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2nd Act Players

I am very weary today

Many years ago, my dad was touched by a song with the lyrics:

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load

He told me someday I’d understand why that song spoke to him as he grew older.

Today is one of those days. After eight and a half years of trying to keep a dream alive, I am suspending operations of my 2nd Act Players.

I have grown weary. The obstacles of the past year and a half have become too many and too difficult to conquer. And efforts to find new help — in the form of a next-level board of directors that would concentrate solely on fund-raising, have failed as well.

This is the second time a business dream of mine has died. In 1987, I started a newsletter publishing company that I hoped would grow into a business that would outlive me. But then, as now, I discovered that while I’m good at starting things, I don’t have what it takes to sustain and grow them beyond a certain level. That dream ended in late 1988.

Both then, and now with the theater, I realized my own shortcomings and searched out partners who had that ability, that salesmanship talent that I did not. But both times I’ve found it’s impossible to find others to share my dream. Most likely, they’re pursuing dreams of their own.

I will be in mourning for this for some time.

But I’m already looking beyond. I plan to get back to playwrighting, turning a one-act play I wrote in 2014 into a full two-act play.

If we can ever relaunch the 2nd Act Players, that’s the play we’ll begin with, a two-act version of Talking with My Dad.

The play is about a man who feels both lonely and afraid. As he awaits heart surgery,  he talks with the ghost of his dead father, who died from heart disease.

I also hope to do some acting outside the womb of my own theater. While I already have agents who get me auditions for commercials and business films, I’m now seeking an agent who can get me auditions for the many TV shows and films in Chicago at the moment.

Doing that is a more daunting task than starting a theater.

The thought of all that makes me weary as well, so I need time to mourn now first.

 

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2nd Act Players

Reserve a Viewing Spot for Black Flag, July 14,15

Admission to online showings of Idris Goodwin’s Black Flag are free but donations are strongly encouraged. Approximately 80% of all donations will go to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, at the playwright’s request.

All showings will begin at 7 p.m. central time and last approximately 20 minutes.

To register for July 14, or July 15,  click on the date links below. You will have the opportunity to make a donation after you register. Registration is free.

July 14 tickets, click here.

 

July 15 tickets,  click here

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Black Flag

Playwright Idris Goodwin has creative roots in Chicago

Black Flag author Idris Goodwin has deep creative roots in Chicago and the Midwest. Born in Detroit, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in film, video and screenwriting at Colombia College Chicago. He then went on to get a master’s degree in creative writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Idris Goodwin

He also has done graduate work was at the University of Iowa Playwright Workshop.

From 2012 through 2018, he was an assistant professor in theater and dance at Colorado College, leaving that position to become the artistic director of StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville. In May, he returned to Colorado College to become director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center there, doing online activities as the pandemic drove theaters to the virtual world.

The 2nd Act Players will be streaming a filmed version of Goodwin’s short play, Black Flag, on July 1 as the July installation of the Evanston Performing Arts Collective.

Encore performances will be streamed July 14 and July 15, all at 7 p.m. central time. The shows will be free to watch, but donations are strongly encouraged. Approximately 80% of all donations will be given to The National Memorial for Peace & Justice, a nonprofit chosen by the playwright.

To reserve your viewing spot, click here…

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2nd Act Players

2nd Act Players commission new play, “The Roaring 2020s” for post-pandemic return to the stage

The 2nd Act Players has commissioned award-winning playwright John Mabey to write a new two-act comedy about post-pandemic life. Tentatively titled The Roaring 2020s, the play will follow the lives of a family — a father, mother, grandmother,  adult daughter, adult son and his boyfriend, trying to figure out what is “normal” in the days after the pandemic comes to a close.

“John has twice been one of the winners of a 2nd Act Players’ new script competition, so we thought him a great choice to work with on a new comedy. People need to laugh now more than ever,” says 2nd Act Players’ Cofounder John N. Frank.

John Mabey

This marks the first time the 2nd Act Players have commissioned a new play. “It’s another step forward in our development as a theater. Our mission is to showcase new works for the stage, which is exactly what this will be,” says Frank.

“Our hope is to workshop the new script this summer and then decide if it’s ready for a full production when we, hopefully, return to live theater this fall,” says Frank.

Mabey’s plays have been published and produced across the United States and Europe, and this year his work is included in Smith & Kraus Best 10-Minute Plays and Smith & Kraus Best Women’s Monologues.

In addition to writing, he’s a certified mental health counselor, improviser, and true storyteller around the world

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Black Flag

2nd Act Players to Present ‘Black Flag’ by award-winning playwright Idris Goodwin

The Evanston 2nd Act Players is honored to be partnering with award-winning Black Playwright Idris Goodwin this summer to stream Black Flag, one of five short plays in Goodwin’s Open Source Scripts for an Antiracist Tomorrow.

A special streaming presentation of the film will take place July 1, 7 p.m. central time, as part of the 2nd Act Players involvement with the Evanston Performing Arts Collective and be shown on EPAC’s YouTube channel.

Encore presentations will be streamed at 7 p.m. on the evenings of July 14 and July 15. Admission is free-of-charge but donations are strongly encouraged. Approximately 80% of all donations will be given to the National Museum for Peace and Justice, at the playwright’s request.
“Each of these short works, written to be read across the multi-generational spectrum, offer different insights about disconnects in racial conversation and the Black experience in America,” Goodwin writes about his Open Source scripts.

For tickets, click here. 

About Black Flag
Black Flag finds two new college dorm-mates excited to start their freshman year together, until one decides to decorate their room with a little piece of her ‘Southern pride.’
“We were gripped by the power of Mr. Goodwin’s work when we saw it online in 2020,” says 2nd Act Players Cofounder John N. Frank. “We knew we wanted to show it via our online theater efforts in 2021.”

About the 2nd Act Players
The 2nd Act Players in 2020 resolved to open its stages, both real and virtual, to actors and playwrights of color to present their stories.
In 2020, the 2nd Act Players worked with Chicago Black Playwright Andre Richardson Hogan II to produce two of his short plays, Raisin Puffs, which deals with a Black man beaten by the police, and Line of Duties, which looks at a family mourning the loss of one of its own to Covid-19.

About Idris Goodwin
Goodwin “has forged an impactful career as a multiple award-winning playwright, breakbeat poet, director, educator, and organizer,” his bio explains.
“Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Idris is the director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100-year history.
“Prior to this, Goodwin served two seasons as producing artistic director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. He actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children’s Theatre Foundation Association.” To read more about Goodwin, go to his site: http://www.idrisgoodwin.com

Thanks to our Sponsors
The presentation is part of the 2nd Act Players’ 2021 online season, sponsored by Trulee Evanston, a fresh, contemporary senior living experience; Byline Bank; Summerville Partners; Andrew Erickson at Edward Jones’ Winnetka office; Dave’s New Kitchen in Evanston; and ALT Imagery in Evanston.

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2nd Act Players

Buy tickets here

Just click here to buy tickets to watch Pandemic Stories, 7 plays about life, love and loss in the time of Covid-19 on-demand via our YouTube channel. The minimum suggested donation for viewing is $15 but we gladly accept more.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

Meet playwright Rex McGregor, come see his play online

Rex McGregor’s play, The Birds are Feeding Me looks at rising tensions in a condo building as the Covid-19 lockdown goes on. Its characters search for solace in nature, except for one resident who is finding nature a bit too natural for his liking.

Here, Rex discusses his play, his writing career and his vision for a post-Covid theater world.

To watch Rex’s play, along with our other six winning scripts, click here to buy tickets for online shows April 23-May 2.

1. What inspired you to write this play?

The Birds Are Feeding Me was written during lockdown when birds started landing on my balcony. At first, I was annoyed at having to wipe up the mess they left. But I decided to turn the experience into something positive. So I wrote this play about the healing power of nature.

2. What do your think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?

I hope audiences will relate to the tensions of neighborhood conflicts. I’d like to think they will appreciate the resolution.

3. How and when did you start writing plays?

I first began writing plays when I was at university, influenced by the French and German dramas I was studying. About 10 years ago, I enjoyed watching a festival of 10-minute plays. I thought, “I can do that” and haven’t stopped since.

4. What do you expect from a post-covid theater scene?

It will be great to have live productions again. But I hope we don’t lose the international connections provided by Zoom.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

What are our Pandemic Stories? Watch previews here

The 2nd Act Players will be streaming seven short plays that make up its Pandemic Stories on April 23, 24, 25, 30, and May 1 and May 2. The stories are short plays that address issues we’ve all been dealing with during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They are relatable, emotional, sometimes funny, sometimes sad looks at the world of the past year, stories you don’t want to miss.

Not sure?

Well you can preview them right here in this preview video we’ve put together for you.

This clip shows previews from four plays that are comedies. We’re also posting clips from our three dramas, watch for them here soon.

To buy your tickets for the online shows, go to our ticket page by clicking right here.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

Meet Manny Schenk, see him in “Pandemic Stories” April 23-May 2

Manny Schenk last appeared with the 2nd Act Players in Moving Boxes, a play about caring for an aging parent while trying to rebuild a broken family. Manny also has a long association with the James Downing Theater in the Edison Park section of Chicago.

Here, he discusses the challenges of acting online, the choices he had to make for his role in What Good Did We See Today, and his vision for theater post-Covid

What is the biggest challenge for you of transitioning from acting on a stage to acting online?

The inability to move and interact physically with the other actor. You have to try and stay within your little box. This proved difficult for me at times.

How do you approach the challenge of portraying a character with dementia?

The challenge is to determine the degree of dementia. I had to make choices as to which times he was aware and which times he wasn’t. The writer seems to leave the choice, for the most part, to the actor.

What has been the biggest challenge the pandemic has presented you and how have you coped with it?

The biggest challenge, for me, has been dealing with the fear of the virus. We are still not going to the grocery store or any place that has a lot of people. However, I am going to medical appointments and getting a haircut. I will feel better when I get the second dose of the vaccine in two weeks. Fortunately, I can go to work.

What do you think theater will look like in the post-pandemic world?

I think that it will take quite a while for people, especially older people, to feel comfortable going into a theater again. However, over time this should change as people get the vaccine and we see if it works in the long term. I believe that some theaters will provide a virtual option for their subscribers as well as in-house seating.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Read about “What Good Did We See Today?” & its playwright

Cathrine Goldstein’s play, What Good Did We See Today?, is a very poignant look at the struggles a father and daughter face during the pandemic as his memory slips away and she strives desperately to help him.

Goldstein is an award-winning playwright, and a bestselling author of gritty, real-feeling plays, novels, short stories, and poems. She has a master’s degree in Theatre History, and a bachelor’s degree in English/British Literature. Her work has been featured on many national television and radio shows, and she’s also an experienced 500 RYT yoga instructor, wife, mom, and chocolate addict.

Here, we ask her about her play, herself and her expectations for theater after Covid-19.

  1. What inspired you to write this play?

I wanted to write a play about the unique challenges that face families dealing with dementia during the pandemic. It was also important to me to write a play that highlighted George’s frustration with his situation as he declines, not just his daughter’s—understandable—desperation.

 

  1. What do you think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?

I’m hopeful audiences will discuss how life is so very multilayered. It goes on in all its forms—good and bad—even when it’s happening “behind the scenes” of a pandemic. Although the pandemic has been on the forefront of all of our minds, dementia does not stop because of it. George’s caretakers do not get a reprieve. I truly hope people will see the strength of the human spirit from this play. Although it is a difficult topic with heartbreaking subject matter, there is love, and where there is love, there is always hope.

  1. How and when did you start writing plays?

If you count the endless puppet shows I put on at school as a child, I have written plays forever! I went to college for theatre, and along with degrees in English, I have a master’s degree in Theatre History. One of my very first plays out of college was produced in New York and published, and since then, I have been fortunate to have my work put up in wonderful venues and performed by excellent actors. I’ve been involved with all aspects of the theatre, including directing and running a theatre for many years.

When my oldest daughter was born, I turned to novel writing (I’m a ghostwriter of many novels!). However, my love has always been the theatre—and I am always grateful when one of my plays is produced. Thank you to John Frank and 2nd Act Players for doing such a magnificent job with, What Good Did We See Today. I am honored to be a part of your festival.

  1. What do you expect from a post-covid theater scene?

One of the things that I love most about theatre-people is their resiliency. There’s a global pandemic? We perform virtually. And putting on a virtual show is not easy. The theatres keep going as best they can for all of us. I hope that those theatre companies forced to close will have the opportunity to reopen. The post-covid theatre scene may take some time, but it will bounce back. As always, the show will go on.

 

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2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Read about “to The Zoom and Back” & its playwright

Cindi Sansone-Braff’s play, To the Zoom and Back, looks at a senior couple’s attempt to try to connect through online dating in the age of Covid.

Cindi Sansone-Braff

Sansone-Braff is a member of the Dramatist Guild, has a B.F.A. in theatre from UCONN, and is a playwright, author, actor, dancer, producer, director, and the co-founder of Tomorrow’s Classic Theatre Company.

Here, we ask her about her play, herself, and her vision for theater post-Covid.

1. What inspired you to write this play?
After seeing a few Zoom plays, I thought it would be fun to try and write one. The expression “To the Zoom and Back,” popped into my head, and I thought it would be a great title for a Zoom play. As a relationship expert, I was hearing from my clients about their experiences with trying Zoom dates, and from there the play emerged.

2. What do your think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?
I would be thrilled if the audience were to talk about how much they like the characters, because they are genuinely nice people. The theme of loneliness and isolation is something many people can relate to, especially now, during the pandemic, and perhaps, they can see that it is possible to connect to people using today’s technology. Dating disasters, first dates, and online dating, are something people of all ages can relate to, and the audience might share some of their personal dating experiences with each other. Dating outside your type, being open to love at any age, and giving people a chance are some of the concepts I would love the audience to take away from this play.

3. How and when did you start writing plays?
Ever since I read “The Glass Menagerie,” in tenth grade, I have wanted to be a playwright. I have a BFA in theatre from UCONN and have been writing plays for 50 years now.

4. What do you expect from a post-Covid theater scene?
I believe Zoom plays and Zoom festivals are going to continue even after live theater opens up, because they are great ways to connect with people across the globe. Some of the plays done on Zoom will be staged live, and audiences will be hungry for the collective emotional experience that only live theater can provide. It will be the best of both worlds.

To read more about all the plays in our spring production, Pandemic Stories, click here.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Meet actor Valerie Gorman, see her in Pandemic Stories

Valerie Gorman last appeared with the 2nd Act Players in its 2019 production of Old Ringers, the last play we did on-stage prior to the pandemic.
In Pandemic Stories, she plays a woman trying online dating for the first time in To The Zoom and Back, a West Texas lunch lady in the play Lunch Lady, and a condo board president in The Birds Are Feeding Me.    

Valerie Gorman

Here, she discusses acting online, the pandemic and her hopes for a post=[andemic theater world.
1. What is the biggest challenge for you of transitioning from acting on a stage to acting online?

My biggest challenge to acting on line has been threefold: eyeline- not being able to look at my scene partners for reaction and having to react purely to them by just listening to their deliveries. Also finding the right energy level for online acting. Stage energy is very big; film is very small; online is somewhere in between.

2. How do you deal with the challenge of playing multiple characters in multiple plays in this production?

Because these are short plays and the arc of the character can be much smaller and can occur in a matter of two lines of dialogue, I have to totally relay on the author and how the character’s voice is written. More obvious choices would be the use of accents and costume pieces.

3. What has been the biggest challenge the pandemic has presented you and how have you coped with it?

The biggest challenge of the pandemic for me has been technology. Because this techno age is nor my world learning filming, lighting, editing and self taping for a person who lives alone continues to be daunting for me.

4. What do you think theater will look like in the post-pandemic world?

I think theater in the future will probably be a hybrid of what we are seeing now. I do think many theaters will go back to live audience, at least in this city but it will happen on a ramped up basis. I also think that there will be more streaming of filmed plays as a means to produce revenue. Blockbuster plays filmed will be streamed online like movies to audiences all over the country. As the technology improves there may be no need for that yearly trip to Broadway.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Read about “Second Act, Second Helpings” & its playwright

John Mabey’s play Second Acts, Second Helpings, looks at a couple’s actions and attitudes toward life after the pandemic has finally subsided.

John Mabey

Mabey’s plays have been published and produced across the United States and Europe, and this year his work is included in Smith & Kraus Best 10-Minute Plays and Smith & Kraus Best Women’s Monologues.

In addition to writing, he’s a certified mental health counselor, improviser, and true storyteller around the world. He’s also a two-time winner of a 2nd Act Players’ new script competition.

Here, we ask John to discuss his play, himself and the future of theater post-Covid.

  1. What inspired you to write this play?

I was inspired by the prompt from 2nd Act Players about how the past year was one of such huge changes, and ways in which characters might be dealing with those changes as they create their second acts. I imagined all the ways we might try to overcompensate in 2021 for everything (and everyone) that was lost in the year before. It’s where the title for this play emerged as well, in the sense that we can allow ourselves to grieve and change course as we’re ready. But everyone will be on their own timeline and that’s okay.

  1. What do you think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?

I hope the audience will relate to the struggle for connection and making the most of the time we have. After the play ends, I think the audience will be talking about how the characters ultimately found joy and reignited the spark in their relationship in very unexpected ways. I was excited to explore these complex themes in a comedy because I think everyone can really use a laugh right now, too!

  1. How and when did you start writing plays?

I started writing plays when I was young, but it wasn’t until I was older and lived overseas that I started sharing those plays with other artists and eventually submitting to theaters. I created my own second act by changing careers from working in Higher Education to working in the arts. And the more time I spent surrounded by other creatives, the more confidence grew in my own writing. Although my plays aren’t autobiographical, with each one I’m consistently learning more about myself and ways to navigate the world around me.

  1. What do you expect from a post-covid theater scene?

I expect a post-covid theater scene to retain the amazing spirit of collaboration that we’ve seen over the past year. Artists of all kinds found incredible ways to keep theater alive and accessible. Friends and family from around the world were able to watch my virtual productions, many of whom wouldn’t have been able to join otherwise due to distance, cost, or other factors. That type of accessibility is something that’s been missing from theater and will only serve to make it stronger.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Meet Actor Nick Dorado, Come See Him in Pandemic Stories

Actor Nick Dorado made his 2nd Act Players’ debut online last fall in our 60 is the New 40 Play Festival, playing a variety of characters in several short plays. He’ll be returning to our virtual stage this spring in two plays, [Brackets], in which he plays a curmudgeonly editor dealing with the losses Covid has brought into his life; and someone trying online dating in To the Zoom and Back.

Nick Dorado

Here, Nick, a Covid survivor himself, talks about the challenges of online acting and his hopes for a post-Covid theater world.

1. What is the biggest challenge for you of transitioning from acting on a stage to acting online?
Learning to act on a green screen has been the biggest challenge and acting opposite someone who is not in the same room as you. Staring at the wall and expressing emotion to someone over an online conference call is very different than having the emotions and presence of one of our wonderful actors in the same room with you.

2. How do you deal with the challenge of playing multiple characters in multiple plays in this production?
Between the current plays and the plays of last fall, I have had an age range of my age up to almost 80, a man with dementia, a man seeking “maximum bliss”, online dating in the time of COVID and a man who loses the most important things to him in the current world. I approach each character as a blank canvas so I can find something unique in each character. It’s important to me that each one is distinctive from the others, otherwise I think they will blend together in the eyes of the audience. Whether it is Egil Foss’ laugh last fall, or Thomas’ air of superiority that peels away in this Spring’s plays, I like to bring each one to life in their own way.

3. What has been the biggest challenge the pandemic has presented you and how have you coped with it?
I think having had COVID twice and getting through it is enough. It’s been a tough year for everyone but we have to just push through, get a vaccine and
WEAR A MASK.

4. What do you think theater will look like in the post-pandemic world?
In a true post-pandemic world, it will look very much like it did before, we’ll just have to show proof of vaccinations. If that’s the worst we have to do, we will all be in a better place.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

Read about “Love in the Time of Covid-19” & its playwright

Germaine Shames’ play, Love in the Time of Covid-19, is a humorous look at what happens to a couple cooped up in an efficiency apartment because of the pandemic.

Germaine-Shames

Shames is a Kilroys List playwright and recipient of her state’s Literary Fellowship in Fiction, is author of the award-winning novels, Between Two Deserts and You, Fascinating You. Shames collaborates across art forms and genres with world-class directors and composers and has celebrated premieres in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Here, we ask Shames about her play, herself and her vision for a post-pandemic theater.

1. What inspired you to write this play?

In a word, Covid-19. While recovering from the virus in an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty, I felt moved to inject a bit of humor and love.

2. What do your think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?

Each audience and individual audience member is unique, so I hesitate to speculate. I hope, however, that everyone involved, both actors and patrons, will come away from the production feeling less careworn and more optimistic.

3. How and when did you start writing plays?

I was irresistibly drawn to the stage roughly seven years ago, following a varied and modestly successful career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. Theatre has given me a creative home and caring community where I may realize my vision of a possible world. Nothing stirs me as deeply as the current of shared excitement that runs through a live audience when a play is working its magic.

4. What do you expect from a post-covid theater scene?

New voices. New energy. I believe we are heading into a 21st century renaissance with the performing arts at its forefront. Exciting days ahead!

To read more about all the plays in our spring production, Pandemic Stories, click here.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Meet playwright Craig Gustafson, read about his play

Craig Gustafson’s play [Brackets] deals with a suburban newspaper editor and his daughter facing some of the worst that the pandemic has to offer, while debating old habits that might not be relevant any longer

Graid Gustafson

Gustafosn’s plays have been performed locally at Chicago’s Yippiefest, GreenMan Theatre Troupe, Wheaton Drama and Riverfront Playhouse, which produced an evening of his plays, Fasting Cougars. He’s also a past winner of a 2nd Act Players’ new script competition.

Here, we ask Craig to discuss his play, himself and the future of theater post-Covid.

1. What inspired you to write this play?
When I was in college, I worked on the campus newspaper, run by an old newspaper guy. He taught us the journalistic trick of how to rewrite a person’s quotes to “clarify” them. I thought was cheating; that we should run what people actually said, verbatim. When the prompt came for this contest, I considered what might happen if an editor lost a spouse to COVID and gave in to a lifetime of “clarifying” her words.

2. What do you think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?
Hopefully, they’ll consider a loved one’s preferences without letting their own prejudices go into override.

3. How and when did you start writing plays?
I’ve been writing sketches, songs and such for local theaters forever. I got serious about it in 2018, after my closest non-spousal friend passed away suddenly and it hit me that maybe life isn’t infinite, and that I should get cracking. I had a night of my ten minute plays performed for a run at a local theater, and three of them have been published in anthologies.

4. What do you expect from a post-covid theater scene?
I know what I’d like; I have no clue what to expect.

To read more about all the plays in our spring production, Pandemic Stories, click here.

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2nd Act Players Pandemic Stories

Meet playwright Donna Latham, read about her play

Donna Latham’s play Lunch Lady was written as a monologue for one actor, but with her agreement, we’ve modified it slightly to include three lunch ladies, all dealing with the challenges of working during the Pandemic.

Donna Latham

Latham is a feminist playwright from Chicago whose plays have been produced coast to coast and around the world. A recipient of the Kennedy Center David Mark Cohen Playwriting Award, she’s a script reader for Houston’s Alley Theatre and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

Here, we ask Donna to discuss her play, herself and the future of theater post-Covid.

1. What inspired you to write this play?
I’m in awe of and grateful for essential workers, everyday heroes who risked their lives on the frontlines of the pandemic.

2. What do you think the audience will take away from it, what will they be talking about after seeing it?
I hope they’ll discuss silent struggles people face and take action to combat food insecurity. MealsForGood.org defines food insecurity as: “When you don’t have enough money to buy the healthy foods you need, or if you have to skip meals because you don’t have enough money to buy more food.” According to FeedingAmerica.org, “In Illinois, 1,283,550 people struggle with hunger–and of them 363,900 are children.”
How can we help? Donate funds to local food banks. Organize a food drive, or volunteer to assist in distribution. Donate non-perishable, healthy foods like proteins and whole grains. Call a pantry to ask what they need most.

3. How and when did you start writing plays?
I’ve always loved inventing stories, writing them down, and acting them out. So theatre was a perfect fit for my education, teaching, and writing. I’m also a nonfiction author, so I constantly tumble into rabbit holes of intriguing research. Sparks of theatrical inspiration!

4. What do you expect from a post-Covid theater scene?
I’m a resident playwright at Rising Sun Performance Company in New York. We’re exploring outdoor productions as we speak. The tenacity, resilience, and ingenuity theatre makers displayed during this moment in time are inspirational.

To read more about all the plays in our spring production, Pandemic Stories, click here.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

See our shows, talk with our playwrights, April 23-May 2

Seven award-winning playwrights will chat live with our audiences during the 2nd Act Players’ spring production, Pandemic Stories, 7 short plays about love, life and loss which will stream online from April 23 through May 2.

Advance ticket sales have begun, to purchase tickets, simply click here.

The playwrights are the winners of the 2nd Act Players’ 2021 New Script Competition; their scripts, all dealing with how people coped with the pandemic and its aftermath, will be performed during our production.

The schedule of playwrights speaking with audiences and their plays are:

Date Playwright(s) Play(s)
Friday, April 23 John Mabey Second Act Second Helpings
Saturday, April 24 Cindi Sansone-Braff To the Zoom and Back
Sunday, April 25 Germaine Shames/Cathrine Goldstein Love in the Time of Covid-19/ What Good Did We See Today?
Friday, April 30 Rex McGregor The Birds are Feeding Me
Saturday, May 1 Donna Latham Lunch Lady
Sunday, May 2 Craig Gustafson [Brackets]

“Recent research has shown people really enjoy talkbacks following online plays,” explains 2nd Act Players’ Cofounder John N. Frank. “We first tried these last July during our first online show and really enjoyed the level of involvement it produced.”

Friday and Saturday shows begins at 7 p.m. central time, Sunday performances at 2 p.m. central. The plays will stream for approximately an hour and 45 minutes with talkbacks to follow.

 

John and Craig are two-time winners of 2nd Act Players script competitions, having had their work performed last fall during our online 60 is the New 40 production. Both of their Covid plays also have been selected winners of an Australian play festival by the Bendigo Theatre Company which begins May 13.

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2nd Act Players

2nd Act Players to Showcase Play by Award-winning Black Playwright Idris Goodwin

The Evanston 2nd Act Players is honored to be partnering with award-winning Black Playwright Idris Goodwin this summer to stream Black Flag, a short play that is one of five in Goodwin’s Open Source Scripts for an Antiracist Tomorrow.

“TYA/USA [Theatre for Young Audiences USA], New York’s New Victory Theatre and I collaborated to provide a platform for five short plays to spark conversation and serve as a catalyst for action,” Goodwin writes on his website. “Each of these short works, written to be read across the multi-generational spectrum, offer different insights about disconnects in racial conversation and the Black experience in America.”

Black Flag finds two new dorm-mates excited to start their freshman year together, until one decides to decorate their room with a little piece of ‘Southern pride.’ The 2nd Act Players will be streaming a short film version of the play Sunday, July 18 at 3 p.m. central time.

Idris Goodwin

“We were gripped by the power of Mr. Goodwin’s work when we saw it online in 2020,” says 2nd Act Players Cofounder John N. Frank. “We knew we wanted to show it via our online theater in 2021.”

Goodwin “has forged an impactful career as a multiple award-winning playwright, breakbeat poet, director, educator, and organizer,” his bio explains.

“Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Idris is the director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100-year history.

“Prior to this, Goodwin served two seasons as producing artistic director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. He actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children’s Theatre Foundation Association.” To read more about Goodwin, go to his site: http://www.idrisgoodwin.com

The streaming event is “a continuation of the 2nd Act Players commitment to show works that look at social issues in America. In 2020, the 2nd Act Players worked with Chicago Black Playwright Andre Richardson Hogan II  to produce two of his short plays, Raisin Puffs, which deals with a Black man beaten by the police, and Line of Duties, which looks at a family mourning the loss of one of its own to Covid-19.

Plans are to show Black Flag free of charge but ask viewers to make donations, 80% of which will go to the National Museum for Peace and Justice, at the request of Goodwin.

The presentation is part of the 2nd Act Players’ 2021 online season, sponsored by Elderwerks; Trulee Evanston, a fresh, contemporary senior living experience; Byline Bank; Summerville Partners; Andrew Erickson at Edward Jones, Winnetka office; Dave’s New Kitchen; and ALT Imagery.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Pandemic Stories

Cast Announced for “Pandemic Stories: 7 plays about love, life and loss”

The Evanston 2nd Act Players will feature an all-star cast of actors who have appeared in past 2nd Act Players productions for its spring 2021 show, Pandemic Stories: 7 plays about love, life and loss.”

The cast includes:

Nick Dorado – Nick was most recently seen in the 2nd Act Players fall, 2020 online production, “60 is the New 40,” so he is very familiar with the 2nd Act Players’ unique approach to online theater that digitally places actors in the same room with each other.

Valerie Gorman – Val was in the 2nd Act Players’ last on-stage production in 2019, Old Ringers, playing a senior who turns to phone sex to help make ends meet financially.

Brandy Miller – Brandy starred in two plays that were part of the 2nd Act Players Women’s Empowerment Festival in 2019. She went on to roles at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center in Arlington Heights and with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater prior to the pandemic.

Manny Schenk – Manny appeared in the 2nd Act Players’ 2017 production of Moving Boxes, a poignant story about caring for an aging parent.

Matthew Schufreider – Matt is another veteran of the 2nd Act Players’ virtual stage, appearing in last fall’s 60 is the New 40 production in which he learned to ring a virtual doorbell and play a virtual piano, among other online skills.

Anne Tracy – Anne appeared in the 2nd Act Players’ 2018 production of New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House.

“An unexpected benefit of the pandemic is that doing online shows has allowed us to work with actors who have moved from the Chicago area,” says 2nd Act Players’ Cofounder John N. Frank. Anne is now in Washington state while Brandy has temporarily relocated to Pennsylvania, yet they will both be on our stage this fall.

For more information about Pandemic Stories, simply click here. To buy advanced tickets, click here.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players

Meet the authors of 2nd Act Players’ Spring Festival 10-minute Plays

The winners of the 2nd Act Players spring new script competition, 2021 isn’t 2020, or is it? include award-winning playwrights, returning 2nd Act Players’ competition winners, and the first winner of a 2nd Act Players’ new script competition who resides outside the United States.

Both Craig Gustafson and John Mabey had scripts performed by the 2nd Act Players last winter in its 60 is the New 40 Festival of new plays. Rex McGregor resides in New Zealand and has had plays performed on four continents.

“The quality of authors our compeittions attract has steadily increased year after year since our first call for new scripts in 2017,” says 2nd act Players Cofounder John N. Frank. “This year’s list of winners is truly impressive and we are honored to be giving life to their words.”

The winning playwrights are:

Cathrine Goldstein

Cathrine Goldstein (What Good Did We See Today? ) is an award-winning playwright, and a bestselling author of gritty, real-feeling plays, novels, short stories, and poems. She has a Master’s Degree in Theatre History, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English/British Literature. Her work has been featured on many national television and radio shows, and she’s also an experienced 500 RYT yoga instructor, wife, mom, and chocolate addict.

Craig Gustafson

Craig Gustafson [Brackets] is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.  His plays have been performed locally at Chicago’s Yippiefest, GreenMan Theatre Troupe, Wheaton Drama and Riverfront Playhouse, which produced an evening of his plays, Fasting Cougars. Anthologies containing Craig’s plays:  Lending a Hand in Best Ten Minute Plays of 2019 – Smith & Kraus, A Cheap Maid in Chasteside in The Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2020 – Smith & Kraus, Save Me, Myron Glick! in The Best New 10 Minute Plays of 2021 – coming in November from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.

Donna Latham

Donna Latham (Lunch Lady) is a feminist playwright from Chicago whose plays have been produced coast to coast and around the world. A recipient of the Kennedy Center David Mark Cohen Playwriting Award, she’s a script reader for Houston’s Alley Theatre and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

John Mabey

John Mabey’s (Second Acts, Second Helpings) plays have been published and produced across the United States and Europe, and this year his work is included in Smith & Kraus Best 10-Minute Plays and Smith & Kraus Best Women’s Monologues. During the past decade, he’s lived in New York, London, and Amsterdam. He now resides in Atlanta. In addition to writing, he’s a certified mental health counselor, improviser, and true storyteller around the world.

Rex McGregor

Rex McGregor (The Birds Are Feeding Meis a New Zealand playwright. His short comedies have been produced on four continents from New York and London to Sydney and Chennai. His most popular play, Threatened Panda Fights Backhas been produced over a dozen times.

Cindi Sansone-Braff

Cindi Sansone-Braff (To the Zoom and Back) is a member of the Dramatist Guild, has a B.F.A. in theatre from UCONN, and is a playwright, author, actor, dancer, producer, director, and the co-founder of Tomorrow’s Classic Theatre Company.

Germaine-Shames

Germaine Shames (Love in the Time of Covid-19), a Kilroys List playwright and recipient of her state’s Literary Fellowship in Fiction, is author of the award-winning novels, Between Two Deserts and You, Fascinating You. She collaborates across art forms and genres with world-class directors and composers and has celebrated premieres in NYC, Chicago and Minneapolis.

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2nd Act Players

2nd Act Players plan March online Fundraiser — Blingo for everyone

The Evanston 2nd Act Players plans a March online fundraiser entitled Broadway Blingo. Participants will play online bingo for jewelry prizes and hear about jewelry they can purchase, with a portion of proceeds being donated to the 2nd Act Players.

“We’re adapting to life online during the pandemic,” says 2nd Act Players’ cofounder John N. Frank. “In the past we relied on an annual in-person auction of donations from local merchants as our major annual fundraiser. We obviously couldn’t do that last year or this, so we’re pivoting to something new that we hope our audience will enjoy.”

To register, click Broadway Blingo.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players

2nd Act Players receive more than 100 entries for 2021 script competition

More than 100 entries have poured in for the 2nd Act Players’ 2021 Script Competition with two weeks to go until the final entry deadline. This makrs the fifth year the 2nd Act Players have put out a call for new scripts and will likely be the year that sets a record for most entries.

“Entitled ‘2021: It’s not 2020, or is it? Plays that look at people changing in a changing world.’ this year’s contest really struck a chord for playwrights all over the world,” says 2nd Act Players’ Cofounder John N. Frank. Entries have come in from across the United States and from countries such as Ireland, New Zealand and Canada.

“We like to joke that we’re the best-kept theater secret in the northern suburbs of Chicago, but apparently the world has heard of us,” says Frank. The theater has shifted to online productions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. All its 2021 performances will be done online as were those it did in 2020.

Entries in this year’s competition will be reviewed by a panel of notable judges who will narrow the field to a group of finalist scripts. The 2nd Act Players’ board of directors will then select the scripts that will be performed online this spring. “We plan to do six short plays looking at the past year and the challenges ahead this year,” Frank explains.

Judging scripts for this year’s competition are three winners of the 2nd Act Players’ 2020 script competition, 60 is the New 40: Elizabeth DeSchryver, Craig Gustafson and John Mabey. Also judging are:

  • Sam Radom, whose play Carole White & the Seven Deadly Sins received a staged reading in 2019 on the City Lit Theater stage in Chicago. The reading came about thanks to the Chicago Writers’ Bloc in collaboration with Stockyards Theatre Project.
  • Wilson Cain III, Ed.D., a member of the literary managers and Dramaturge Association (LMDA). Wilson has worked as adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Auburn University, and Auburn University at Montgomery.  As a professional actor, Wilson has performed extensively in the Chicago, regional, and off-Broadway Theatre. Wilson Is a recipient of the Joseph Jefferson award for “Outstanding ensemble work,” for the production, The good times are killing me.
  • Kathy Weiss, an actress who has appeared on stage on such plays as Damn Yankees and Once Upon a Mattress, and also has taken part in several new script workshops at the 2nd Act Players.
  • Karen Nystrom is the Chair of Three Brothers Theatre in Waukegan. A full production of her play, Smoke was produced at Three Brothers in 2019, and staged readings of her plays, Plath, and Falling Off a Horse were also done pre-Covid. She is a member of the Three Brothers playwrights residency and lives in Waukegan. She is currently shopping around her dark farce, The Seven Teeth. She was an original member of the Chicago Poetry Ensemble that had many works seen at the Green Mill Jazz Lounge.

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2nd Act Players

2nd Act Players’ Cofounder named to Marquis’ Who’s Who

2nd Act Players Cofounder John N. Frank has been named a 2020 top executive by Marquis’ Who’s Who in recognition of his work in starting the 2nd Act Players, and in keeping the theater alive in these times of Covid-19 which has devastated the theater business. Frank’s long-time first career as a journalist also is recognized as is his more recent volunteer work with Mended Hearts, a national peer-to-peer support group for those dealing with heart disease.

John N. Frank

“It’s nice to have some recognition after a very tough year,” says Frank. “I was selected for a Marquis’ student Who’s Who back in my high school and college years, so it’s especially gratifying to be recognized again all these years later for my 2nd act in moving from journalism to theater.”

“Mr. Frank has reinvented himself as a live theater owner and dramatist, writing and producing five of his own plays in five years, as well as producing, directing and acting in scores of other plays. Notably, one of his plays made it to a weekend of staged readings in New York City,” his Top Executive page reads.

Marquis, began publishing in 1898. “The family of Marquis Who’s Who publications present unmatched coverage of the lives of today’s leaders and achievers from the United States and around the world, and from every significant field of endeavor,” the company states on its website.

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2nd Act Players

The Evanston 2nd Act Players stand with Northminster Presbyterian Church

Black Lives Matter.

The Evanston 2nd Act Players has been blessed with a theater home at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Northwest Evanston for the past four years. We have always found the members of the church to be open, inviting and progressive, showing concern for all those around them and throughout the area.

So we were saddened in November when the Black Lives Matter banner the church had erected was defaced. Thankfully, many neighbors responded quickly to show their support for the church, bringing their own BLM signs to the church to reinforce the message that being a Christian means loving your neighbor, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation. The Christian Bible does not include qualifiers when Jesus tells followers to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

Northminster’s ruling body, known as The Session, put it much more eloquently when it said in a statement about the banner:

“We proclaim with this banner the theological truth that black lives matter to God. Through it we also prayerfully point to the work that we must do as a church, as individuals, and as a society so that, according to God’s vision, a day will come when every life – already valued and beloved by God – will be equally valued by all of God’s children. This all-embracing love of God is what we seek to proclaim in our world.”

The church has a new banner (see the photo here) now to replace the one defaced in November. And the signs brought by neighbors reman as well and have proliferated.

The Evanston 2nd Act Players stated its support for the church on Facebook when this incident happened and want to reaffirm that support here on our blog. At a time when the term Christianity is all too often held hostage by people filled with hate and anti-Christian ideologies, we are proud to be associated with such a truly Christian entity as Northminster. We again thank its pastors and congregation members for hosting us as guests these past years.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

watch “60 is the New 40′ Plays on-demand

Audience reaction to our recent 60 is the New 40 Play Festival was so positive we’ve decided to make the plays available for on-demand viewing through Jan. 31, 2021.

So if you missed our shows in November, you can still see thier brillant short plays about poeple redefining themselves in their Golden Years.

Audiences raved about the festival, calling the plays heart-warming, clever and entertaining. They also applauded the 2nd Act Players’ tech savvy in digitally placing actors in the same video rooms through video editing and green-screen acting.

“You demonstrated so much tech savvy. It came out better than I ever would have expected,” wrote one audeince member in the ongoing chat that took place during and after the shows.

“I enjoyed! I was not expecting the green screen – which adds another dimension – most of the “local theater companies” here are going the Zoom reading route,” noted one audience member who watched from New York.

To read more about the plays, simply click here.

To purchase a ticket for viewing on-line whenever you want, click here. On-demand viewing tickets are $20.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Can I buy tickets for friends? Not exactly. E-mail me to do it.

The 2nd Act Players is using an online platform called Crowdcast to stream its 60 is the new 40 Play Festival.

Crowdcast was created for business meetings, so registration is fairly straight-forward, a person goes to an event page and registers, paying the fee specified.

Some of our ticket buyers last week wanted to buy tickets for friends. Crowdcast isn’t really set up for that. Each ticket has to be bought for a different email address. So one person cannot buy five tickets at one time.

If you really want to buy tickets for friends, you must enter each of their email addresses separately, which means going back to our ticket link for each person.

Also, enter your own email address last. If you buy your ticket first, when you try to buy another you’ll be told you’re already registered and will only see the event clock counting down to opening night.

Confused? Sorry about that, if you want to buy tickets for several people, just e-mail me at johnnfrank@evanston2ndactplayers.com. We can arrange for your payment and then I’ll enter all the guest emails through my hosting portal.

Such are the discoveries we’re making as we move from in-person to online performances.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Here’s what you’ll see this Friday or Saturday

Four short plays about characters redefining themselves in their Golden Years.

The Sensational Sisters
By John Mabey
Two superhero sisters face the challenges of early retirement.

Spot the Camel
Craig Gustafson
A husband and wife fret about Alzheimer’s and aging with a surprise twist.

In Her Golden Years
Steven Korbar
A daughter learns a long-held secret of her mother’s and sees her in a whole new light.

About Time
Robin Baron
A long-time embittered shop owner suddenly gets a new outlook on life.

To read more, simply click here…

To buy tickets, click here…

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet bev Coscarelli, come enjoy her on our virtual stage

Bev Coscarelli joins the 2nd Act Players ensemble for the first time in our 60 is the New 40 Play Festival, acting in two plays that present quite the acting challenges for her.

Come see Bev along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festivapage. For tickets, click here.

Bev Coscarelli

Below, read Bev’s thoughts on acting, the challenges she faced in the festival and her hopes for the future of theater.

1.How and why did you get into acting?

Vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare” meaning “to call”. With that in mind, the best description I found of my own journey was that one does not choose one’s vocation but simply chooses to STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM IT. I did my share of running, trying to be happy doing other things, but the One who gave me my vocation kept calling me back to where I was meant to be.

2. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

Catherine of Aragon I have always wanted to play her as I greatly admired her courage, her faith and her forgiveness of her husband, Henry VIII of England. Shakespeare had written her courtroom speech into iambic pentameter, but the her actual speech as she stood alone, surrounded by those who plotted against her and lied about her, was incredibly articulate, fiery, yet also poignant. Incidentally, I have done a lot of reading and research on Catherine through the years and the Starz channel’s current program, “The Spanish Princess”, is rubbish; don’t waste your time on it.

3. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of play multiple characters in multiple plays?

It has been quite difficult as superficially they seem similar; both are widows in their sixties and both are making moves. However in Symphony my character has decided on her own to move to a remote location and in her view finally “make her mark”. In Her Golden Years the character has buried deep the memories of having made her mark years earlier as a teen. What is beautiful in both stories is that the daughters and mothers clearly love one another and the daughters come to see their moms in a new light by the end of both one acts.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?
I play two mothers in two separate one acts so I shall quote my own mother quoting FDR. Whenever a thunderstorm, the neighborhood bullies, or an upcoming test frightened me, Mom would gently but firmly remind me that “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” She knew fear could lead quickly to paralyzing panic.
Man is meant by his very nature to be in relationship, and theatre is all about man and relationships. Plagues have temporarily closed theatres throughout the ages but, we cannot ever again allow ourselves and our vocations to be deemed “non-essential” and give in to the paralyzing panic my mother warned me of so many years ago.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet Sheena laird, come see her act in two plays

Sheena Laird joins the 2nd Act Players for our 60 is the New 40 Play Festival, playing two characters in two different short plays.

Come see Sheena along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festivapage. For tickets, click here.

Below, read Sheena’s thoughts on acting, the challenges she faced in the festival and her hopes for the future of theater.

  1. How and why did you get into acting?

I started acting as a kid in community theater productions. I loved rehearsals, the costumes, the bright lights and the stage. Most of all, I loved being imaginative and getting to play!

2. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

Moira Rose! I adore Schitt’s Creek and am tickled by the lens through which Moira views the world. Her vocabulary is unparalleled!

3. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of play multiple characters in multiple plays?

I really enjoy getting to play multiple characters in shorter plays or sketches. For these plays, I ground myself with a couple specific props for each character. It was also helpful to fully fill out each character’s back story so that when I’m in the scene, I have a vivid understanding and feeling for each character’s life and current state of being.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I’m eager to see how we embrace technology in future shows. How will we combine virtual and live performances? Contrarily, I think there will also be a need to create theater that allows the audience to totally unplug after months of intense electronics usage. So, I’m excited to see where both avenues take us.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet nick dorado, come see him act online

Nick Dorado is new to the 2nd Act Players’ virtual stage and will be taking on the challenge of playing characters in four different plays over two weekends.

Come see Nick along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festivapage. For tickets, click here.

Nick Dorado

Below, read Nick’s thoughts on acting, the challenges he faced in the festival and his hopes for the future of theater.

  1. How and why did you get into acting?

Since childhood, I have been an actor; started out performing musicals to records in my family living room then doing plays with the Chicago Park District. In high school and college, I moved toward the Forensics Speech Team. My categories were Dramatic and Humorous Interpretations and Duet Acting. Then I took a break for a long time, until a neighbor asked me to audition for a play she was doing, I have been back on the boards ever since.

  1. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

Ben in Follies: I love the music and the character is so flawed, he would be a wonderful challenge to bring to life on stage.

  1. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of play multiple characters in multiple plays?

I play from my age up to 78/79 years old in the four plays. It’s been a lot of fun trying voices and faces and body language to create these characters. It’s not everyday you get an opportunity like this so I feel pretty fortunate to be working with Second Act Players, especially during the pandemic. Also, playing on a green screen, acting opposite my windows or walls is certainly a learning experience. As I’ve told other cast members, now that we have learned the ins and outs of digital filming, we can market ourselves for Marvel movies….Are you listening Disney???

  1. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

It’s my belief that we all have the same hopes and expectations, to see the theater world come roaring back to life! Audiences to be back cheering for the actors on stage and that energy being transferred throughout the theater to the point where the building itself practically glows with excitement.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Hear about our “60 is the New 40” plays on WCGO’s Playtime, Sunday, 1:45 pm

2nd Act Players Cofounders John Frank and Carolyn Calzavara will be discussing their 60 is the New 40 Play Festival this Sunday, Nov. 8 on Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall on WCGO radio.

You can hear the show on WCGO 1590 AM, 95.9 FM and online at
http://www.wcgoradio.com

The 2nd Act Players are scheduled to be on at 1:45 p.m. central time.

“We always love visiting with Kerri and Bill, their shower does amazing things for the arts in the Chicago area, it’s an honor to be with them,” says Frank.

The 60 is the New 40 Online Play Festival opens this Friday, Nov. 13 with shows through Sunday Nov. 20 To read more about it, simply click here.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet Matt Schufrieder, come see him act online

Matt Schufrieder is making his 2nd Act Players debut with our 60 is the new 40 Play Festival, Matt has roles in teo of our short plays and will definitely show his acting range. In one, he plays an aspiring Broadway composer while in the other, he plays a high school senior anxious to conquer the world — and to tell his mother what’s what.

Come see Matt along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festivapage. For tickets, click here.

Matthew Schufreider

Below, read Matt’s thoughts on acting, the challenges he faced in the festival and his hopes for the future of theater.

  1. How and why did you get into acting?

I was a VERY awkward kid growing up and I didn’t know how to fit into any groups. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school where I tried out for theatre.One of the reasons I tried out was because I was getting increasingly jealous of my peers being silly and standing out. People loved it. I was inspired to audition for my high school theatre company. I got casted in a two person one act play. It is still one of my favorites pieces that I have done.

2. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

George Bailey- I played him a few years ago and I would love to play it again a little bit older. Also Father Flynn from Doubt is one of my favorites. You don’t know whether he did the crime or not. That is up to the actors to decide.

3. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of playing multiple characters in multiple plays?

.This production has really helped me listen. Since we are not able to be in person or even see our fellow actors at times, I have to now really pay attention to what is being said and how to respond. Since the characters I am playing are two different kinds of people, I have to make sure the choices I am using fit the scene and role. Also, the idea of stillness has been such a rewarding challenge. As someone who talks with hands (I’m doing it right now), the idea of trying to stay still is very hard. Because we don’t have a lot of space to move, I have to stand still. It was very hard but very rewarding.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

As an actor, I can’t wait to be back in the room with artists. Not just actors but artists. I get motivated being in the room and listening to the stories of artists. Especially right now, artists are more needed than ever. For theatre, I think there is going to be a slow demand for more theatre. I hope the stories that are presented by theatre companies don’t just move audience members, but make them think.
Looking forward for audiences to feel and think with this show.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet deb rodkin, come see her act online

Deb Rodkin is a veteran of the 2nd Act Players stage, having acted in two of our previous productions, including our 2019 hit Old Ringers.. She’ll be playing multiple characters in three of the eight short plays that make up our 60 is the New 40 Play Festival this month.

Come see Deb along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Debra Rodkin

Below, read Deb’s thoughts on acting and the challenges she faced in preparing to act in thefestival.

1. How and why did you get into acting?

 Lifelong obsession. I used to act out very dramatic scenes in my kitchen at 8. 

2. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

Too many to narrow down.

3. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of play multiple characters in multiple plays?

They all feel different to me, exploring the way that is true. Divergence.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet Liz Lauren, Come sEE Her act online

Liz Lauren is a veteran of the 2nd Act Players stage, having acted in two of our previous productions. She’ll be playing multiple characters in four of the eight short plays that make up our 60 is the New 40 Play Festival this month.

Liz Lauren

Come see Liz along with five other cast members, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Below, read Liz’s thoughts on acting, the challenges she faced in the festival and her hopes for the future of theater.

  1. How and why did you get into acting?

When I was a teen in San Diego I saw A Chorus Line, which inspired me to take acting classes and eventually move to L.A. to pursue acting as a career.

  1. If you could play any character in any play or movie, who would you pick and why?

I love Ilsa in Casablanca. Her role has a deep and rich emotional life with a colorful story. The audience can understand and empathize with her as she struggles with her choices.

  1. In this festival, how are you tackling the challenge of playing multiple characters in multiple plays?

I set aside time to focus on each play individually and sketch out a back story for each character I am playing. When rehearsing, I try to stay open so that opportunities of discovery and moments can happen organically.

  1. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I hope most theaters will be able to survive the long shut-downs that have happened during Covid and will have the financial and community support to come back strong and thrive in the post-Covid era. I’m sure there will be an abundance of plays written about this time, so many stories to tell.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet ian Patrick Williams & normal schnormal

Ian Patrick Williams won the Chicago Emmy award for acting in and co-authoring the teleplay Bleacher Bums for PBS-TV; the script was later produced as a TV movie by Showtime. His one-act play Provenance was produced last year at Ensemble Studio Theater in L.A.

Here, he talks about his 2nd Act Players’ festival award-winning play, Normal Shnormal, and his expectations for theater in the pst-Covid world.

1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

A comic two-hander in which an elderly hypochondriac shows up at an ER expecting to hear the worst about her last check-up. Although her doctor constantly reassures her everything is normal, she refuses to believe it.

2. What was your inspiration to write this script?

 It may seem that it was inspired by Covid-19 but I actually wrote it before the outbreak.  I think it was just a realization that so many elderly people live alone now and it’s easy to fall into depression about one’s health even when it’s not warranted.  I thought it might be a fun and touching look into the lives of these two people as they exasperate each other.

3. How and why did you become a playwright?

I started my career as a stage actor in Chicago.  Our theater company took a chance that we could collectively write a play for ourselves and came up with Bleacher Bums, a comedy about die-hard Cubs fans.  Its success led me to start writing plays and screenplays on my own.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I know people are hungry for the shared experience of theater and film.  There’s nothing like going into that collective dream state together when we suspend our disbelief and enter into a new world on stage.  I look for an explosion of theatrical activity; unfortunately we may be a year away from everyone being inoculated so we can start up again.

5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I wrote a 10-minute absurdist comedy called The Will in which Mr. and Mrs. America go to an attorney to see what they might inherit if their mother, Democracy, dies.  It was performed online by We the People in an effort to get out the vote.  The company Fleas on the Dog have said they want to do my three-person comedy The STD’s about, yes, three sexually transmittable diseases arguing among themselves as to who’s best at infecting people.  A little dark maybe but we’re living in dark, infectious times.  Stay safe everyone! 

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet mark contorno and read about Egil Foss

Mark Contorno (playwright, composer and lyricist) is a native of Chicago, who has also lived in New York and Los Angeles. He has written numerous plays and musicals some of which were produced in Chicago as well as New York and Charleston, South Carolina.

Come see us perform Mark’s play, Egil Foss and His Left Hand, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Mark Contorno

Here’s what Mark has to say about his play and his thoughts on theater during the pandemic and beyond.

  1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

“Egil Foss and His Left Hand” attempts to underline the opportunities that can be gained from building relationships across generations and the value they can bring.

  1. What was your inspiration to write this script?

My inspiration for writing this script came from my own personal experience. I was once the young man in the script.

  1. How and why did you become a playwright?

Throughout most of my life I’ve written songs and in my twenties I especially became interested in musical theatre. The problem I faced was that I had no one to write the book so I jumped in and gave it a try. People seemed to like some of my work and so I started to write plays and never looked back.

  1. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

So many of us are starving for theatre and I expect that to fuel a great new energy as theatre returns.

  1. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

The Covid quarantine has given me time to fill my days writing and/or tweaking both musicals and plays I’ve written. I was able to finish a draft on what I call a film noir musical and a play about trying to get your play produced called “I Wrote A Play, Now What.”

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet craig gustafson & read about ‘spot the camel’

Craig Gustafson has been writing 10-minute plays for the past two years. His Lending a Hand has been published in Best Ten Minute Plays of 2019 and Save Me, Myron Glick! will be published in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2021.

Here. Craig shares with us his thoughts on his festival play, Spot the Camel, and on the future of theater during and after Covid.

Craig Gustofson

1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

Long-term love and relationships.  How people and their loved ones react to an undiagnosed medical concern.

2. What was your inspiration to write this script?

My inspiration was life.  My memory really has been going slightly south, then I found this graphic online and wouldn’t give up until I found the goddamned camel.  Much of the play consists of real life conversations I’ve had with my wife.

3. How and why did you become a playwright?

I’ve been writing sketches and songs for many years for community theater, but didn’t get serious about it until early 2018, when my beloved friend died unexpectedly from a heart attack brought on by lupus.  The Giant Revelation suddenly punched me in the nose – maybe time isn’t infinite, and if I wanted to write, I’d better get cracking.  Since then, a night of my plays was produced by a local theater, three of my 10 minute plays have been/will shortly be published, and I was accepted into the Dramatists Guild of America.  And it took a friend’s death to do that.  Don’t wait.  Do it.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?
When there is a vaccine, I’ll have some hopes and expectations.  Right now, there are none.  I don’t see a point in speculating about receiving a pony when all of the horses are sick.  Or dead.

5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I have been writing, but writer’s block has been the Man Who Came to Dinner.  One of my plays, about two amateur vampire hunters and the female vampire they inadvertently brought with them on the homeward bound ship, ended up becoming a satire of anti-maskers.
I’m directing Zoom productions of my plays.  Five on October 21, five upcoming on November 18.

Craig’s play revolves around this picture, can you find the camel in it?
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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet steven korbar and read about his play, in her golden years

Steven Korbar’s full-length and one-act plays have been produced throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. His short plays, Table for Four, Mrs. Jansen Isn’t Here Now and What are You Going to Be? have all been published in Smith and Kraus’ Best Short Plays series.

Come see us perform Steven’s play, In Her Golden Years, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Steven Korbar

Here’s what Steven has to say about her play and her thoughts on theater during the pandemic and beyond.

  1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?
    Basically how little we know about our own parents as people.
  2. What was your inspiration to write this script?
    I’ve always wanted to right something about an Olympic athlete, but never came up with a story I thought was original till now.
  3. How and why did you become a playwright?
    Old story. An actor who didn’t work as much as I wanted so I started writing my own material.
  4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?
    That it survives!!!!
  5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?
    It took me a while to get motivated but I have started again, Mostly working on comedy- the times are so bleak writing drama is too depressing.
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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet ken preuss and read about his play

Ken Preuss is a Florida-based playwright, performer and teacher. His one-acts for teens and assorted short plays have been produced in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and 48 of 50 States.

Come see us perform Ken’s play, The Elusive Pursuit of Maximum Bliss, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Ken Preuss

Here’s what Ken has to say about his play and his thoughts on theater during the pandemic and beyond.

1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

The Elusive Pursuit of Maximum Bliss examines the fortunes and folly of reflecting on past choices and wishing for future happiness.

2. What was your inspiration to write this script?

Looking for an idea for a sci-fi play, I began with a concept of examining multiple timelines. As the characters began to emerge, I stumbled upon the idea of a device that monitored one’s happiness… and the story just fell into place, creating connections I hadn’t imagined.

3. How and why did you become a playwright?

As a middle school teacher, I began writing one-acts for my students to perform, eventually branching out to create short plays for festivals and theatres world-wide.  

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I hope to see live theatre make a triumphant return so many of my talented friends can resume work and pursue their passion. I’d love to see theatres continue to include the online options they’ve embraced, opening their productions to audiences across the globe.

5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I’ve created a handful of short plays written to be performed online, and I’ve revised several of stage plays into Zoom-friendly adaptations. Inspiration has fluctuated throughout the quarantine, but I have built friendships and collaborated with artists who have generously performed my work online. I’ve loved working with actors, directors, producers, and audiences to keep Theatre alive.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

meet Elizabeth DeSchryver and read about her play Symphony

Elizabeth DeSchryver is a published poet and short story writer as well as a playwright. Her short plays have been performed at Chicago Dramatists, Cold Basement Dramatics, and 2nd Act Players. Now that she is retired, she is looking forward to writing more.

Come see us perform Beth’s play, Symphony, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Elizabeth DeSchryver

Here’s what Beth has to say about her play and her thoughts on theater during the pandemic and beyond.

1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it? 


A recently widowed 63 year-old woman suddenly decides to join a year-long research project in Africa, to the delight of her grandson and the concern of her daughter.     

2. What was your inspiration to write this script?

I wrote this play specifically for this competition, so in a way, 2nd Act players was the inspiration.  As for the subject, I’ve written several stories centering on people trying to find their way after the traditional path has failed them or come to an end.  I think everyone wants to make their mark in the world, somehow.

3. How and why did you become a playwright?

I have always loved theatre.  But I didn’t start writing for it until I had my fiction critiqued by multiple editors. They identified my strengths as dialog, having a very spare style of writing, and a number of other things that pointed me to playwriting.  

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I’ve been introduced to a lot of new theatre during this home-hugging period that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, from New York, London, as well as Chicago. I hope a hybrid form remains—performance on stage, in front of an audience, but also online broadcasts at a reduced price to reach more people. Not recorded, necessarily, but live broadcasts from an audience seat, as if you were sitting in the theatre. 

5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I’ve been writing, but mostly short pieces, as my concentration hasn’t been great. Fortunately, I’ve found some classes that have helped me focus on longer work. And, like everyone, I’ve been trying to help those who need it and stay in touch with friends I can’t visit.     

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet robin baron, author of “About Time”

Robin Baron’s produced plays include: Mother’s Day, Seoul Players, Seoul, Korea (2019); Gus, Otherworld Theatre, Chicago, IL (2019); About Time, 4th Street Theater, Chesterton, IN (2019); Bruce, Funhouse IV, Seattle, WA (2018); and Downsizing, Stage Left, Spokane, WA (2018).

Robin’s plays have been part of Page to Stage at The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. (2014-2019). She is a member of The Dramatists Guild and lives in Bethesda, MD.

Robin Baron

Come see us perform Robin’s About Time, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

Here’s what Robin has to say about her play and her thoughts on theater during the pandemic and beyond.

1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

Jim’s Watch and Clock Store is about to be sold to a developer. However, Diane helps Jim find a new way to spend his time.

2. What was your inspiration to write this script?

Several things: I love old watch and clock stores that are stuffed with old timepieces. While in these old shops, I like looking at the ancient clocks with their beautiful designs and intricate interiors. I especially enjoy those clocks that chime on the hour with varied musical chirps and tones. Also, I liked the idea of an older couple finding romance unexpectedly. I combined all of this and wrote “About Time.”

3. How and why did you become a playwright?

I’ve always liked writing stories. However, I only started writing plays a few years ago. I love the immediacy of writing dialogue and then hearing the actor bring my words to life. Hearing the audience laugh at my jokes is pretty great too.

4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I hope that an effective vaccine that is tested properly is available soon and that a better national approach is taken to control the spread of this virus so that we can all get back into a physical theater very soon.

5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I found it tough at first to write during the beginning of the pandemic, since I mostly write comedies. With so much stress and worry going on for everyone, it was difficult finding things to laugh about. However, I began to slowly work on new projects. Creating something during the pandemic is a great way to relieve stress.

I would also like to dedicate the performance of my play, About Time, to the memory of my mother, Elaine Manson, who passed away on September 22, 2020.

I feel very honored that my play, About Time, was chosen to be a part of this show.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet John Mabey, author of “the Sensational Sisters”

John Mabey started his career as a mental health counselor and infuses everything he’s learned about relationships and emotions into his characters. His work has been produced in Los Angeles and New York as well as overseas in Amsterdam. Here, he gives an overview of his play and looks ahead to theater in the post-covid age.

John Mabey

Come see us perform John’s play, along with seven other short plays, online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. For details, check out our 60 is the New 40 Festival page. For tickets, click here.

  1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?

This play explores the question of what happens after we stop doing the job that had previously defined us. And it celebrates the process of anxiety but ultimate joy at discovering our hidden talents. I hope people of every age will connect with these themes of where and how to belong.

  1. What was your inspiration to write this script?

We’re usually the heroes of our own stories, and these superhero sisters have been in my imagination for a long time. A theme I often write about is identity and especially how identity changes over time, and these characters are unique in that their superhero identities have been tied together through the bonds of family.

  1. How and why did you become a playwright?

I’ve been a storyteller since I was young, and playwriting grew from a desire to express myself but unsure how. I was raised in a small community but unexpectedly had the chance to travel abroad as a teenager, becoming immersed in diverse cultures vastly different from my own.

These experiences changed me in many ways, but especially in my sense of storytelling: what stories I can tell, how a story can be told, and that there isn’t just one way to tell a story. I wrote a lot during this time and what I loved most about the characters I created were their inner lives and motivations that drove their actions.

This led me to work in the counseling profession, and I earned a Masters in Counseling as well, specializing in a community-based eclectic approach that (much like my playwriting) didn’t favor one theoretical technique over another.

Writing became my passion as I continued to write plays but also book chapters and journal articles about sexuality, spirituality, aging and how we create a sense of belonging. I continually bring these themes into my playwriting, especially examining the effects of power structures and how to navigate multiple and intersecting identities within the LGBTQIA+ community.

  1. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?

I’m full of hope. In a post-COVID world, I hope that these creative ways we’ve kept theatre alive will translate into continued opportunities for virtual theatre. I’ve been able to have readings, workshops, and productions of my plays in a virtual capacity that allows for collaborations across demographics and time zones that was not possible previously.

I expect theatre to look very different in the years to come as the creativity that’s been shown in 2020 will continue to inspire what happens next.

  1. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?

I’ve felt very inspired during the quarantine, and also allowed myself to take breaks from writing as needed. Creativity looks very different at different times, and for a writer to just spend time in nature and daydream is absolutely part of that process.

During the quarantine, I’ve had over 20 productions of short plays and monologues on different continents and also completed revisions on my full-length play as well. When I’m not writing, you can find me taking long walks and having endless conversations with my characters.

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2nd Act Players 60 is the new 40

Meet the Cast of “60 is the New 40”

Two returning 2nd Act Players are joined by four newcomers to our virtual stage in the 2nd Act Players November online 60 is the New 40 Short-Play Festival.

Deb Rodkin acted with the 2nd Act Players in 2019 in Old Ringers and also was in the cast for its 2019 Women’s Empowerment One-Act Play Festival. Deb will be taking on roles in three of the eight plays that make up this year’s festival.

Liz Lauren graced the 2nd Act Players’ stage in New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s House in 2018 and also was part of its first short-play festival in 2016. She will be taking on roles in four of the eight plays that will stream online Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 this year.

New to our virtual stage this year are Bev Coscarelli, Nick Dorado, Sheena Laird, and Matthew Schufreider.

Bev’s resume includes a long list of stage performances at such theaters as the Beverly Arts Center, with the Terrapin Theatre and with the Village Players of Oak Park.

Nick’s credits include performances with the Redtwist Theater, the Devonshire Playhouse and the Oil Lamp Theatre.

Matt too has acted at the Oil Lamp Theatre as well as at the Courtyard Theatre and the Woodstock Theatre Company. Matt and Nick have acted together in the past and will be in Egil Foss and His Left Hand together in this festival.

Sheena has done a great deal of sketch comedy as well as stage work and was named Best Choreographer in Chicago in 2016 by the Chicago Reader.

To read all about the festival, simply click here.

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2nd Act Players Featured Many Rivers

2nd Act Players Donates $950 to NAACP Legal Defense Fund

The 2nd Act Players has donated $950 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to help fight for racial justice in the United States. The donation represents 80% of the contributions made by attendees at the 2nd Act Players’ two recent streaming performances entitled More Rivers Will I To Cross — a look at the twin pandemics of racism and Covid-19.

The streaming performances July 24 and July 25, the first online efforts by the 2nd Act Players, featured two short plays by Southside Chicago playwright Andre Richardson Hogan II, Raising Puffs and Line of Duties.

“We wanted to do more than just issue another statement after the death of George Floyd and subsequent demonstrations across America, we wanted to do something tangible to help,” says 2nd Act Players’ cofounder John N. Frank.

“We knew Andre had something important to say about racial justice in Raisin Puffs and we were happily surprised when he told us he had just written another play that looked at the toll Covid-19 is taking across this country,” explains Frank.

More than 40 show attendees made donations to watch one of the two streaming shows. “We didn’t charge to watch, asking instead for donations,” Frank explains. “We likely lost money on this production but we consider the costs incurred part of our donation to make sure Andre’s words were heard. Theater exists to get people to think about, and act on, the major issues of the day, we believe. We have done that with these shows.”

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2nd Act Players Featured Many Rivers

2nd Act Players to stream socially relevant plays by Southside Chicago author

The 2nd Act Players will present its first online production the evenings of July 24th and 25th entitled More Rivers Will I to Cross — A look at twin pandemics – Racism & Covid-19. The streaming presentation will feature two short plays by Chicago playwright Andre Richardson Hogan II, Raisin Puffs and Line of Duties.

Raisin Puffs involves three Black men talking about police assaulting someone they know, while Line of Duties involves a Chicago family preparing for the funeral of one of its own, a Chicago firefighter struck down by Covid-19.

Andre Richardson Hogan II

“These moving plays deal with the two biggest issues we’re facing in America today, blatant police racism toward African-Americans and the Coronavirus which is killing people and radically changing how we live,” says 2nd Act Players’ Cofounder and Creative Director John N. Frank. “The program’s title is inspired by a Jimmy Cliff song, Many Rivers to Cross, and refers to the challenges society is facing because of the twin-rivers of racism and the pandemic.”

Starring in the plays will be Chicago actors Anthony Brown, Herbert Harper, Jr. and Nicholas Richardson. Richardson, who last acted with the 2nd Act Players in 2017 during its first new script festival, also will direct both plays.

Harper is a Chicago native who has acted in theatre, television, film, and digital media productions. His theater credits include Love Rx and Salute (Expressions Theatre Troupe), and Needles and Pins (Armory Free Theatre). brown is an actor and singer who has appeared at the Big Noise Theater in The Odd Couple and Kiss Me, Kate, Midsommer Flight in Twelfth Night, Echo Theater Collective in Blues for Mister Charlie, and Towle Theater in Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play. Anthony is a member of Reverb, Echo Theater Collective’s performance ensemble.

“The virus shut down our theater this spring and has left us uncertain when we’ll be able to perform on-stage again, so we’ve opted to go virtual and present these important works online. These are stories that need to be heard now, and they will provide us with a relevant way to raise funds for social justice,” Frank explains. “80% of all donations from people watching the show will go to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.”

Nicholas Richardson

Says director Richardson, “These plays bring to mind something Malcolm X once said, ‘Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it,’”

 

 

Says playwright Hogan, “‘The theater has to serve a revolutionary function,’ playwright Amiri Baraka once said. Given the themes of racism, violence, courage and unity, I feel that these plays are just the antidotes needed to eradicate any inhumane acts that would distract one from practicing any humane acts that, in turn, will bring about unity for all humankind,”

The production will be online for viewing at 7 p.m. the evenings of Friday July 24 and Saturday, July 26. The Friday show will be followed by a discussion with the playwright and actors about the plays and how they reflect our times.

Anthony Brown
Herbert Harper Jr.

Admission to the shows will be free, but donations will be encouraged. Eighty percent of all the donations made over the two-night run will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“This production allows us to continue in our role of featuring new voices for the stage in plays that look at key 2nd acts in people’s lives,” says Frank. “We excited to be performing again in a socially relevant way.”

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2nd Act Players Featured

Evanston 2nd Act Players to Suspend All Operations

The Evanston 2nd Act Players will be suspending operations for the remainder of 2021.

This follows what for us was a devastating development last week – the church where we have performed since 2016 said we cannot do any in-person shows there this winter.

Rather than have any activities in its theater area this year, it has decided to take on a major upgrade to its heating and air conditioning systems to increase airflow throughout its complex of buildings to comply with standards recommended because of Covid. It’s unclear whether that project will be done by next spring when we would be starting our 2022 season, so next year is a question mark at the moment as well.

We considered renting other spaces. But in checking, we found the costs would be considerably higher. Given all the unknowns around doing live theater this fall, we did not think it prudent to take on such costs.

We also considered doing more online shows, but attendance for those has been declining and our feeling is that our traditional audience is not interested in such shows.

We’ve also spent the past year trying to expand our board and its fund-raising capabilities, reaching out to a wide range of people in our area who have been involved with theaters and the arts in the past.

But we were unsuccessful in that effort. Without added help at the top, the prospect of continuing was extremely daunting.

Thank you to everyone who has acted with us, directed with us, stage-managed with us, helped us fund-raise, helped us in so many ways. Thank you to all the playwrights we have had the pleasure of working with.

And thank you to everyone who has bought tickets to see our shows, starting with our first production back in 2013. It has been an amazing eight and a half years of creative struggle and creative accomplishments.

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Black Flag Featured

Why you should watch ‘Black Flag’ — read what critics have said

“Aptly named, “Black Flag” has to do with America’s Original Sin of slavery and the terrible schism that this has created over the decades through the present-day ..The story alludes to today’s deep cultural clashes and the struggle for ideology.”
Julia W. Rath
Aroundthetownchicago.com
July, 2021

 

The 2nd Act Players decided to stream Idris Goodwin’s Black Flag this July after seeing it performed online in 2020. We were deeply impressed by the message and the writing — and we were not alone. The 20-minute play was written in 2016 and has been performed by several theaters. Here’s what other critics had to say (and reasons for you to watch):

“An unsettling discourse on the prolonged tension that ensues when Georgia native Evelyn moves into her freshman year dorm in New York City and decides to decorate her side of the room with a big old Confederate flag…Playwright Idris Goodwin does a good job of unstitching several complicated rhetorical threads in a short amount of time.”
—stagebuddy.com

Black Flag is a biting new play about allegiance, censorship, and the price of honoring the past.”
—www.show-score.com

Chicago’s American Blues Theater recognized Goodwin’s talent in 2017, naming him a winner of its National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Another Goodwin play, HYPE MAN, was selected from among 543 submissions to help him capture that award.

The 2nd Act Players will be streaming Black Flag July 1, 14, and July 15 at 7 p.m. central time. Watching the performance is free. Donations, 80% of which will go to a non-profit Goodwin has selected, are encouraged. To secure your viewing spot and to make a donation, just click here…

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? 2nd Act Players Featured Pandemic Stories

Pandemic Stories Gets Rave Review; Watch it On-demand Now

The 2nd Act Players spring online production, Pandemic Stories, 7 short plays about life, love and loss in the age of Covid-19, received a three-star review from the website AroundtheTownChicago.com.

“From funerals and final messages to the repercussions of the stay-at-home orders, this timely show is an intimate take on the effects of current events and realities on contemporary life and death,” wrote reviewer Julia Rath.

“One of my personal favorites is Donna Latham’s “Lunch Lady”, the presentation that opens the show. Three different lunch ladies in Texas describe their own unique experiences when schools closed,” Rath writes.

“Another of my favorites is “What Good Did We See Today? by Cathrine Goldstein. In an extraordinary performance, Manny Schenk channels George, an old man with dementia as he slowly but steadily declines between March 2020 and February 2021. Among other things, he confuses his two daughters and fails to understand the restrictions on his activities due to shelter-in-place orders,” Rath writes.

“Other short plays include: “Second Acts, Second Helpings” by John Mabey, “Love in the Time of Covid-19” by Germaine Shames, “[Brackets]” by Craig Gustafson, “The Birds Are Feeding Me” by Rex McGregor, and “To the Zoom and Back” by Cindi Sansone-Braff,” Rath concludes.

While live-streaming performances of the show have ended, it is still available for on-demand, online viewing on the 2nd Act Players YouTube channel.

To buy tickets, simply use the donate box below to show how much you plan to donate, the minimum suggested is $15. Enter your email address and then click the donate button.

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2021 isn't 2020 or is it? Featured Pandemic Stories

What’s your pandemic truth?

We’ve all lived through a year like no other in our lifetimes.

What has that done to you, how have you changed?

What’s your pandemic truth? Did you….

  • Worry about the safety of essential workers?

  • Help feed insecure families?

  • Try new online activities?

  • Provide care for a homebound senior?

  • Learn more about your neighbors than you wanted?

  • Get fed up with a roommate?

  • Mourn a loved one?

  • Promise to live your best life post-COVID?

Come see how 17 different people lived, loved, and lost. Then tell us who you identified with the most.

 

Pandemic Stories – 7 plays about life, love and loss in the time of Covid

For tickets, click here

Shows Friday & Saturday @7 p.m. central time
Sunday @ 2 central

 

 

Speak with authors and actors after the show in our online discussion group!