Five Inspiring Ensembles

Powerful lead performances and scene-stealing supporting turns are always welcome; one- and two-character shows can be a gas. But for my money, nothing quite beats the theatrical pleasure of watching a tightly knit ensemble in action, and the following five productions ensured that this pleasure was a continual one.

 

Glengarry Glen Ross' Michael Kennedy, Aaron Randolph III, Daniel DP Sheridan, Tristan Tapscott, Louis Hare, and David FurnessBefore turning my attention to the area-theatre scene, allow me a moment to address another favorite topic: me.

I seem to have caused some confusion after announcing that I'd no longer be reviewing theatre for the Reader, at least based on how many people have approached me asking variations on, "What are you going to do now?!" (Eventually, I had to go back to the Reader's online call-for-entry to make sure I didn't mistakenly announce that I was quitting or got canned.)

Duffy Hudson as Edgar Allan Poe in In the Shadow of the Raven"It must have been around Halloween," recalls actor/playwright Duffy Hudson. "I was nine, and my father came into my room and started reading 'The Raven' to me. And I remember thinking, 'What the heck is this story about? What's this bird doing in this guy's room? And who is Lenore?'

Olympia DukakisIn the years since she received a 1988 Academy Award for Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis has appeared in more than four dozen feature films, television movies, and miniseries, and has continued to be a widely respected theatre actor and director. So it seems somehow prophetic that her illustrious career began, as she says during a recent phone interview, with a production that blended the stage and celluloid.

Tom Dugan in Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi HunterIn 2007, when Los Angeles-based actor/playwright Tom Dugan was first booked as a Quad City Arts Visiting Artist, it was as the star of his self-written, one-character performance piece Robert E. Lee: Shades of Gray. When he returned as a Visiting Artist in 2008, it was as the author and director of another one-man show, Frederick Douglass: In the Shadow of Slavery.

Now, with Broadway director Jenny Sullivan at the helm, Dugan returns for his third stint with Quad City Arts in Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi Hunter, another solo vehicle that the busy stage and film actor both wrote and stars in. And, it should go without saying, Dugan recognizes that audiences hesitant about attending productions on the Civil War and slavery may be even more leery of one concerning the Holocaust.

"When anyone is preparing to go see this," says Dugan during a recent phone interview, "I'm sure there's this feeling like, 'Aw, man ... do I want to sit through this?' And I'll tell you, when I sat down to write the play, I thought, 'Aw, man ... do I wanna write this play?'"

Kathi Osborne, Carrie Saloutos, and Jessica Swersey in Circa '21's Mid-Life! The Crisis MusicalAt last count, there were a whopping 46 area-theatre productions scheduled between September and December, and included among the titles are A Dog's Life, The Big Funk, Scrooge!, Don't Hug Me, and Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical. It's the season that my editor, Jeff, has been waiting for!

Bryan Tank and Angela Rathman in Rabbit Hole rehearsalsDavid Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama, one year after winning a Best Actress Tony Award for Sex & the City star Cynthia Nixon. A movie adaptation is currently being filmed, starring Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Dianne Wiest.

When Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre opens its presentation of Lindsay-Abaire's acclaimed play on August 13, it will feature popular local performers Jessica Nicol, Denise Yoder, and Susan Perrin-Sallak, and boast direction by Bryan Tank, much admired for his work in such Quad City Music Guild productions as Jekyll & Hyde, Evita, and the recent All Shook Up.

And, as Tank himself understands, Richmond Hill's Rabbit Hole is still no slam dunk.

Xavier Marshall and Curtis Lewis in A Raisin in the Sun"Literally thousands of people have come through this building to perform on our stage," says Craig Michaels, past president of the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's board of directors. "But without demeaning or belittling any of the work that's been done here over the years, I was finding that I didn't feel the entire community was properly represented within our building, both on our stage and behind the scenes."

The following is the Friday, June 26 broadcast of WVIK's "Midweek Week," with host Herb Trix discussing the area's summer-theatre season with the River Cities' Reader's Mike Schulz. "Midwest Week" can be heard weekly on WVIK 90.3 FM - Augustana Public Radio, Fridays at 6:50 p.m.

Friday, June 26: mp3

Don Wooten in Lincoln Park"We were looking for a name for the group," says Genesius Guild founder Don Wooten, "and I knew of a play called The Comedian, which was about St. Genesius, who was the patron saint of actors. So I called it Genesius Guild. But no such person ever lived. I just thought it was wonderful for actors to have an imaginary patron saint."

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