Norwegian garage rockers Death by Unga Bunga, playing at the Village Theatre on February 28, buzzed through the writing, recording, and mastering of Fight! in just six weeks. Released in September, the four-song EP is over in a flash – 12 minutes of ragged indie garage rock infused with power-pop riffs that could have come straight out of a Cheap Trick song.

author Dana-Moss Peterson (left), with Jessica Denney, in New Ground Theatre's Mr. MarmaladeOver the years, Davenport's New Ground Theatre has prided itself on the presentation of new works by emerging authors. But this year, even Artistic Director Chris Jansen is shocked to find the company not only producing eight new works in a season, but eight new works - the majority of them by local authors - over a two-night span.

 Eddie Staver III[Author's note: The following interview with Eddie Staver III was written for TheCurtainbox.com, the Web site for our area's Curtainbox Theatre Company. I'm proud to say that I'm an ensemble member with the theatrical organization, and along with Staver, am a cast member in the company's September 15 - 25 production of Time Stands Still.]

 

A company member since 2009, Eddie Staver III made his Curtainbox Theatre Company debut as the haunted title character in 2008's Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, and went on to appear as the amoral salesman Moss in 2009's Glengarry Glen Ross, the troubled son Eddie in 2010's Fool for Love, and, later that year, clinical oncology fellow Jason Posner in Wit. And when I mention to people that Staver is returning to the Curtainbox to play James in Time Stands Still - his first role for the company in over a year - the response I get is almost always the same: "Where has he been?"

Johanna Welzenbach-Hilliard and Donna Weeks rehearse Under the RadarFor the final production in her company's 10th-anniversary season, New Ground Theatre Artistic Director Chris Jansen chose to direct a rather epic piece: the debuting period drama Under the Radar, which features numerous plotlines and changes of locale, and concerns our area's gay scene in the late 1970s, with particular attention paid to the relationship of one long-term gay couple.

Based on that description, it sounds as though Jansen is tackling a Quad Cities-based, pre-AIDS version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Yet when, with a good-natured laugh, she says of the mammoth undertaking, "Some idiot wrote 11 characters into it," know that Jansen isn't being derogatory. At least, not toward anyone but herself.

Kimberly Furness[Author's note: The following was written for TheCurtainbox.com, the Web site for our area's Curtainbox Theatre Company, of which I've been a proud member for nearly a year.]

 

Recently, Curtainbox Theatre Company founder Kim Furness and I sat down over a glass of wine - all right, maybe a couple of glasses - to celebrate her company's 10-year anniversary. She had recently taken over the directing position for the Curtainbox's latest production, Speed-the-Plow (in the wake of original helmer Philip W. McKinley's recruitment as new director of Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), and during our conversation, was happy to share her thoughts on the company's history. (The David Mamet comedy Speed-the-Plow - featuring Erin Churchill, Dan Hernandez, and myself - runs at the Village of East Davenport's Village Theatre from April 10 through 23, with preview performances April 8 & 9.)

Kelly Lohrenz and Tristan Tapscott in The Gift of the MagiThe Gift of the Magi is my favorite holiday tale. While the surprise is lost whenever I read it again, I still remember the goosebumps I felt when I first discovered O. Henry's story of a man and woman making significant personal sacrifices in order to buy each other Christmas gifts. And while New Ground Theatre's production of the musical version of this classic narrative did not give me the same delightful chills, it did leave me with a warm feeling of holiday joy.

Jessica Flood and Patti Flaherty (foreground) and Leah Otting, Jason Platt, and Kassy Caldwell (background)The language of playwright Tracy Letts' August: Osage County is loaded with layers of emotion underneath its dialogue. During New Ground Theatre's opening performance on Friday, a few actors neglected the dark undertones, reciting their lines as if Letts' words held nothing below the surface. Most, however, got to the heart of the script, impressively revealing the richness of the work through performances that ranged from subtle to over-the-top. While not perfect, the show deserved the standing ovation it got from the audience.

Corinne Johnson in the Curtainbox Theatre Company's Wit(Author's note: I'm a proud ensemble member of the Curtainbox Theatre Company, and along with interviewee Lora Adams, am serving as co-associate producer on Wit.)

 

"When you hear that word - cancer - it's very surreal," says WQPT-TV Director of Marketing Lora Adams, regarding her 2008 diagnosis with the disease. "There's a moment when the reality of it not being a television show, or not happening to somebody else's family, has to sort of settle in. You have that moment of 'Holy crap.' And then once that happens, you move forward."

Eddie Staver III and Kimberly Furness in Fool for LoveThe more performances I see as a reviewer, the more I ponder and study stagecraft. With many productions, I take away a concept or idea as to what makes a performance good, whether at the individual level or for an entire production. With the Curtainbox Theatre Company's Fool for Love, it's a word: abandon.

Narrowing down 2009's sensational stage portrayals into a list of 12 "favorites" is a hopeless task, really, so don't take this as any kind of last word on the subject; you'll find mention of amazing stage work all throughout my year-end coverage. Still, here's hoping you were able to catch at least a few of the following performances, which helped underline just how crazy with theatrical talent our area actually is.

Pages