In a recent news release, the financial problems of New American Theater (NAT) were detailed. For 10 years, NAT has operated at a loss, and with the dismissal of Richard Raether as artistic director, the publicity surrounding that event contributed to diminished public support. In the Friday, Nov. 14, 2003 issue of the Rockford for the past eight years, the people encountered fill a page. Beginning with the 1982 production of Aint Misbehavin at the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre, my dearest friends became those associated with theater. It was there I met Julian Swain through Dorothy Paige-Turner, an introduction for which I will always be grateful. What amazes is the number of people still working locally. Many were at the beginnings of NAT… Rod MacDonald, Barry Nyquist, Richard and Margaret Raether, Steve Vrtol III, Linda Abronski, and Jan Bacino. Some came later… Gail Dartez, Pat and Ken Staaf, Debbie Dickson, Gordon Odegard, Joe Vaughan, Jack Rabito, Scott Rivers, David Gingerich, Keith Conway, and Charla Mason.
Many more from the Clock Tower went on to work at NAT… Kathy and Jerry Stevens, Nancy Ericson-Dutmer, Janet Bracken, Barb McCaskey, and Jim Radloff. The endless list evolves from deep commitment and respect. The roles shift from actor, stage manager, director, and costumer, forming a rich coalition from which new work grows.
Many have gone on to find success in the wider world, Gary Wingert as an equity actor in Chicago, Josh Burton reviving summer theater at Beloit College, Jessica MacDonald as a playwright for a recent production at Midway Village, joan kole anxiously awaiting word on her acceptance for a Ph.D. based on Seniors participation in local theater, and Carolyn Cadigan as a teacher of drama at Keith Country Day School.
Financial difficulties face every theater in todays uneasy economy. Our wealth of talent makes continuation of viable and exciting performances a reality. We as a community must make it happen.