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Quoted from the...

The Evanston Review

May 12, 2005

'Absolute' theater


The arts have always been an important part of Richard Engling's life. Although he makes his living as a business-to-business marketing writer, he is also a novelist, playwright, musician, actor and director.

And now the Evanston resident, who grew up in Elmhurst, can add "artistic director" to his resume.

Engling and Ann Keen have co-founded Polarity Ensemble Theatre. Keen serves as managing director.

The Evanston-based theater company launched with "Absolute Macbeth," which runs through May 22 at Chicago's Breadline Theatre. Engling is directing the production, with Keen playing Lady Macbeth.

Engling was originally scheduled to direct "Macbeth" for ShakespeareInc Theatre. He was simultaneously writing a new version of "Antigone," which Keen was slated to direct for ShakespeareInc.

"We were fairly far along in planning those productions when ShakespeareInc decided not to do them," Engling said. "We decided we would start our own company -- and start with those two shows."

"As an artist, I wanted to have a theater company that put the actors first," Keen said. "We pay our actors, which many non-Equity theaters in their first three years don't."

Engling noted that he and Keen have acted together, but he particularly valued her input and suggestions when he was writing his version of "Antigone."

"I found her to be an incredibly astute collaborator," he said. "I can hardly remember anything she suggested that I didn't think was a great idea."

Polarity Ensemble plans to publish any new plays it produces, and possibly fiction and poetry, too. Engling said the new company will distinguish itself by "bringing the ways in which theater first started back into the theater of today. Our 'Absolute Macbeth' has a ritual aspect, with drums and the witches. That's part of how theater started -- as something that was in praise of the gods."

Engling first became interested in theater during his years at York Community High School. After earning a degree in theater from Northern Illinois University in the early '70s, he branched out artistically, even playing drums in a jazz quartet. Engling earned a master's degree in fiction writing, with a concentration in playwriting at Indiana University.

Keen noted that "Absolute Macbeth" adheres to Polarity's mission to return to the roots of theater. She said it has "raw emotion, a great story and some ritual aspects."

'Absolute Macbeth'

Through May 22, 2005 at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays

Breadline Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice, Chicago

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