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Lake Country Faces: English teacher acts out one of her favorite books - Johnson to make Pequot Lakes stage debut

Characters involved in mysterious deaths are all suspects in “And Then There Were None,” as they cast suspicious eyes on each other. The cast includes (from left, seated), Pete Herzog, Liz Berg, Phylipe Bell, Karla Johnson and Jen Anderson; (from left, standing) Isaak Anderson, Larry Petrone, Eddie Binda, Gary Binda, Ben Gordon and Travis Chaput. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Submitted Photo Vera Claythorne (Karla Johnson) prepares to pull the trigger on Philip Lombard (Eddie Binda) in “And Then There Were None,” the murder mystery presented by Pequot Lakes Community Theatre.2 / 2

Suspense, drama, thrill. Agatha Christie's sinister novel "And Then There Were None" has it all. It even has enough to call Karla Johnson - English teacher and theater director - back to the stage after a several-year hiatus from acting.

The play adaptation of "And Then There Were None" - also written by Christie - is Pequot Lakes Community Theater's latest production. When news that one of her favorite books was set to hit the stage, Johnson couldn't help but audition. This play will be her debut on the Pequot Lakes stage.

"I've always wanted to play Vera (Claythorne)," she said. "It's honestly - it sounds cliche - but like a dream come true."

The strong-willed, determined Vera is a 20-something secretary accused of killing a child. She and the other main characters are lured to a house on an island, where they're all accused of committing some sort of crime.

"Right away the characters start dying off, and then you're just trying to figure out who the murderer is," Johnson said. "So it's suspenseful."

Johnson will be able to add the suspenseful "And Then There Were None" to the list of productions she has acted in, which includes personal favorites like "The Crucible" and "Seussical."

"I love becoming someone else on stage," Johnson said of her theater work. "And I guess I've just always been attracted to that because it's not you, it's a character. And it's really thrilling pretending to be someone else, even just for two hours a day."

In the years between high school and coming back to the stage for "And Then There Were None," Johnson worked her way up to her current post as English teacher at Brainerd High School, where she has been for the past six years. After starting in Andover, Johnson went to the College of St. Benedict, where she majored in English and minored in education. Next she went on to Southwest Minnesota State University for her master's in education.

While teaching at Brainerd, Johnson has also done some behind-the-scenes theater work and directed 15 of the high school's plays. Her current production in the works is "Grease," which joins others like "Noises Off" and "August: Osage County," two of her most memorable director projects.

When away from the theater, Johnson likes to travel and is hoping to take a group of students on a tour of London, Wales and Ireland during spring break in 2019. The trip would be through EF Education Tours, and the students would get to see shows while exploring Ireland and the United Kingdom.

"It's fun ... for students to experience a place outside the U.S. and just to be exposed to different cultures and different ideas," she said.

It's never too late to be exposed to new ideas, including theater, which is what Johnson wants the community to know.

"There's one actor who's in 'And Then There Were None,' and he's a middle-aged man. He's only been in four shows, but he started (acting) as a middle-aged man," she said. "I think if anyone is interested in becoming part of the theater, whether acting or lights or sound or tech crew, that they shouldn't be afraid of it because you can start anytime."

SIDEBAR:

"And Then There Were None"

What: Pequot Lakes Community Theater production

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 16-17 and 23-24; 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 18 and 25.

Where: Pequot Lakes High School auditorium

Tickets: $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and over, $10 for youth 18 and under.

For more information or to buy tickets, call Pequot Lakes Community Education at 218-568-9200 or go to www.glapa.info.