Kyle Bornheimer(The following is Mike Schulz's interview with Curtainbox Theatre Company co-founder Kyle Bornheimer, written for the area organization's Web site TheCurtainbox.com.)

 

At the end of my recent interview with Kyle Bornheimer - the Curtainbox Theatre Company co-founder who stars on the new ABC sitcom Romantically Challenged - I asked the actor if he was hoping, one day, to trek from California to the Midwest in order to see one of the organization's stage productions.

"Oh, definitely," he said. "I'm so impressed with what Kim [Furness] has done with the company. We would sit in her living room and all dream about taking this thing to the next level, and she's done that, so I definitely want to make it out there."

In the meantime, of course, Bornheimer has kept himself more than busy out there.

Danielle Colby-Cushman (center) and the women of Burlesque Le' MoustacheFor many, LeClaire resident Danielle Colby-Cushman is best known as a co-star of the History Channel's hit reality series American Pickers, and the office manager for the city's collectibles shop Antique Archeology.

Yet for some, she's perhaps better-known as the director/founder of, and a featured artist in, the area's only practicing burlesque troupe, for which Colby-Cushman performs comedy routines, dances, and (yes) removes her apparel under the stage name Dannie Diesel.

And for those who have either not heard of this unique company of entertainers - performing at Davenport's Capitol Theatre on April 24 - or are unsure of what it is they do, Colby-Cushman offers an example, taken from troupe member Birdie Belleville's 2009 striptease debut.

Jessica Nicol White and Chris White in 2009's Almost, MaineOn February 11, Geneseo's Richmond Hill Barn Theatre opens its 43rd season with Wrong for Each Other, playwright Norm Foster's two-character comedy about a reunion between a long-estranged divorced couple. If, however, that seems an ill-fitting title to open over Valentine's Day weekend, know that the production's stars wound up receiving far more of a Happily Ever After ending than their characters did, as area actors Chris White and Jessica Nicol (White) were married this past Halloween.

Whether you attend stage works sporadically or, like me, you saw 85 shows in the past year, anyone who enjoyed even one will understand that feeling of leaving a venue thinking, "Wow ... that was really good." I experienced that sensation numerous times this year, and while this list is hardly exhaustive, it'll hopefully give you an idea of just what you've been missing if you missed out on 2009's offerings.

Narrowing down 2009's sensational stage portrayals into a list of 12 "favorites" is a hopeless task, really, so don't take this as any kind of last word on the subject; you'll find mention of amazing stage work all throughout my year-end coverage. Still, here's hoping you were able to catch at least a few of the following performances, which helped underline just how crazy with theatrical talent our area actually is.

Back in 2006, when I composed my first list of a dozen theatre "Essentials" - theatrical talents whose gifts were employed in a number of area productions - I couldn't have imagined that I'd find a dozen new names to add year after year. Well, as 2009 draws to a close, we can officially add another " ... after year" to that sentence.

Five Inspiring Ensembles

Powerful lead performances and scene-stealing supporting turns are always welcome; one- and two-character shows can be a gas. But for my money, nothing quite beats the theatrical pleasure of watching a tightly knit ensemble in action, and the following five productions ensured that this pleasure was a continual one.

 

Glengarry Glen Ross' Michael Kennedy, Aaron Randolph III, Daniel DP Sheridan, Tristan Tapscott, Louis Hare, and David FurnessBefore turning my attention to the area-theatre scene, allow me a moment to address another favorite topic: me.

I seem to have caused some confusion after announcing that I'd no longer be reviewing theatre for the Reader, at least based on how many people have approached me asking variations on, "What are you going to do now?!" (Eventually, I had to go back to the Reader's online call-for-entry to make sure I didn't mistakenly announce that I was quitting or got canned.)

Duffy Hudson as Edgar Allan Poe in In the Shadow of the Raven"It must have been around Halloween," recalls actor/playwright Duffy Hudson. "I was nine, and my father came into my room and started reading 'The Raven' to me. And I remember thinking, 'What the heck is this story about? What's this bird doing in this guy's room? And who is Lenore?'

Olympia DukakisIn the years since she received a 1988 Academy Award for Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis has appeared in more than four dozen feature films, television movies, and miniseries, and has continued to be a widely respected theatre actor and director. So it seems somehow prophetic that her illustrious career began, as she says during a recent phone interview, with a production that blended the stage and celluloid.

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