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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Fox Valley theater company making big shift for 70th season


Attic Chamber Theatre, Inc.

Revamped calendar.


Attic Chamber Theatre, Inc., an important source of performances in the Fox River Valley for 70 years, is retooling its 2020 season.

Changes are the result of the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Typically, the company presents a three-play summer season. This year, that has been scratched, and productions will move to timeslots in November, February and late March/early April 2021.

Much still is up in the air except for the change.

Attic Chamber Theatre performs at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Fox Cities Communication Arts Center. The facility includes the 361-seat James W. Perry Hall and the 125-seat Lucia Baehman Theatre, in which Attic Chamber Theatre presented most of its recent productions.

“UWO-Fox Cities has invited Attic Chamber Theatre to rent their beautiful facility throughout the school year of 2020/2021,” Berray Billington, president, said in a message to patrons. “This gives ACT the option to push the previously announced summer productions into next fall and spring.”

The lineup was to include “The Outsider,” which premiered in Wisconsin as “A Real Lulu,” and the classic “You Can’t Take It with You.” A revue, “Music in the Attic,” was scheduled as an anniversary celebration.

In a response to questions, Billington said the theater is not ready to announce whether the announced plays will be the ones produced, but “we do hope to present our 70th anniversary musical revue in 2020 as that is still within the anniversary year.”

COVID-19 and more came into play.

“Attic is lucky in that the powers that be at UW-Oshkosh, Fox Cities had offered us the chance to do shows in the fall, winter and spring because Susan Rabideau, head of theater there, was taking a year off,” Billington said ‘So we were already scheduled to perform in the space. We were actually beginning planning for that when the pandemic hit.”

Within the change is an important responsibility for Attic Chamber Theatre.

“We are re-assessing our season because part of the agreement was that our productions in the fall and spring would be open to the students of UWO-Fox Cities,” Billington said.

The announcement of the changes came within a newsletter to patrons. In part:

“Attic Chamber Theatre for 70 years has embraced all genres of drama. Now, a currently unfolding health crisis gives us pause to reconsider our priorities. As we all adapt to the immediate new normal of daily life, ACT must adjust as well. We recognize with schools and businesses closing indefinitely, mass gatherings limited to 10 people, social distancing and non-essential business closures, our individual needs have and will continue to radically shift. We are absolutely serious about the safety of our volunteers and audiences! We love our community and your welfare is our utmost concern. In uncertain times, we have decided out of an abundance of caution to suspend the summer season with a strong commitment to be prepared to assist in the healing of our community after the pandemic subsides.

“Attic Theatre has been a crucial component that makes the Fox Valley a vibrant place to live, work and play. We provide opportunities for Fox Valley artists and audiences to celebrate the human experience. The variety and quality of shows that Attic Chamber Theatre produces is exciting and will continue. We will nourish your mind, delight your spirit, and enrich your life through our productions of classic, contemporary and musical plays.”

The cast for “You Can’t Take It with You” was already chosen. As with so much with COVID-19, life suddenly changed for cast members Dick Furniss, Christine Geniesse, Paul Vanden Boogard, Rachel Sandlin, Megan Carpenter, Brandon Van Dalen, Stephanie Miller, Alex Frantz, Adam Baurain, Fran St. Andre, Glen Kellerman, Robert Ernst, Nancy Ernst, Andy Burton, Elisabeth Billings, Kathy Hannah, Patrick James and Andy Burton.

The season already was a bit different for Attic Chamber Theatre. For the first time in many years, the company opened the year with a January production, the farce “The Cure for Love.” This will give a taste for what the company does:

The company’s message to patrons concludes with this:

“The show must go on!! And it will! We will come through this crisis stronger and with a deeper commitment to provide the quality entertainment you need and expect.

“Stay safe, informed and follow our website and we sincerely hope to see you in the fall.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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