Artists' Ensemble kicks off second season Sept. 9

Area favorites Stephen F. Vrtol III and Linda Abronski square off on opposite sides of a marital battlefield in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the opening play of Artists’ Ensemble’s (AE) second season.

“Albee’s ‘evening of fun and games with George and Martha’ is brilliant, brutal, often hilarious, and finally unforgettable,” said AE Artistic Director Richard Raether.

AE, now in full-time residence at Rockford College, kicks off its second season Sept. 9-18 in the Clark Arts Center on campus, expanding both the number of plays offered and the number of performances for each production.

Just in time for the holidays, AE will present Tom Dudzik’s comedy, Greetings. The Gorski family is a middle-class Polish Catholic family in Pittsburgh eagerly preparing for the arrival of their son, Andy, now living in New York. Andy is home for Christmas, and he’s brought his fianceé to meet the folks. Complications follow. “And not the ones you expect,” laughs Raether. “There are some very unique curve balls in this play.”

Barry Nyquist plays the irascible dad, Phil Gorski, and David Gingerich takes on the role of his son, Andy. Greetings performs Dec. 2-18.

When writer Barbara Ehrenrich decided to go undercover and write a first-person account of life at the bottom of the food chain, the result was her bestselling book, Nickel and Dimed, an account of her struggle to get by on minimum wage. Artists’ Ensemble will stage Joan Holden’s stage adaptation of Nickel and Dimed March 24-April 9. Linda Abronski plays Barbara, the writer keeping a journal of her life as a waitress, a motel maid, a nursing home assistant, a house cleaner, and a sales clerk in a discount department store. With a potent mixture of humor and social outrage, this is a play filled with insight, wry wit and passion for the plight of the working poor.

Three Victorian lady explorers set off to conquer the unknown in Eric Overmeyer’s On the Verge (or the Geography of Yearning). Much to the ladies’ amazement, and the audience’s amusement, they discover they are somehow time traveling into the future in this whimsical, offbeat comedy featuring Pat Staaf as the leader of the expedition.

“I fell in love with this play,” said Raether. “It is a charmer that is all about embracing the unknown.”

On the Verge closes the AE season May 12-28.

Artists’ Ensemble has one more show to wrap up its premiere season. Over the River and Through the Woods by Joe DiPietro plays May 20-29 in Rockford College’s Cheek Theatre. The play showcases Ensemble members Jan Bacino, Rod MacDonald, Ken Staaf and Pat Staaf. Tickets to this affectionate comedy can be purchased by calling the AE box office at 391-5111. Following this play, ticket sales for future productions will be handled through Rockford College’s box office.

AE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization, operating under agreement with Actors Equity Association, the professional union for actors and stage managers. Tickets for AE’s second season are on sale now and may be purchased through the Rockford College box office at 226-4100.

From the Sept. 7-13, 2005, issue

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