Artists' Ensemble finds home at Rockford College

At a news conference held in the Cheek Theater at Rockford College, Dr. Paul Pribbenow, president of the college, and John Cobb, president of Artists’ Ensemble, jointly announced an agreement has been reached for the company to have a permanent home in the Clark Arts Center. Having established their credibility and viability as an equity theater, this is the next logical step. Artists’ Ensemble, in its first year, has generated an audience, achieved fiscal stability, and with the announcement on Thursday, Feb. 18, found a permanent performance space. Quite an achievement in so brief a time.

Margaret Raether, when asked about their progress, credited the audiences who became loyal supporters after discovering the quality of every aspect of the theater. Many in the community familiar with company members, looked forward to seeing them in a new venue.

Artists’ Ensemble receives a state-of-the-art facility that includes Maddox Theater, Cheek Theater, a set construction shop, and access to the costume collection. Both theaters are equipped with sound and lighting systems. Rockford College gains a professional theater company in residence.

Dr. Pribbenow initiated several programs involving the college in community affairs. Based on the work of Jane Addams, it gives students and faculty an opportunity to share their skills and talents in outreach. Artists’ Ensemble offers their expertise to students, enabling them to learn every aspect of the profession. When appropriate, they may audition for roles, learn the technical skills, and find mentors in a company with years of experience. Since this is an equity theater, they may even accumulate points toward becoming a member of Actors Equity.

Many members of the company were present at the press conference, Ken and Pat Staaf, Rod MacDonald, Jan Bacino, Margaret Raether, and Rufus Madigan of the Theater Department at Rockford College. Their joy was evident. No longer will sets have to be constructed in Bacino’s garage or dismantled after every performance in a shared space. Artistic Director Richard Raether is in Chattanooga, Tenn., directing a play. Even absent, his intense belief that Artists’ Ensemble would succeed, permeated. Congratulations to Rockford College and Artists’ Ensemble for collaborating on a project that will enrich us all.

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