I always love seeing the plays at Augustana College for the acting skill, detailed and appropriate set designs, and beautifully constructed costumes and props. The musical Quilters - which finishes a two-week run this weekend - is no exception, with an ensemble of seven vocally talented women, live keyboard and fiddle players, and an elaborate display of at least 30 quilts hand-made by Augustana students and faculty.
They said it would be short, and they meant it. Clocking in at just under 45 minutes, last weekend's production of Augustana College's annual Short Play Festival was a collaboration of four student producers and featured Tony Kushner's script East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis.
With bright, rainbow wardrobes and electric intensity, the 12-person Opera @ Augustana ensemble of Godspell resembled a contemporary (and Christian) version of Hair. The vibrant student actors last weekend filled Wallenberg Hall at Augustana College with the spirit of music and tromped about the stage praising God and engaging hundreds of audience members with optimistic songs.

With The Primitive opening this weekend, New Ground Theatre is doing something it's never tried before, and director Chris Jansen is very excited. The Primitive "is a charming romantic comedy!" she said.

What is truth? This is an age-old question, pondered by millions of people over the centuries. According to the story of Rashomon, truth lies in the eye of the beholder. As the wigmaker in the story says, "People see what they want to see, and say what they want to hear." Unlike many other treatments of the question of truth, Rashomon does not expose truth as absolute; it explores truth as a constantly shifting abstract idea, based solely on the perceptions of humans.
The office of Steve Bahls, the new president of Augustana College, is filled with images of Themis, the goddess of Justice. That's no surprise, because Bahls came to Augustana after nine years as dean of the Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.

At the end of an interview last week, Bahls showed off one particular image: a print of Justice by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from the 16th Century. In it, Themis - blindfolded and holding her scales - is surrounded by all manner of bad behavior, including torture. "She has no idea what's going on," he said of Themis.

Bahls wants to ensure that the same can't be said of Augustana College, the private Lutheran liberal-arts college in Rock Island. The new president, who replaced retiring President Thomas Tredway on July 1, is committed to making Augustana College, its faculty, and its 2,200 students active participants and leaders in the community. There will be no Augustana ivory tower on his watch.

Bahls' tenure at the Capital University law school, also a Lutheran institution, suggests that he'll stay true to that vision.

If there's a show that will make people question their thoughts and ideas about racism, it's Spinning Into Butter, continuing this weekend at Augustana College in a production by New Ground Theatre.

Even though the organization has only staged two plays in its first year, New Ground Theatre chooses to measure success by quality more than quantity. And New Ground has been rising after being started last year by a woman with an idea and funding from local organizations.

Compared to Chicago or even to Iowa City, the Quad Cities' contemporary-theatre base is practically nonexistent. But that could change with the help of one of the area's newest drama groups. With only two staged plays under its belt, the New Ground Theatre Company is already living up to its name.