Shake Rag Alley Presents ‘A Picnic & A Play’

Alley Stage is built into the site of a former rock quarry, and was home to Shake Rag Alley’s theater company in 2007-14.

By Sara Lomasz Flesch

A new monthly performing arts program takes the stage at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts on June 12. 

A Picnic & A Play: A Staged-Reading Series at Alley Stage is a community collaboration with Mineral Point playwright Marcia Jablonski at Shake Rag Alley’s intimate outdoor theater. Six Wisconsin playwrights beginning with Jablonski will present works in progress at Alley Stage throughout the summer and fall. Besides being fun to watch, a staged reading is an important way a playwright can get feedback from an audience and determine what their next steps are with the script.

Shake Rag Alley is grateful to Marcia for creating this opportunity to return performing arts to Alley Stage, which was the home of a dynamic theater company in 2007-14. The staged reading series uniquely supports the nonprofit’s mission to make art and arts education accessible to the public on the 2.5-acre campus in the historic heart of Mineral Point. It also gives Shake Rag Alley the opportunity to support the community’s creative economy by collaborating with local restaurants and musicians during the picnic hour. Jablonski is donating her time directing the series, which is supported in part by a Mineral Point Community Foundation grant that will provide an honorarium for each playwright and musician and picnics for them and cast members.       

Each Saturday in the series will begin with an optional noontime picnic lunch available for purchase ($15 for one, $25 for two) featuring fare from a variety of Mineral Point restaurants. Picnickers can make use of Shake Rag Alley’s patio tables and chairs, or bring a blanket to enjoy lunch on the Green as local musicians provide entertainment. Beverages will be available for purchase in the Art Cafe.

Tickets to staged readings are just $5 and begin at 1 p.m. with actors and a moderator taking the stage with their scripts. Audience members are invited to stay after the play to share feedback with the playwright during a talkback session. In the event of inclement weather, the readings will move to Green Lantern Studios, 261 High St.

Readings are currently limited to 50 people, so order tickets now for the following dates: 

Marcia Jablonski

June 12: Marcia Jablonski’s “Occum’s Razor.” Jablonski is a resident of Mineral Point and most recently had a piece featured in Forward Theater’s 2019 monologue festival. Her play, “Rumors of Truth,” was produced at the Bartell Theater in Madison, and a one-act, “The Great Jimmy Boyle,” was produced in Milwaukee. A member of the Dramatists Guild and Chicago Dramatists, Marcia’s first play, “The Front Steps,” was produced on Alley Stage so she is excited to be part of the revival of the theater. 

Brendan Smith

July 24: Brendon Smith’s “Step Two.” Smith has had seven of his one-act plays and one co-written full-length play produced in Wisconsin; some of these have also won statewide or national contests. He lives in Madison.

Jan Levine Thal

Aug. 7: Jan Levine Thal is a mother, a writer, a theater activist, more or less in that order. She comes from a family of musicians — as a result, sound is a very important part of her plays. Thal has written three full-length plays that have been produced on the stage and a passel of shorter ones. She co-founded the Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre in Madison, which fosters work written and directed by women. Though now retired from 11 years as artistic director of that company, she continues to support its work and looks forward to its new incarnation post-COVID. Her novel, “Bone Deep,” was published recently by Van Velzer press.

Curt McGinnis Brown

Sept. 4: Kurt McGinnis Brown’s plays have been performed throughout the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. He is a member of Dramatists Guild and Chicago Dramatists. As communications director for a research center, Brown has worked on poverty and land issues in Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Peru, and Russia. His current project is a memoir titled “You: The Final Fiction.”

Bob Curry

Sept. 25: Bob Curry is an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and teacher of writing and film at Madison College. His screenplay for “The Last Great Ride” was produced in 1998 starring Ernest Borgnine and Eileen Brennan. He’s an avid mountain biker, swimmer, sailor and skier. He finds himself increasingly devoted to reading and writing poetry.

Jeff Pfeiffer

Oct. 16: Jeff Pfeiffer’s “Magnolia Star.” Pfeiffer is a graduate of New York University with an MFA in dramatic writing. His play “Battle of Spanktown” was a world premiere at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival. Pfeiffer has worked with The Potluck, Queens, NY; Madness, New York, NY; Sacred Fools, Los Angeles, CA; and more. He has also written for television, having worked on “Unforgettable” for Sony/TNT and “American Style” for CNN. He lives in Madison with his wife, son and cat. 

Order tickets and picnics, or join the roster of musicians and cast members, at  www.ShakeRagAlley.org/picnic-play. 

Sara Lomasz Flesch is executive director of Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts. For more information and Shake Rag Alley updates throughout the year, see the website, subscribe to twice-monthly e-newsletters and follow Shake Rag Alley on Facebook and Instagram. To request a catalog, call (608) 987-3292 or email info@shakeragalley.org.