Williams Street Repertory announces return of “Native Gardens” at Raue Center For The Arts

Crystal Lake, Ill. – January 25, 2024

Live theater returns to Raue Center in 2024 with a hilarious comedy of manners “Native Gardens” by Karen Zacarias and directed by company member Michele Vazquez. 


 Williams Street Repertory, Raue Center For The Arts’ in-house professional theater company, is excited to bring this delightful comedy of good intentions and bad manners to its stage after a long hiatus due to COVID-19 shutdowns.  


“Native Gardens” opens on February 23, 2024, and runs on select dates through March 16, 2024. Williams Street Rep and Raue Center are also adding Thursday matinees at 2 pm for the first time this season. 


“We’ve had a lot of requests from patrons for programming during the week and in the afternoons. We wanted to provide our audience members with more options,” explains Raue Center’s marketing director, Meredith Schaefer.


“‘Native Gardens’ is one of the funniest shows you will ever see. Michele Vazquez is the perfect director for this play,” says Founding Artistic Director, Richard Kuranda.** “‘Native Gardens’ takes audiences on a whirlwind journey that we can all relate to and laugh at… and who couldn’t use a good laugh these days?”


Native Gardens follows two couples making the most of their American Dream. Pablo, a high-powered lawyer, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, are realizing the American dream when they purchase a house next door to community stalwarts, Virginia and Frank. But a disagreement over a long-standing fence line soon spirals into an all-out war of taste, class, privilege, and entitlement. The hilarious results guarantee no one comes out smelling like a rose.

“No one is the villain in this show and there are no saints. The playwright, Karen Zacarias, has a tremendous amount of compassion for these characters and she has written them with love and patience,” says Director, Michele Vazquez. “That said, they are all wonderfully flawed and human, and as a result, a lot of hilarity ensues,” she continues. “Someone likened it to a contemporary ‘Dick Van Dyke Show.’ I think that’s right on.” 

WSRep has assembled a cast including Michael Lomenick (Frank), Shannon Mayhall (Virginia), Peter Briceño Gertas (Pablo), Jazmine Tamayo (Tania), and ensemble members David Rice*, Amy Delgado, Michael J. Santos, and Kelli Walker.


“I am excited about this cast. We have some familiar favorites returning, paired with new exciting talent. It is a fantastic mix,” says Vazquez. 


In addition to Vazquez, the production team for WSRep’s production of “Native Gardens” includes: 

Director: Michele Vazquez**

Executive Producer: Robin Hughes+

Stage Manager: Caitlin I. Quinn*

Scenic Designer: Richard Arnold

Costume Designer: Rae Melnik

Lighting Designer: Drake Dole

Sound Designer: Lindsay Burdsall

Props Master: Persephone Lawrence

Fight & Intimacy Coordinator: Claire Yearman

Technical Director: Lisa Giebler


Founding Artistic Director: Richard Kuranda+ 

Managing Director: Justin Wellington

Operations Manager: Jenna Klaproth

Director of Production: Chris Tumblin 

Production Manager: Ryan Meadow

Marketing Director: Meredith Schaefer


WSRep’s production of “Native Gardens” opens on February 23, 2024 and runs select dates through March 17, 2024 at Raue Center. For more information, please visit wsrep.org.

WSRep is a member of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theatre. TCG has existed to strengthen, nurture and promote the 

professional not-for-profit American theatre for over 50 years. 

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage  

  Managers in the United States.

** Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

+Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national theatrical labor union.

Raue Center offers special seating arrangements and hearing devices for patrons with disabilities. Please call the box office at 815.356.9212 to make arrangements prior to the performance. 

Raue Center Box Office | 815.356.9212

2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays – Thursdays |12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays 

Open 1 hour prior to the performance.


Raue Center Unveils the Highly-Anticipated Return of William Street Repertory

<Crystal Lake>, IL –  Raue Center is thrilled to announce the return of the Williams Street Repertory (WSR), Raue Center’s in-house professional theatre company, as they prepare to mesmerize audiences once again with a captivating lineup of four exciting productions. This highly anticipated theatrical season returns after a long hiatus and improvements and promises to be an unforgettable experience for all.


The curtain rises on this thrilling season with the unveiling of the following productions:


Native Garden:. Explore the comical complexities of neighborly disputes as “Native Gardens” takes the stage February 23 – March 17, 2024.  This witty and thought-provoking comedy by Karen Zacharias examines the joys and challenges of maintaining neighborly relations while questioning the boundaries that separate us. Prepare for laughter, introspection, and a delightful exploration of human connections. Directed by company member Michele Vazquez (ART, Bomber’s Moon). 


Othello: Dive into Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy, “Othello.” Witness the interplay of jealousy, deception, and betrayal as this tragic tale unfolds on the WSR stage. With its gripping narrative and compelling characters, “Othello” promises to captivate audiences and showcase the enduring power of the Bard’s works. Directed by Dr. John “Ray” Proctor. In September 2022 his essay Romeo and Juliet at an HBCU was published in the essay collection Romeo and Juliet, Adaptation, and the Arts: ‘Cut Him Out in Little Stars’ (The Arden Shakespeare). 


Act of God: Get ready for a divine comedy like no other with “Act of God.” In this witty and irreverent production, the Almighty takes center stage to deliver a hilarious and unfiltered conversation about life, the universe, and everything in between. Prepare for a side-splitting exploration of existence that will leave you laughing and pondering life’s biggest questions. Directed by Pat Henderson.


Bandstand: Experience the high energy and heartwarming spirit of “Bandstand.” Set in the aftermath of World War II, this Tony Award-winning musical follows a group of veterans striving to find their place in a changing world. Through music, camaraderie, and the power of the human spirit, “Bandstand” celebrates the healing journey of these veterans and delivers a symphony of emotions while celebrating the swing, jitterbug, and bebop music that made a generation. Directed by Daniel Ellis (The Elephant Man).


To celebrate the return of the William Street Repertory, Raue Center is excited to offer a special opportunity to secure seats at their Cider Fest. Special box office hours will be available during Downtown Crystal Lake’s Johnny Appleseed Festival on Saturday, September 30, 2023, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Members receive 37% off up to four tickets, and the general public receives 20% off two tickets per show. 


 Join us at Raue Center, located at 26 N. Williams Street in Downtown Crystal Lake, to secure your spot for an unforgettable theatrical season.


Tickets start at $39.50* ($27.65* for RaueNOW Members) and may be purchased online at rauecenter.org or via the Box Office at 815.356.9212 or 26 N. Williams Street in downtown Crystal Lake. Become a RaueNOW Member and get 30% Off Tickets and early access to upcoming shows. 


Don’t miss out on the return of the William Street Repertory. Mark your calendars, spread the word, and join us for a season filled with laughter, drama, and unforgettable memories.


For more information, ticket details, and updates on the upcoming productions, visit rauecenter.org


About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 


For additional information, visit rauecenter.org, facebook.com/RaueCenter, and twitter.com/RaueCenter. 

Raue Center to welcome CL Central grad in The Magic School Bus

Crystal Lake Central High graduate, Katie Kallus, returns to Crystal Lake’s Raue Center For the Arts starring as Miss Frizzle in “The Magic School Bus” as a part of Raue Center’s Mission Imagination educational outreach program. She takes time to talk about her path to professional theater and what it’s like to be back in her hometown. 


Name: Katie Kallaus
Age: 25
Education: BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
Hometown: Crystal Lake
Highschool: Crystal Lake Central High School


What education path did you take to prepare to be an actress?

I got my BFA in Musical Theatre and I’ve taken other various classes in dancing/singing/acting throughout my life.


What was the first stage show that you saw?

I believe the first stage show I saw was my brother’s 5th-grade production of Guys & Doll’s haha, but my first professional show was a touring production of Meet Me in St. Louis.



What’s been your favorite role?

I can’t pick a favorite, but if I had to choose a couple of favorites that aren’t Miss Frizzle, I’d say Inga in Young Frankenstein: the Musical and Cinderella in Into the Woods.


Thinking of all theater roles, what’s a role you’d really like to have?

As stereotypical as this sounds, Glinda in Wicked. I’d also love to play Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County one day.


How does it feel to be returning to the Raue and Crystal Lake?

It feels like a dream come true. I remember going to see shows at The Raue when I was in elementary school and I can’t believe that now I get to be on stage and share this story with a new generation of little learners. I also can’t wait to show my cast and stage manager all of my favorite places in Crystal Lake!


Miss Frizzle is a beloved childhood character, how did you feel when you heard you were going to be playing her?

I was in full denial when they called and offered me the part. Miss Frizzle was ( and still is) my favorite part of The Magic School Bus when I was little, and I couldn’t believe I was chosen to bring her to life on so many stages across the country! She’s just the perfect blend of warmth, wisdom, and chaos.


How did you prepare to Play Miss Frizzle?

I honestly didn’t have to do much preparation for this role because I always felt that Miss Frizzle and I were one and the same. We also only had a 2-week rehearsal process before we hit the road, so I had to come into the room ready to go. Our director wanted to make sure I was honoring the original Miss Frizzle while also being able to make my own personal choices and twists, and I think we’ve accomplished that!


What are your most/least favorite aspects of this type of experience?

My favorite aspect is bringing this show to places that might not have that much access to the theatre. Our show might be a kid’s first experience of theatre and it’s an honor to be a part of that. My least favorite part of touring is not having a lot of access to vegetables.

While THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS at Raue Center is primarily available through school reservations, a select number of seats may be purchased through the box office. Please email them at boxoffice@rauecenter.org or call 815.356.9212 to reserve tickets!

Actor Sarah Beth Tanner Gets Cookin’

Actor and virtual chef, Sarah Beth Tanner, talks about playing Patsy Cline and how teaching the culinary arts feeds her soul and creativity.

What do you like about acting/singing the most?

  Storytelling through acting and music is the most basic of human art forms, and I love knowing that I am a part of an ancient transformational tradition. Acting – especially in the immediacy of live theatre – helps expand human empathy by challenging the audience’s perception of the world. We are able to get to know characters, hear conversations, and witness situations that we might not be privy to in our real lives. At its best, it’s more than entertainment – it’s a chance to learn and grow.

Can you introduce yourself to our audience?

I’m Sarah Beth – I’m originally from a small town in north Alabama, and I moved to Chicago in 2013 after working for regional theatres across the country. I was looking for a place to settle in after years of bouncing from contract to contract, and Chicago was the perfect fit.

Did you take up any training?

I hold a BA in Musical Theatre from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. These days, I try to take at least one acting class a year (many great options in Chicago!), and I regularly work with several vocal coaches.

When did you start acting?

I started acting in high school. ‘Drama Class’ was a natural fit for me, and I had the great fortune of having a dedicated, dynamic teacher who recognized and cultivated my passion for the work we were doing. Thanks, Mrs. McClung!

 What do you love about this character?

Patsy Cline died young, but she was not an overnight success by any stretch. She battled through so many various obstacles throughout her life and career – abusive relationships, tragedy and injury, and rampant sexism to name a few. I admire her tenacious grit in a huge way, but she was also known as a big-hearted and fiercely loyal friend. I love that combo.

What is the first thing you do to research and approach a role?

Every role is different, but I’m a big reader and a proud nerd about details. For this role, I dug into every biography and documentary I could find. I was cast in this role pre-COVID, so I’ve probably had too much time to research! I even made an impromptu pilgrimage to the Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville last summer after a camping trip in the Ozarks. I saw her iconic costumes and her personal handwriting on many of the letters she’d written friends and fans. It was an extremely memorable day for me, and I highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in Nashville!

 What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?

This script is unique in that it’s extremely one-sided. Louise has the vast majority of words to say, and Patsy is somewhat limited to telling her story through her songs. Kevin (our fabulous director) and I have worked hard to bring depth and detail to these songs – especially the ones we’ve all heard many times before.

Why did you want to be involved in this production?

I’ve known I would play this role one day since I saw a production of this show when I was 15. I loved it so much and the pull it had over me solidified my dream of being a professional storyteller and actor-musician.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

We’ve added so many new ideas to this production – this is going to be unlike any other Always, Patsy Cline you’ve ever seen! I’m so excited for folks to see what we’ve been crafting!

  Besides this one, what’s your favorite stage show?

I’m a serious musical theatre lover, so it’s hard to pick a favorite! I enjoy different shows from different eras, but I always love a folksy vibe with lots of heart. Right now, I’m stuck on Come From Away. I also love the show In the Heights, and I’ve been on a fresh ITH kick since the movie came out last year!

What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?

I’m a Culinary Creative and professional food lover! I work as a recipe developer, food stylist, and content creator, and you can find more about that at sbtcooks.com. I’m also a nature lover and always looking for a chance to get out of the city for some camping or hiking. In the last few years, I’ve gotten into gardening, so in Spring and Summer, you’ll find me working in a city fire escape container garden.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?

I take deep breaths and remind myself to trust the good work we put in while preparing and rehearsing. I try to find a reverent, meditative mindset and focus on telling the story instead of worrying about myself. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s what I strive for!

This experience was the carrot on the end of my personal pandemic stick, and I’m just so grateful to finally be living this part of the story.

Photos by Todd Heintz Photography: (Pictured) Cast members Sarah Beth Tanner and Michelle Tibble rehearse with director Kevin Wiczer and music director Jason Hartge. 

See Sarah Beth Tanner as Patsy Cline in Raue Center’s musical production of “Always…Patsy Cline,” March 19 – April 16, 2022. Tickets at rauecenter.org.

Bake for the Arts! Join Sarah Beth Tanner for a virtual Buttermilk Biscuit Class, on April 30, 2022, at 10 am.
Proceeds benefit Raue Center and its educational programs, Mission Imagination and Raue Center School For The Arts. To sign up for this scrumptious online baking class visit sbtcooks.com