose occupational promotions took them out of the area.
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