Theater-goers will see a new face on the Pequot Lakes stage in the musical "My Fair Lady," which opens Friday, Nov. 10.
Mark Liedl, of Ideal Township, is set to hit the stage for his first play with Pequot Lakes Community Theatre. He isn't, however, a newcomer to acting. Liedl started in the arts in his hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
"I acted in high school, which was a lot of fun," he said. "And I was an athlete - football, basketball - and also did theater, which was quite unusual, but I really loved it."
Liedl carried on acting into the first part of his college career at the University of Minnesota but eventually decided to drop it and focus on his political science major.
For the next several years, acting took a backseat in Liedl's life as he moved to Washington, D.C.; worked on Capitol Hill; went to University of Georgetown law school; had five sons; and moved around for various other jobs.
In Washington, Liedl worked for three years with the Senate and then moved onto the Heritage Foundation - a conservative think tank - while he attended law school at night. He then transferred to the Department of Justice, where he was an assistant U.S. attorney and special counsel to a U.S. attorney.
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'My Fair Lady'
- When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 10-11 and 17-18; and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 12 and 19.
- Where: Pequot Lakes High School auditorium.
- Tickets: $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and up, $10 for youth 18 and under. Visit www.glapa.info or call 218-568-9200 for tickets. Credit cards are accepted.
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The Midwest eventually called Liedl back, and he moved his five sons and then-wife to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1992, where he worked as communications director and special counsel for federal relations for former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. Liedl added the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to his resume while there.
"My degree was in political science, so I was very interested in government and how it works," Liedl said of his many years in politics. "I'm interested in making government more efficient, less costly and more responsive to working men and women."
Liedl carried that interest over to Minnesota when he moved to Breezy Point in 2000. "I wanted to raise my children in a more rural environment like I had grown up in," he said.
After a three-year stint as assistant county attorney in Crow Wing County, Liedl switched gears and opened Culver's in Baxter. The Bemidji restaurant followed a few years later.
In 2007, he found his way back to the county, where he worked as a consultant, land services director and interim director for the Social Services Department for Crow Wing County. During that time, Liedl also spent six years on the Pequot Lakes School Board. He was elected county recorder in 2014 and will fill that role until his term is up at the end of 2018.
Though Liedl has held a wide variety of jobs within government, politics and the food industry, there's one constant aspect he has liked about each role.
"I enjoy challenges," he said. "I enjoy going into a situation, whether it's in the private sector or the public sector, looking at how it's working and finding ways to make it work better. ... I enjoy immensely mentoring people, teaching people what I know so that they're better than me, giving people an opportunity to learn what people have taught me."
When his busy life slowed down about three years ago, Liedl turned back to acting.
"I decided, 'Well, I'm going to try this again,'" he said.
His first production was a brief reader's theater performance at Central Lakes College's Jon Hassler Festival, a tribute to the Minnesota author and former CLC professor.
Liedl then went on to act in "Ten November," "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Last Christmas" and "Little Women" with Stage North Theatre in Brainerd.
During the last three years, he has also taken part in Geritol Frolics, a musical variety show performed at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd by men and women age 55 and older.
His newest endeavor is the role of Professor Henry Higgins in the Pequot Lakes Community Theatre production of "My Fair Lady," which will be staged the next two weekends.
Higgins is a haughty professor who comes upon Eliza Doolittle selling flowers on the street and bets that he can pass her off as a duchess in six months.
"Professor Higgins is pretty complex. On the surface he's really quite arrogant. And the things that he says ... are quite insensitive," Liedl said. "But at the same time, he has a big heart. He really does. He wants to succeed with Eliza and this project because it's a great challenge for him."
Liedl enjoys playing the energetic Higgins and is excited about the play as a whole.
"There's not a weak role in the entire play," he said. "The performers are very strong in all of the roles, so it should be an excellent, excellent play."
The actor doesn't know where the theater will take him next, but he will likely hit the stage in the future.
"I can't imagine not doing it again," he said of theater.
Liedl also hopes to encourage more people to get involved with acting.
"I just think there are so many talented people in our area. It would just be so wonderful if people would just give it a try," he said. "And the performing arts are a wonderful vehicle for human expression. ... You feel like you have an opportunity to convey feelings and emotions to people, wherever they are - powerful feeling and emotion - and put smiles on people's faces."