Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's Artistic Director Tara Mallen announces the first production in its 2012-2013 Season dedicated to the theme "reinvention" is WRENS, by Anne McGravie and directed by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's co-founder Karen Kessler, September 6 – October 13, at Rivendell's new performance venue, 5779 N. Ridge. Previews are $15 and run Thursday, Sept. 6 – Saturday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. There is a Gala Performance Sunday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. and opening/press night is Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. The regular performance tickets are $30 with the schedule Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. is a benefit performance of WRENS with the original 1996 award-winning cast reprising their roles. Tickets are on sale now; call 773.334.7728 or visit www.RivendellTheatre.org.
Rivendell burst onto the off-Loop scene in 1996 with its groundbreaking world premiere production of Anne McGravie's WRENS, which earned three Joseph Jefferson awards and secured Rivendell's status as "a major force on the Chicago fringe" (Chicago Tribune). This season, RTE co-founder Karen Kessler returns to direct an all new cast featuring Ensemble members Ashley Neal, Mary Cross, and Rebecca Spence with Meg Warner, Jodi Kingsley, Amanda Powell, and Katrina Kuntz. McGravie's moving semi-autobiographical examination of loyalty, morality and duty during World War II centers on a group of young Women's Royal Navy Servicewomen packed together in a tiny barrack on the eve of VE Day. With humor and wisdom, McGravie shines a light on the complex emotions of these women as they are confronted with the bittersweet prospect of peace at last and the impending loss of their newfound wartime independence.
The all-female production team includes Joanna Iwanicka (set), Diane Fairchild (lights), Christine Pascual (costumes), Kate Hopgood (sound), Stephanie Hurovitz (production stage manager), and Jen Seleznow (production manager).
Anne McGravie (Playwright) is a Scottish-born (Edinburgh) playwright who lives and writes in Chicago. Equity and non-equity theatres in Chicago, New York, Australia and the U.K have produced her work. She is a founding member of the Chicago Alliance for Playwrights, a member of the Women's Theatre Alliance, The Dramatists Guild, and International PEN (San Miguel Chapter). The founder of PACE Theatre Group at Cook County Department of Correction, she is also the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. A few of her notable ChicaGo Productions include The Cairn Stones at Bailiwick theater, The Poppy Garden at Footsteps Theater; The Hiroshima Project at Bailiwick; No Place Like Home at Steppenwolf Theatre Company which McGravie both collaborated on as a writer and performed in; and of course several productions (including the world premiere at Rivendell) of one of her most personal plays, WRENS, based on Anne's first hand experience serving in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II.
At age 86, McGravie is enjoying perhaps her busiest season to date. Anne's most celebrated play, WRENS, (JEFF recipient, Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, Ragdale) reunites her with Tara Mallen and Rivendell Theatre for this remount in Rivendell's beautiful new theatre. At the same time, The Clown Next Door is being produced by Susan Padveen's Neapolitans. In October, McGravie's short play A Stone-cold Case will be part of the opening celebrations for Loyola University Drama Department's NewhArt Theatre, Sarah Gabel, Artistic Director. In addition, McGravie's "Inishfree" was one of the short stories that introduced Brigham Young University's production of Arabian Nights.
Kathleen Thompson and her e-publishing company, Around the Block Press, are producing McGravie's first novel, Dancing on Ashes.
Karen Kessler (Director) is a co-founder of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and a proud member of A Red Orchid Theatre where she is currently directing a new play by Brett Neveu, The Opponent. Most recently for Red Orchid, Kessler directed the Midwest premiere of Louis Slotin Sonata and previously directed the Midwest premiere of Pumpgirl by Irish playwright Abbie Spallen, the Chicago premiere of Sarah Kane's Blasted; the US premiere of Gagarin's Way by Gregory Burke (a play that won an After Dark award for "Outstanding Ensemble") and the Midwest premiere of Mr. Kolpert by David Gieselmann. Other Chicago credits include: Collaboraction's Sketchbook 2009 – Who Put the Dead Bird in My Mailbox? by Sarah Hammond; the US Premiere of Roddy Doyle's War for Seanachai Theatre; A Going Concern, This Lime Tree Bower, Remembrance, A Mislaid Heaven, and the award winning Early and Often for Famous Door; the Midwest premiere of Sam Shepard's The God of Hell at the Next Theatre; The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Wrens, Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac for Rivendell Theatre; and the Midwest premiere of Steve Martin's The Underpants for Noble Fool Productions. Credits outside of Chicago include: Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival and Idaho Repertory Theatre. Kessler is an Associate Professor of Directing and Shakespeare at Ball State University in Indiana.