Theatrical couple bonds at work, home

Originally Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013, 9:20 am
Last Updated: Jan. 17, 2013, 8:03 pm
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By Jonathan Turner,

Daniel Sheridan is excited about directing the second production of theQC Theatre Workshop --Steven Dietz's dramatic comedy "Private Eyes" -- not only because it reunites the cast and crew of the workshop's debut, "Red," from last summer.

It's also because thecast features five artists he'd been hoping to direct for years, including his talented wife, Jessica.

"The relationship between a director and an actor is a fascinating and complicated one," Mr. Sheridan, who also is artistic director of Davenport Junior Theatre, recently said. "It's full ofcomplex interactions and multi-layered conversation. But when that relationship also is between a married couple, youadd a whole new layer. I've been thrilled to discover that we can work together in this way."

"We've worked together many times before at DavenportJunior Theatre, but never as an actor and a director," Ms. Sheridan said. When asked how their professional relationship meshes with life athome, she said: "We've found that it's best to leave our work in the theater. As professionals, we're very used to playingthese roles. So, even though it's a little different as a married couple, as long as we act professionally at the theater, itworks really well."

"Every time you work with an actor," Mr. Sheridan said, "you learn more about how they work and how they think. Whenthe actor is your wife, you wind up learning new things about the actor and your spouse. For a director, this is truly adream cast. It's been a joy to work with this group."

In addition to Ms. Sheridan (who did props for "Red" last August and also is a designer and photographer for "Private Eyes"), the cast includesThomas Alan Taylor ("Red," "Mr. Marmalade" at New Ground, "Hairspray" at Circa),Mike Schulz ("Red," "Time Stands Still," "Speed-the-Plow," and "Art" with Curtainbox," and "How I Learned to Drive" at Augustana),Pat Flaherty ("King Lear" at Genesius Guild, "The Best Man" and "Spelling Bee" at District Theatre, and "Mr. Marmalade" at New Ground) and Jessica Denney ("Mr. Marmalade" and "Time Stands Still").

Ms. Sheridan has acted in "Tartuffe" withPrenzie Players; "Wit" at Curtainbox, "Doubt" with Green Room and "All MySons" and "Crème de Coco" at St. Ambrose University.

"With Jessica in particular, she has a raw accessibility to her emotions, without losing the ability to communicate ideas," Mr. Sheridan said. "She's not just up there emoting. She's a strong actress."

The director, who was lighting designer for the Tony-winning two-man drama "Red," also directed "Private Eyes" while he was at St. Ambrose nearly 10 years ago. The play -- described as a "comedy of suspicion" -- keeps its cast and audience on their toes, as it concerns a theater company rehearsing a play, and you never quite know when you're seeing the characters acting in the play-within-a-play, or their "real" lives.

"It lets the audience become the detectives, to decide what they believe is real in the show," Mr. Sheridan said. "People will have differing opinions about the ending. It's a hard show to describe."

"You might be in the play, you might not. The playwright deliberately sometimes doesn't make it clear," said producerTyson Danner, who directed "Red." "It's quite a challenge of a script. There are surreal moments; it tricks you.There is so much intrigue and deception. There are moments in this piece that are so absurd, that are just crazy."

In "Private Eyes," Matthew's wife, Lisa (played by Ms. Sheridan), is having an affair with a British director. Or is she? Perhaps the affair actually is part of the play they are rehearsing. Or perhaps it's all in Matthew's head. Matthew's therapisthelps the audience by offering the truth of the situation.

In this non-traditional, non-linear story, characterstake on different personalities, Mr. Sheridan said. "Theshow is riddled with truth about directors and actors -- at times almost a send-up about those things."

As was done with "Red," audiences are simply asked to pay after the show what they thought it was worth. Last time, the average was about $15, "whichprobably is what we would have charged anyway," Mr. Danner said. "We were really happy about that."

The workshop is in the process of setting up a board and registering as a formal nonprofit organization, to be eligible to apply for grants, he added. The cast and crew are considered professionals, but currently are unpaid -- a situation the company hopes to change soon.

"For now, we're just in it because we love to tell stories," Mr. Sheridan said.

Coming up, the group will present the 2008 doomsday comedy "Boom" in May, and the new original play "A Green River" in July. The latter -- by Aaron Randolph III, who was sound designer for "Red" and has premiered many original works at St. Ambrose -- is about a soldier's adjustment to civilian life.

"We want to make sure the organization is stable, and lasts far into the future," Mr. Danner said of QC Theatre Workshop, which has transformed the old Johnson Elementary School gym in Davenport and seats 80. "We want to see it really grow and develop over a long period of time."

If you go

-- What: QC Theatre Workshop's "Private Eyes."
-- When: Friday through Feb. 3; performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays.
-- Where: 1730 Wilkes Ave., off West Locust Street (one block west of Division), Davenport.
-- Tickets: Pay what you feel it's worth. For more information, visit


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