Friday, August 14, 2009

New writing team emerges at Walkabout

Local playwright/acting duo team up for fractured fairy tale

By Jack Helbig, Daily Herald Correspondent

What happens when a standard fairy tale ending (happily ever after) turns out to be more "ever after" than happy? That question is at the center of the new short comedy "Forever and Never: Walt Stubs his Toe" by playwright/actors Debbi Dennison and Marc Jolley.

"We wanted to show Prince Charming and his princess about 15 years after their fairy tale wedding, long after the honeymoon is over. It's a very fractured fairy tale," Dennison says of the show, running as Vex Theatre's entry in the Walkabout festival in Elgin.

Dennison and Jolley were commissioned to write the show by the folks at Vex Theater. "They knew they wanted to do a comedy with a middle-aged prince and princess," Dennison says.

The powers that be at the Palatine-based Vex contacted Dennison and Jolley because they are becoming a writing and performing team of note in the suburbs.

"Mark Jolley and I work together a lot," Dennison says. "We are part of the same improv troupe, the Time Travelers; we perform monthly in Schaumburg. Plus, I work for EGTV Channel 6 in Elk Grove Village, where we do 'The New Ralph the Robot Show.'"

'The New Ralph the Robot Show' is an occasional low-budget children's show Dennison, Jolley and a host of others put together for Channel 6. "Mark is the voice of Ralph the Robot," Dennison says.

"We have a blast with Ralph the Robot," Jolley says, "It is pretty cheesy but it is fun - like we are in Pee Wee Herman's universe."

Jolley, a native of Romeoville, had done a little theater in high school. But it wasn't until he was in the U.S. Navy that he started to take theater seriously. When he was at Great Lakes Naval Base, he took classes in acting and improv at Second City.

"I started taking theater classes because I was kind of morbidly shy," Jolley says.

Later, Jolley was stationed at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. "I was director of the theater group there," Jolley says, adding that theater was one of the things people did on the base for recreation.

When he left the Navy, it was natural for Jolley to continue his work in theater. Currently, he works for the Schaumburg Park District where, among other things, he is responsible for classes in improv and heads The Time Travelers.

It was through The Time Travelers that Jolley met Dennison. Dennison, a graduate of Schaumburg High School, continued her education after getting her degree in communications from Northern Illinois University by studying improvisation at Second City. She joined The Time Travelers five years ago. The two hit it off, and they began working together on other projects at EGTV and the Vex Theatre.

"We work together so much its like we are married," Dennison says. So it comes as no surprise that in "Forever and Never" Jolley plays the aging prince and Dennison plays the fading princess.

"Every character in the show is heightened," Jolley says, "We made everyone in the play crazy except the Evil Queen."

"We ask 'Is the Evil Queen really evil?'" Dennison says, "Or is she just realistic?"

• "Forever and Never" is part of Elgin's Walkabout: Theatre on Your Feet, running Saturdays, Aug. 15 and 22, starting at 1 p.m. (tours every 20 minutes until 2:20 p.m.). Admission is $14. The starting location is the Elgin Public House, 219 East Chicago St., Elgin. Tickets can be purchased by paying cash at the door, but reservations are essential. Call (847) 841-1713.

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