Alley Stage Reading Series

Announcing the 2024 Alley Stage Reading Series

Under the artistic direction of playwright Marcia Jablonski, the Alley Stage Reading Series provides space for Midwestern playwrights to share their work, gather meaningful feedback, and for actors from the region to engage with new works. This helps Shake Rag Alley fulfill a key part of its mission: cultivating the creativity that thrives in our rural community.

We’re looking forward to the fourth year of this series that provides playwrights and their works in development an opportunity to be read with a cast, for an audience. For the performance, Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts provides a venue (with rain space) and post-performance reception.

Our Alley Stage is a magical space carved out of an old quarry; the sunlight through the trees on summer afternoons provides a unique background as the staged readings come to life. For more information about the series, our stage, and how you can be a part of the literary programming at Shake Rag Alley, please contact executive director Christina Kubasta at

If you’d like to join a cast, or perform music at a future Alley Stage event, please share your information here.

Cass Erickson

The Dreamer of Oyster Bay

4 pm Saturday, June 8

Followed by a talkback session & reception 

Synopsis: The Dreamer of Oyster Bay, a full-length tragicomedy, tells the story of Winston Wentworth and his wife Winnie, who are trapped in an upper class lifestyle, but are faced with diminishing possibilities when an inheritance falls through. After a series of betrayals and Winston’s failed attempt to invent something, he reaches a breaking point and undergoes an existential crisis. He rejects his upper class values and family tradition to pursue a lifelong dream of sailing around the world, leaving his wife Winnie and a boarder, Teddy, to fend for themselves.


Cass Erickson is a poet and an award-winning playwright and short story writer currently residing in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her ten-minute play Alpha Dogs was produced off-Broadway by Love Creek Productions in New York and had a staged reading at Chicago Dramatists. The play was invited for a staged reading at the Last Frontier (Edward Albee) Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. Insomnia, a ten-minute play, was produced by Flying Leap Players in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Every Shiny Object had a reading in the Ten-Minute Play Festival at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Zigs and Zags, a one-minute memoir written for radio, was a finalist in the Brevity: The Podcast of a Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction competition. 

Forks of Ivy, a full length play, was a finalist in Trustus Theatre’s Playwrights’ Festival in Columbia, SC. Sponsored by Lex-Ham Community Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Cass directed a staged reading of Forks of Ivy at the Lowry Lab Theater. “Ennui,” a monologue, was published in Mother/Daughter Monologues: Volume 4: Urgent Maturity by International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) Press. Her short story, “Diamonds in the Sky,” was a finalist in the E.L. Doctorow short story contest sponsored by the Writers Workshop in Asheville, North Carolina. Her poetry has been published in The Poet Magazine, Poetry for Mental Health (Norwich, England), and Unwashed: A Bay View Art & Literary Magazine (Milwaukee, WI).

Cass is a member of the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the International Centre for Women Playwrights.

Fran Zell

Reading Anna K

4 pm Saturday, September 7

Followed by a talkback session & reception 

Synopsis: It’s Sylvia’s turn to choose the book and she wants to read Anna Karenina because someone once told her it reveals the meaning of life. At age 89 she believes it’s past time to find out. The other two members of the women’s book club at a senior living facility aren’t so sure. Pearl says the book is too long and too sexy. Gertrude, wandering between dementia and lucidity, just wants to hold on to her friends in a group that has been visited too often by death. When Milton, a recently widowed new resident shows up singing the praises of Anna K, relationships spin out of control. Reading Anna K takes a heartfelt look at life imitating art while exploring our endless need for friendship, love and new beginnings


Fran Zell is a playwright, lyricist, fiction writer, essayist and independent journalist. Her newest play, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Venezuelans, based on her volunteer work with asylum seekers in Chicago, will be featured in the May 2024 Chicago Writers Bloc Festival of New Work. Her musical VERVE (with composer Karena Mendoza) was selected for Underscore Theatre’s 2020 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Reading Anna K was a finalist in the 2022-23 Henley Rose Playwright Competition for Women. She has directed staged readings of Reading Anna K for the Hyde Park Community Players and Montgomery Place Senior Living, both in Chicago. Minister of Loneliness had a staged reading in the 2019 Chicago Writers Bloc Festival of New Plays. Meat Marketing was produced at the 1992 Love Creek Productions’ one-act festival in New York. Her book, The Marcy Stories, won the Banta Award for literary achievement from the Wisconsin Library Association. She has been awarded writing residencies at Parrsboro Creative in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia; Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Red Wing, MN; and Ragdale in Lake Forest, IL. She is a former feature writer for the Chicago Tribune.

DC Cathro


4 pm Saturday, October 12

Followed by a talkback session & reception 

Synopsis: Richard comes home to his mother, his twin, and their new boarder after years of being institutionalized for his never-ending itch.


DC Cathro is a Chicago-based playwright, actor, and director from the Washington DC metropolitan area. His musical “Till,” written with award-winning composer Leo Schwartz, was one of three winners in the 2016 Main Street Musicals Festival, selected by Gregory Mosher, and was also accepted into the 2019 New York Musical Festival (NYMF). “The Book of Merman,” another musical written with Leo Schwartz, enjoyed a five-month run Off-Broadway. In 2014, he became the only playwright to have two shows in the Pride Films and Plays Festival in Chicago, IL; “Pen, A Musical” (with Schwartz) and the comedy “Family Holiday.” DC’s works have been read at theatres and festivals across the U.S. and U.K., including The William Inge Festival in Independence, Kansas, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and St. Luke’s Theatre, Off-Broadway in New York City. Find more information here.

2023 Alley Stage Reading Series Performances

Our third season of the Alley Stage Reading Series garnered our largest submission pool from four states, and we were pleased to be a part of the World Premier Wisconsin Festival with a featured play by artistic director Marcia Jablonski. Thank you to the playwrights, actors, and supporters who made this years such a success! Thank you also to our sponsors Hooks Cheese and The Cider Farm

Marcia Jablonski

The Last Hotel

Scott Strom

And a Belle’s Merry Reign

Brian James Polak

News for the Deaf Man

Nina Kissinger

This Is Government

2022 Season Performances

Our second season of staged readings was made possible in part by a grant from the Mineral Point Community Foundation and featured Afternoon Tea with homemade Cornish tea biscuits made by Dodge Baker of Mineral Point. Many thanks to the playwrights, cast members, musicians, and volunteers who participated in 2022!

Greg Minster

Charlie, Chastening Darwin

Marnie Bullock Dresser

Western Swing

with Afternoon Tea music by Nath Dresser

Deb Meyer

The Whole Shebang

with Afternoon Tea music by Shekinah King

Deanna Strasse

Write You Down

with Afternoon Tea music by Amanda Zasada

2021 Season Performances

Our inaugural season of staged readings, A Picnic & A Play, was made possible in part by a grant from the Mineral Point Community Foundation. Many thanks to the playwrights, cast members, musicians, volunteers, and Mineral Point restaurants who participated in 2021!

Marcia Jablonski

Occam’s Razor

with picnic music by

Driftless Standard Time

Brendon Smith

Step Two

with picnic music by

Kurt Kieffer

Jan Levine Thal

Cassandra’s Gift

with picnic music by

The Firesides

Kurt McGinnis Brown

Love or Forever?

with picnic music by

Libby Dunn

Bob Curry


with picnic music by

Don Greenwood

Jeff Pfeiffer

Magnolia Star

with picnic music by

Backyard Yukes

We’re celebrating 20 years of magic! For more information about how to support us, please contact development director Ashley Sheridan at The Alley Stage Reading Series is sponsored in part by: