Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ladies Quintet: It's Never too Late for Actresses, Either

It's unusual for me to promote a theater event, especially one I have't even seen yet. However, I'm impressed by the idea behind this series of monologues by actresses who are no longer young. For that reason, I'm posting a press release for a show due at Chicago's Raven Theater Complex, 6157 North Clark Street, July 10-20. This is a show I plan to see. If you're in the area, give it a try!


Her car’s license plate reads: SRVIVR1.
But Sonja Christopher, the first contestant kicked off the popular CBS Reality Show Survivor, doesn't sport the plates because of her connection to the show.

The real meaning behind the handle comes from her bout with Breast Cancer over a decade ago. Like the other cast members of THE LADIES QUINTET, a "smart comedy" written by Kathryn G. McCarty, Christopher has been through a lot in her last 7 + decades – and she’s survived it all.

THE LADIES QUINTET, produced by San Francisco Bay Area’s Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre (GPET), plays July 10-20 on the West Stage of the Raven Theatre Complex. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.

According to McCarty, THE LADIES QUINTET, is “a series of one-act monologues, designed for mature women. Essentially, they are intimate solo performances, by actresses who have been performing in Bay Area Theatre for “over 150 years!”

McCarty explains she only points out the number because “That’s a lot of history, many important lessons we’ve had the experience of enjoying!” McCarty, in her 40’s, is 3 decades younger than the other actresses, “And I still struggle to keep up with them.”

“We’re not broads you can hold down,” adds Helen Means, who founded the Onstage Theatre Company, in San Francisco's East Bay, 30 years ago. Like Christopher, Means had her own life-or-death battle, with lung cancer. Now, some 40 years later, she maintains “the faith it took to get through that stage of my life helped get me right where I am now.” Means has been honored with several awards for her commitment to theatre in the Bay Area, and is known for her jovial disposition and sense of humor.

Means, who traveled to Hollywood two years ago with THE LADIES QUINTET, explains the play’s subject matters are relevant to people of all ages. “Let’s face it, dating is no easier at 20 than at 75,” she pauses, “except you know you’ll get through it alive.”

In her early 20’s, Means studied acting in LA, but cut her career short - just after being asked to join Lucille Ball’s production company – when she and her husband discovered they were expecting their first child. “Two daughters and 5 grandkids later and I’m blessed to still be acting!”

Means was introduced to McCarty 15 years ago when McCarty was producing “The Marriage Encounter” by then unknown Craig Brewer, who went on to write “Hustle and Flow” and “Black Snake Moan.” Since that point she has fostered the playwright, and Means interjects: “Actually I adopted her.”

The Bay Area theatre matriarch says she’s watched McCarty’s progress through last August’s publication of her first book and productions of almost 20 plays in the last decade.“The Bay Area has been good to me,” says McCarty, who grew up in Benton, IL and attended Southern IL University. Benton boasts many hometown alumni, including actor John Malkovich and Doug Collins, former Chicago Bulls coach and McCarty's cousin. "Chicago was the place everyone wanted to go," McCarty says, adding that after college her apartment became a "revolving door" for young people moving to the Windy City.

In the early 80’s she lived for several years in Chicago and worked for several prominent theatres and film casting directors, before falling in love with a man who lived outside San Franciso. While the relationship did not work out, McCarty discovered an entirely new path.
“Watching new plays develop is a passion of Bay Area audiences, and I’m thankful for having the chance to live and work in such a rich community – but there’s no place for theatre like Chicago, that's for sure."

Actresses Sheilah Morrison and Carolyn Kraetsch traveled with Means to Los Angeles to perform QUINTET. “It’s a wonderful second career,” said Kraetsch, who graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, then spent 22 years in an elementary school classroom before finding her “niche” performing. “All paths in your life lead to discovery,” said Kraetsch who was raised in Chicago, and met her husband Ralph while they were students at New Trier High School. “But - my father didn’t let me go out on a date until after I’d graduated high school,” laughs Kraetsch, who has lived in Walnut Creek, California for over 50 years and is eager to perform in Chicago. “Eight year olds have much stronger opinions than critics and audiences, so it was really good training!”

Kraetsch plays a character who is President by default of her Community Garden Club. “There’s so much diversity in QUINTET, and each performer is well-showcased,” she explains, admitting, however, that a 20 minute monologue can be rather “daunting.”

“The pieces stand alone as One Acts; together they create a beautiful picture of a variety of perspectives on a well-lived life,” said Morrison, who plays a widow preparing to go out on a date that might lead to sex. “I remember when my own mother began dating again, it was such a difficult time in her life.”

Morrison, a native Coney-Islander (Brooklyn), was surprised to find the Raven Theatre Complex is only blocks from the home she lived in from 1957 to 1964. “I’m sure the neighborhood’s changed some, and someone will have to point the way to the best Happy Hours and late night joints for dancing. And I can’t wait to hit the Blues bars!” Morrison is a very active lady, acting in film and commercial work, working out 3 days a week, tap dancing and performing “a mean Lucille Ball imitation” at area Festivals, churches and Retirement facilities.
“I’ve lived all over the country,” said Morrison, “and I love exploring new cultures and communities, meeting people. I come from a family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukah,” she jokes. “We know there is much to be learned from every aspect of life.”

"I’ve survived being kicked off the island, breast cancer, a brain tumor, divorce and being a single mother,” quips Christopher, “The other actresses and myself, we’ve all experienced many joys and hardships in this life – and we are all prime examples of what faith can do to keep us going, moving forward with our lives and goals.” “And that sure as hell beats out all alternatives,” adds Means.

THE LADIES QUINTET runs July 10-20, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. on the West Stage, at the Raven Theatre Complex, 6157 N Clark St. Tickets are available on the company’s website,, at or by calling (773) 272-5790. Tickets are $15-$20.


WHAT: The Ladies Quintet, by Kathryn G. McCarty

A smart comedy, this series of Intimate Solo Performances on Life in the 21st Century is performed by some of San Francisco Bay Area's First Ladies of Theatre.

Directed by Roberta Tibbetts & Scott Marden
Featuring: Sonja Christopher, Carolyn Kraetsch, Kathryn G. McCarty, Helen Means & Sheilah Morrison

WHEN: JULY 10-20, 2008, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays 8:30 p.m. Sundays 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: on the West Stage, at the RAVEN THEATRE COMPLEX, 6157 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60660


TICKETS (773) 272-5790 $15-$20

THE LADIES QUINTET has been performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, where reviews have included the following:

Bay Area Critic Circle Member/Contra Costa Times writer Pat Craig: "Playwright Kathryn G. McCarty has taken a remarkable change in direction with her latest work.... a quintet of short, solo works that are as achingly introspective as they are engaging.....a gentle, heartfelt show that examines the unguarded and quite revealing thoughts of five different women at different stages of their lives..... They range from touchingly funny the bittersweet poignancy.....There is considerable laughter in all of the pieces, but it comes in bursts, between bouts of sadness and bitterness and the other emotional condiments that season a well-lived life....."

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