Theater adds special benefit show

Jennifer and Jake Doth star in the Triumvirate Theatre's parody, "Top Chum."

Suffering from thyroid cancer for about the past two years, Matt Doth of Minnesota remains upbeat despite the prolonged fight, said his brother Jake Doth.


Jake, a Nikiski Middle School teacher, recently acted the lead role for Triumvirate Theatre's "Top Chum."

He said he was excited by the experience, as it was his first time acting in a play. But he was amazed when writer, director and fellow teacher Joe Rizzo offered to organize an extra show to raise money for Matt's cancer treatment.

"It's quite a blessing to for us to do an extra show then give the money to my brother for his bills," Doth said.

The play is a one-time-only extension of Triumvirate Theatre's annual dinner theater, which generally consists of two weekend performances. The extra performance was welcomed by all of the play's actors, Rizzo said.

For the past seven years, Rizzo and colleagues have concocted movie-parody plays for the dinner theater. This year's was a "Top Gun" spin off, a 1986 drama film directed by Tony Scott revolving around a fighter pilot's progress through training school.

Rizzo said he wrote the play's script in about three hours. He and other Triumvirate Theatre associates watched the familiar movie and create scenarios, jokes and concepts.

"It was pretty easy," he said. "We just changed the Top Gun academy to the (Kenai Peninsula College) fishing academy, and everything fell into place."

Instead of pilots the movie depicts maverick fishing guides, aiding fish and game by catching poaching tourists. 

Rizzo's character is an instructor, which isn't far from his profession as a high school teacher. In the movie the instructor's name was Viper, and in the play it was changed to Varmint.

"It was nice, because when you write the show you get to have as many or as few lines as you want," he joked.

The next year's parody is determined directly after the final show, he said. Sitting around after "Top Chum" finished, Doth mentioned a raffle he and his wife were organizing to raise money for his brother.

Within a couple days, Rizzo was proposing an additional show to help raise money. The play was already organized, and more people would come see it as a result, he said.

Doth and his wife, Jessica, were the only two inexperienced actors in the play. Working with Triumvirate Theatre's veterans helped them gain on-stage skills and quash feelings of nervousness, Doth said.

However, he didn't sing in the play.

"Joe really set it up for me to succeed by putting me with people that were talented," he said. "He was also very gentle in that he didn't make me sing."

Doth acts as a cocky, young fishing guide attempting to attract his gorgeous, female instructor. His wife, Jessica, acts as the love interest.

"My wife is beautiful, so it was easy for me to play the guy who wanted to fall in love and get a date with this gal."

Despite the seriousness of the situation that led to the extra show, the cast remained in high spirits. Doth said he wondered if the show would be easier because of the great gesture behind the performance.

Matt has gone through a couple surgeries, and it's likely there are more to come, Doth said. However, the family remains upbeat and believes his brother will be cancer free within five years. But the bills continue to pile up and support is needed.

"The whole community is pulling together their efforts," Doth said. "And my brother lives in Minnesota, so it shows the integrity of the community's folks and how much heart they have."

Rizzo said he believes the show can raise about $1,000 and encourages people who haven't seen "Top Chum" to attend its final night.

The performance is set for Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $10 at the door. A dessert auction will follow the performance.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at