The ends of calendar years always bring with them a certain amount of reflection, and questions that we find ourselves quietly grappling with. "Did I achieve personal fulfillment and happiness?" "Were there people I improperly appreciated or unintentionally wronged?" "What are we going to do about the Reader's annual year-in-theatre article now that Thom White has moved to Kentucky?!"

I don't mean to alarm you, but during my recent interview with Heather Herkelman, the area performer revealed something shocking and rather upsetting: Hawaii, it turns out, isn't perfect.

Originated in Italy in the 16th Century, the theatrical form commedia dell'arte traditionally finds a group of actors participating in a comedic scenario featuring slapstick conceits called mécanisme. And for his original commedia dell'arte presentation at St. Ambrose University, one fittingly titled Commedia Dell'arte, director Daniel Rairdin-Hale insists that he and his cast have come up with some mécanisme doozies.

Dana Moss-PetersonIn recent years, 36-year-old actor Dana Moss-Peterson has been asked to play several characters far younger than himself.

During flashback scenes in the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's 2013 Death of a Salesman, Moss-Peterson played Biff Loman when he was a high-school senior and local football hero. For more than half of 2011's Leaving Iowa at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre, his Don Browning was a younger teen enduring an excruciating family vacation. In New Ground Theatre's 2012 Mr. Marmalade, the actor - not in flashback - portrayed Larry, a comically morose, suicidal five-year-old. (It's that kind of play.)

Consequently, it makes a sort of sense when Moss-Peterson says his interest in theatre began when he was even younger than Larry.

the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Irving Berlin's White ChristmasIf you're new to this almost-annual recap, what follows is my conversation with Reader theatre reviewer Thom White about the area's stage stage over the past 12 months.

If you're not new to it, you know the drill. Clear some time, grab a snack, and enjoy!

Ballet Quad Cities' The Nutcracker, at the Adler TheatreAs someone who's been privileged to write about local theatre for nearly 10 years now, I can't begin to describe the sheer tonnage* of correspondence I've amassed from people who are curious about upcoming area stage productions. Please allow me, then, this attempt at answering all your questions about the forthcoming winter-theatre season through just a few of the hundreds** of letters, e-mails, and texts I've recently received on this subject***.


*Perhaps an exaggeration.

**Definitely an exaggeration.

***Some of which I may have made up.

Lauren VanSpeybroeck, courtesy of Nick West PhotographyAs with many things in life, it can be blamed on a friendly purple dinosaur.

"It was third grade," says actor Marc Ciemiewicz, recalling his stage debut. "I went to Catholic school, and it was the Christmas pageant, and I was given the solo for my class - 'I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas.' And my mom, to this day, still tells the story of the gentleman in the audience who tried to give me a standing ovation ... but his wife pulled him back down."

ensemble members in Davenport Junior Theatre's 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaFans of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - either the novel or 1954's live-action Disney movie - should be excited to attend Davenport Junior Theatre's debuting stage version of the adventure classic, running February 15 through 23. Just as long, says playwright Aaron Randolph III, as those 20,000 Leagues fans aren't also 20,000 Leagues purists.

Cara Chumbley, Lora Adams, Brad Hauskins, and Rachelle Walljasper in Things My Mother Taught MeAnother year of area stage productions has come and gone, and wanting to try something different this December, Reader theatre reviewer Thom White and I thought we'd bypass our traditional, end-of-year postmortem in favor of an alternate approach: requesting 100-words-or-fewer submissions from our readers on what people found particularly memorable about the 2013 stage scene. "It'll be something new!" we thought. "It'll be exciting! It'll be filled with fresh voices that aren't ours!" And, I must admit, we were dazzled with the overall response.

Well, "dazzled" may be overstating it.

Hmmm ... what's the word I'm looking for ... ?

"Mortified," maybe ... ?