Williams Street Rep Prepares Its Next Act

Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts is fully embracing the relaunch of Williams Street Repertory (WSR) after a four-years hiatus.

“The show that the pandemic shut down, that’s our first show back,” says Richard Kuranda, executive director and founding artistic director at Raue. “We’re thrilled about that performance. Michele Vasquez, the director on it, is so gracious to stick with the project.”

WSR, originally dubbed the “Recession Rep,” had humble beginnings as a nonprofessional company during the economic downturn of 2007. For a few years, the repertory consisted of guests reading plays on a makeshift stage. In 2010, WSR officially launched.

Since then, WSR has racked up accolades including four Broadway World Chicago awards for its 2013 staging of “Sweeney Todd.”

As with many cultural institutions, WSR stopped production during the pandemic. This year’s relaunch focuses on thought-provoking themes that delve into the complexities of the human experience. The season addresses topics such as the war machine, immigration and interpersonal relationships.

The season kicked off in March with “Native Gardens,” which centers around neighbors who become enemies when a dispute over a fence line evolves into deeper issues of race, taste and class.

“It has themes of immigration and themes of accepting your neighbor,” Kuranda says. “It’s a great comedy, but it has some underlying tones that are wonderful.”

The stimulating performances continue Aug. 2-25 with “An Act of God.” This 90-minute dialogue involves “God” unveiling mysteries of the Bible and answering existential questions that trouble mankind.

Next comes “Bandstand,” running Sept. 13 through Oct. 20. The Tony-winning Broadway musical follows Private First Class Donny Novitski as he returns home from World War II and forms a band for the national swing band contest.

“We’re just good people trying to tell good stories on stage that will hopefully move you and ask questions you’ll be talking about,” says Kuranda.

Raue Center for the Arts is located at 26 N. Williams St., in Crystal Lake. Call the box office at (815) 356-9212.