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'Humanity Stew' cooking at Corn Stock

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Humanity is complex, without question. Emotions run the gamut, often in a very short period of time, as humans go from one condition to another to another.

Peoria playwright Hale Garrison enjoys writing short pieces about those varying human conditions, usually finding the comedy in each one.

But tying them all into one theatrical offering has been a challenge for Victoria Kapanjie, who is directing “Humanity Stew” at Corn Stock Theatre’s winter Playhouse. The play, which is the compilation of seven of Garrison’s short comedies, opens Friday, Feb. 13 for a six-show run that concludes Feb. 22 at the theatre in Upper Bradley Park.

“These are seven separate pieces that cover the complexities of life, including dating and love, anger and frustration, the corruption that often exists in politics. These exist for all of us and Hale captures them well,” Kapanjie said.

Each piece was written as a stand-alone play, but Garrison (the pen name for Peorian Gary Hale, a professor at Illinois Central College) rewrote pieces of each so they could be connected. Then he wrote dialogue between a grandfather, portrayed by Stan Strickler, and his granddaughter, portrayed by Megan Troglio, to further connect the plays through conversation.

That dialogue, Kapanjie said, “is for the grandfather to help his granddaughter find perspective and learn what really matters in life.”

That is the goal of the playwright and the director, she said. “These pieces all make you think. I would like our audiences to leave the theatre laughing and smiling, but also thinking about what really matters in their own lives,” said Kapanjie, who directed the two-person drama “Red” at Corn Stock two years ago.

The seven stories include some that have been performed individually in other Corn Stock offerings in recent years. One of those is “You Don’t Remember Me, Do You,” about a waitress who uses guilt to con her male customers into leaving huge tips. Another is “Red, Blue, Whatever,” about the two political parties deciding on their platforms and showing not only how they are vastly different, but much alike.

The cast of 15 performers includes many Corn Stock and local community theatre veterans. They include Strickler; Andrew Rhodenbaugh, who was in “Other Desert Cities” last month as well as “The Shape of Things” in November, both of them at the Winter Playhouse; Cody Cornwell, who also was in “The Shape of Things;” Aliesha Graves; Nathan Irwin; Susan Knobloch; Bill Liesse, who directed “November” earlier in the season; Jo Sternberg, and Tim Wyman, who is directing the “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” at the Winter Playhouse in March.

The rest of the cast are new to Corn Stock and Kapanjie said each brings a fresh perspective and energy to the theatre. They are Troglio, John Carroll, Gabe Ferreira, Trey Mowder, Liz Scoville, Hannah Shelby, and Emily Louise Trulson-Kumar.

“This is a great cast of actors. It’s great to have a group of performers that I know I can turn them loose, to a degree, and let them create. And they are very creative. We have had a lot of fun with this show,” Kapanjie said.

The biggest challenge with doing a show like this, she added, has been the scene changes because each piece is a separate story. “Because of that we’ve been trying to keep the set minimal and let the dialogue and the actors take center stage. Which is easy to do with a piece that has the kind of excellent writing this one has. That’s why I agreed to direct it; because I know Hale and I know and like his work,” she said.

Show times for the performances are 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 22. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. They can be reserved by calling the Corn Stock box office at 676-2196 or online at


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).