The stage is always set for Matteson woman
When cable television came to the Southland many years ago, the first channel Monique Cafe subscribed to was AMC — American Movie Classics.
The old Hollywood glamour resurfaced on the box, presenting itself to new audiences with notable big-screen leading ladies such as Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and songstress Diana Ross.
“When I saw Diana Ross in ‘Lady Sings The Blues,’ I already loved Diana Ross,” Cafe said. “And it made me think, ‘I can do it.’ ”
And so Cafe, 53, of Matteson, set out to be an actress. She has dedicated most of her life to acting and directed her passion toward bringing more of the arts to the south suburbs.
Cafe is the creator and owner of the Theatre Of Color company, a small, black theatre group that she runs with the help of her family.
“My goal is to create good theatre in the south suburbs that’s affordable and utilizing the talents of African-American actors,” Cafe said. “I want to expose people to arts and keep it in the south suburbs. It’s a really great opportunity to get people introduced to the arts.”
Cafe credits her parents for exposing her to the arts. When she was young and growing up in Harvey, her parents played a major role in helping her achieve her dreams.
“I wanted to be a film and TV actress, and when I was younger my mother put me in acting classes,” Cafe said. “Every Sunday, we did a family day and my father would take us places. We would go downtown (Chicago) to the theatre. He introduced us to a lot of things.”
And many an artist finds his or her niche through experience and knowledge.
“In high school I was more interested in getting business skills,” Cafe said, “because my father always taught me to have two things I could always do.”
So the 1977 Thornton High School graduate headed to fashion design school at the Ray Vogue School of Design in Chicago, worked in banking and hit the audition circuit.
“I was looking for avenues to get involved in,” she said. “I did a lot of community theatre first, but I really wanted to be a screen actress.”
In 1993, Cafe quit a series of jobs and pursued acting professionally.
“I started doing camera work, commercials and industrial films, little bit parts,” she said. “That was kind of tough. My agent told me to stay fresh and get some experience and do some community theatre.
“When I started doing community theatre where I had acting roles, it was a whole new thing. I kind of gave up the whole camera thing and started to do theatre. I was going around and I just felt there wasn’t enough roles, and people are looking at roles colorblind and I wasn’t finding good, solid roles.”
At that same time, while spending a considerable amount of time in community theatre, Cafe also became intrigued with following the entire theatrical production process.
“I love it, the creation as a producer,” she said, “how to put it together and present to the people that I want to see it.”
Cafe and her husband, Chuck, who is the director of the shows, work hand in hand.
“I really couldn’t run the theatre without Chuck. I’m doing everything, and you can’t do everything, because something is going to lack,” she said. “We’re basically a team.”
Theatre Of Color is putting on the comedic production, “Sunday On The Rocks,” by Theresa Redbeck. It is to run at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 to 27 at the Illinois Theatre Center, 371 Artists Walk, Park Forest.
In keeping with Cafe’s philosophy of utilizing the local talent, Shauntell Ferguson, 41, of Park Forest, was cast in the role of Elly.
“Acting gives me an opportunity,” Ferguson said. “I’m just nervous because I want things to go well. I’m different from my character in a lot of ways, but as I’ve discovered and as I started to memorize the lines and make them my own, we’re very much the same.”
Ferguson jumped at the chance to be a part of a comedy.
“I really have a lot of respect for Monique and Chuck and what they’re doing,” Ferguson said. “As I read it, I said, ‘This is hilarious.’ ”
Tickets for the Oct. 24 show are $20, and for Oct. 25 to 27, tickets are $25. They can be bought online by visiting www.theatreofcolor.com or by calling (708) 421-0397.