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Emma Thompson Sketches in Illinois

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Apr 9, 2007, 2:17:10 AM4/9/07
PRESS RELEASE 02 - March 21, 2007

How does a small new community theatre thirty miles west of Chicago
acquire the World Stage Premiere rights for comedy sketches by Academy
Award winning writer/actress Emma Thompson?

"Well..." says director Craig Gustafson. "I asked her. She said

The sketches, from Thompson's 1988 TV series "Thompson," range in
subjects from a mild young woman suffering from spontaneous orgasms to
a novice nun in jail for biting a policeman. Gustafson saw the series
on PBS in the early 1990s and fell in love with it.

Wanting to do things properly, Gustafson wrote to Thompson asking
permission to stage the sketches publicly in Illinois in an evening of
works by David Mamet and David Ives, with Thompson billed as Emma
"David" Thompson. In December of 2001, he received a hand-written

"Dear Mr. Gustafson: How DARE you write and request my sketches for
use in - what - some shoddy little complex in Ohio - and then suggest
I don't charge you? Are you mad, or w--- "

The above paragraph was crossed out and the real greeting followed:
"Thank you for your delightful letter." Thompson granted permission
to stage the sketches, confirmed that they hadn't yet been performed
onstage and congratulated Gustafson on his "sexual
conquests" (Gustafson met his wife while staging the sketches
privately to try and convince theatres to produce them). A postscript

"Anyone who enjoyed this series is, as far as I'm concerned, family.
We'll get your room fixed up as soon as possible."

Five and a half years later (an evening of one acts being a hard sell
to community theatres), Gustafson is thrilled that Soapbox Theatre
Company will be presenting the sketches in an evening of Thompson
sketches and David Ives one acts called "The Mystery at Twicknam

"Ives and Thompson make a good combination," says producer Christine
Wortham. "Both are heavily influenced by Monty Python. Ives tends to
be a metaphysical Tilt-a-Whirl with trimmings of silliness.
Thompson's sketches are what would have resulted if Python had allowed
a woman in the writing room. Very funny and very bawdy. We're
thrilled to be able to have this premiere."

The show is recommended for adults - silly, fun-loving adults, but
adults nonetheless. Emma Thompson sketches will include "The Mouse,"
"Spontaneous," "Mind How You Go," "There Were These Two Nuns in
Jail..." and "Gone with My Wind." David Ives one acts will include
"Arabian Nights," "Enigma Variations," "Babel's in Arms," "Sure
Thing," "Dr. Fritz, or: the Forces of Light" and "The Mystery at
Twicknam Vicarage."

The Soapbox production will be staged by Gustafson (assisted by Ashley
Ottenstein) and produced by Wortham. Featured are Susan Able Barry,
Jen Connon, Carrie L. Dabelow, Harry Davis, Marjorie Gustafson,
Victoria Jozef, Adam Krause, Brenda H. Scharlau and Tom Walker, each
of whom play two to seven characters ranging from a potato-wielding
High Priestess in Ancient Babylon, to a man in a dress named Fifi
LeBlanc, to an elegant society lady whose husband divorced her for
excessive flatulence.

Performances will take place at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division -
8th Floor, Elgin, IL on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 and Sundays at
3:00, April 13-29. For reservations and information, visit
or call (630) 728-0980.

Does this coup reflect on the tenacity, resourcefulness and ingenuity
of Gustafson? "Hell, no," he says. "It reflects on what an
incredibly generous and wonderful person Emma Thompson is." Will
Gustafson be taking up Thompson on her offer of a room? He sighs.
"It'd be nice, but I'm not going to press the issue; that's when you
make the career shift from 'fan' to 'stalker.'"


To the Editor:

Could you please include the following information in your theatre
listings through April 29? Thanks!

WHAT: "The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage" by David Ives and Emma

WHO: Soapbox Theatre Company (directed by Craig Gustafson)

WHEN: April 13 - 29. Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 3:00.

WHERE: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street - 8th Floor, Elgin,

CONTACT: For reservations and information, visit
or call (630) 728-0980.

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