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Bad Seed Provides Creepy Fun at First Presbyterian Theater

Debuting on Broadway is 1954, Bad Seed told the troubling story of young Rhoda Penmark who, played by Patty McCormack, was as cute as a button. But it becomes clear as the story unfolds things might be much different in reality. The play led to a somewhat alternate take on the story in the cult classic film, released in 1956. The performances of McCormack and Nancy Kelly, who plays Rhoda’s troubled mother and won a Tony for her work in the role, were repeated in the film, and their chemistry in the dark tale is palpable.

Stepping into the demanding role of Rhoda for two weekends at First Presbyterian Theater are two young actresses who will perform on different days, a decision explained by Bad Seed director Kirby Volz.

“Alivia Wheeler was cast as Rhoda,” Volz said. “But even though the whole cast is vaccinated, with COVID I wanted to have an understudy because if there’s no Rhoda, the show can’t continue without her. So Jilian Holub came in as her understudy, but being an understudy is such a thankless job. You do all of the same work but don’t get to get on stage. So Alivia is our main Rhoda, and she’ll perform on the Friday and Saturday evening performances, and Jilian will perform the Sunday matinees. Jilian will also perform in Thursday night’s preview.”

The role of Rhoda is very demanding, and Wheeler is only 12. But having shared the role of Matilda at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre a few seasons ago, she’s clearly up to the task. Rhoda is the kind of character audiences won’t soon forget.

Kirby Volz

“The people around Rhoda don’t realize what’s going on,” Volz said. “She’s such an interesting character, the way she’s written. And Alivia can make her really creepy. There are times at the end of a scene when I can’t believe how creepy it is.”

Volz is a longtime veteran of Fort Wayne theatre and has taught for many years as well. As a parishioner of First Presbyterian Church as a kid, he considers this, his third directing job at the Theater, a return home. And his cast includes new and veteran performers as well, including a friend he’s known for almost 50 years. As a teacher who has directed high school students for many years, he knows that he has cast Rhoda well.

“Both of these girls get it. They understand the role.”

Bad Seed runs at First Presbyterian Theater October 29-November 6. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m. while Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Thursday’s preview will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the show are $16 for adults, $8 for kids and students with ID. Thursday’s preview is free and open to the public. Visit the First Presbyterian Theater box office for tickets or purchase online at

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