Local playwrights present new plays Oct. 21-23 at Artists’ Ensemble

Staff Report

Get a cup of coffee and have a seat at a table. The playwright greets the audience and talks about his/her inspiration for writing the play. Then, a group of professional actors takes the stage, scripts in hand, and performs the play — no set, no costumes, just the playwright’s words and the actors’ talent. Following the performance, join the conversation with the playwright, director and actors.

This is New Play Café, a new program at Artists’ Ensemble (AE), the professional theater in residence at Rockford College. The goal is to assist playwrights in shaping and fine-tuning their scripts, and giving the audience a chance to be a part of the process.

Get a sneak peek at the next great American play. To kick off this new program, Artists’ Ensemble will have three exciting plays, all by local professional writers.

New Play Café performs in the Cheek Theatre at Rockford College.

Following are details about the three plays to be presented by New Play Café :

The Shakespeare Conspiracy, by Ted Bacino and Rufus Cadigan, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21 (theater talk with the playwrights begins at 7:15 p.m.) — Based on Ted Bacino’s novel, this is a wild romp through gay Elizabethan England filled with comedy, intrigue, murder and an illicit love story. (For more about the novel, go to http://www.theshakespeareconspiracy.com/.)

How could William Shakespeare become England’s greatest playwright, virtually overnight, when he had never written anything before and was merely a nameless actor? How could Christopher Marlowe, a known spy and the previous reigning playwright in England, be suspiciously murdered and quickly buried in an unmarked grave — just days before he was to be tried for treason?

A brilliant masterpiece, historical fiction at its best! Ted Bacino, has not only written an excellent read, he has also given the reader thoughts to ponder.” — Book Buzz

The Right Thing, by Ken Staaf, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22 (theater talk with playwright begins at 7:15 p.m.) — Ernest Swanson’s life of secrets and twisted rationale for years have divided his family. At his 75th birthday, gifts from his sons and personal treasures from his past release the ghosts that have haunted him and that still divide his family. This is the story of a simple man, an immigrant to this country, who saw his dreams dashed by a depression, his family confronted by humiliating obstacles, and his struggles tested to hold his family together, eventually finding answers he never expected to find.

Jeeves Takes a Bow, by Margaret Raether, 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23 (theater talk with the playwright begins at 1:45 p.m.) — The third installment of Margaret Raether’s adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse stories finds Bertie Wooster and his Valet Jeeves visiting New York City. In less than a New York minute, Bertie finds himself knee deep in chorus girls, gangsters, finances, and a new Broadway musical. “Oh, Jeeves …”

The playwrights

Ted Bacino, born and raised in Rockford, is probably best known for directing theater here for almost 50 years. His credits include work at Starlight Theater, Rockford College, Northern Illinois University, The Boylan Players, Rockford Civic Theater, Stage III, Mendelssohn Club, New American Theater and at the Cabaret Dinner Theater. His novel, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, was published in 2010. The movie version is presently being produced by The Motion Picture Hall of Fame and Ermanno Films — with a planned release in 2012. Bacino now splits his time between Palm Springs, Calif., and Venice, Italy.

Rufus Cadigan, a founding member of AE, is happy to have worked with Bacino on this play version of The Shakespeare Conspiracy. Cadigan’s play Might Have Gone Fishing was produced by AE during their 2009-10 season. He has written a number of other plays, among them Choices, which toured the Rockford public school system, A Girl from Cedarville, a play about Jane Addams, co-authored with Michele Bonzi, and The Pickup. His plays have been produced in Wyoming, Minnesota, Oregon, California, Colorado and Rockford. Rufus and Sue Crandall are co-writing Old River Tales, a play about the early history of Rockford.

Margaret Raether first encountered P.G. Wodehouse in the form of a battered secondhand paperback of The Code of the Woosters when she was in college. This, as Bogart once famously observed, was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” A founding member of Artists’ Ensemble Theatre, most of Raether’s plays have debuted either at AE or at New American Theater, where she spent two seasons as Playwright in Residence. Her previous Wodehouse adaptations have been performed at AE as well as in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Jeeves in Bloom is now published by PlayScripts Inc. (http://www.playscripts.com/author.php3?authorid=1274). Her plays are pounded out late at night while peering around a cat that likes to sit in front of her monitor.

Ken Staaf has appeared in numerous theatrical productions for area theaters, including New American Theater and Artists’ Ensemble Theater, and was a founding member of Artists’ Ensemble. In addition to being a news and weather caster on three Rockford television stations, Staaf served as Winnebago County Recorder of Deeds for 16 years. He has also written as a columnist for the Rockford Register Star, the Loves Park Journal, and The Rock River Times, and wrote theatrical reviews for a local TV publication and WCEE-TV (currently WIFR).

From the Oct. 19-25, 2011, issue

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