When Terry Domschke co-founded Janus Theatre with Sean Hargadon 10 years ago, they dreamed of running two full-length shows at once in what is called rotating repertory.
They would travel to Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, featuring a dozen or more shows running in repertory, and talk of doing something similar -- if far less comprehensive -- back home.
"The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Twelfth Night"Location: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Elgin, (847) 841-1713, janustheatre.wordpress.com
Showtimes: Dates and times vary through Sunday, Aug. 28. See website.
Domschke, a retired Elgin Community College theater professor, just wanted to put on two shows at once, and this summer he finally gets his chance with both Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" and William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" sharing the stage on a rotating basis in Elgin.
"I love seeing a couple of shows at a time by the same theater." Domschke explains.
Janus Theatre has grown in fits and starts over the years. It has also called a number of spots home including a coffee shop in Arlington Heights, a public park in Arlington Heights and a brew pub in Elgin until setting down roots at the Elgin Art Showcase.
"We have had our ups and downs," Domschke admits.
Last year, Hargadon suggested to Domschke that it was time to try out their rep idea and settled on this summer.
"I said immediately I wanted to do 'The Importance of Being Earnest,'" Domschke says. "He wanted to do a Shakespeare, 'Twelfth Night.' They are both plays about mistaken identities and they contrast well."
They are also both popular plays in the public domain, meaning Janus would not have to pay royalties.
"At first we were going to combine the casts for both plays," Domschke explains. "But the rehearsal time was so short. So there is no crossover between the casts."
Both "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Twelfth Night" are oft-produced chestnuts of the theater world. Oddly enough, however, Domschke had never directed "Earnest" before. That didn't stop him from giving the story his own twist.
"I transposed the action to the early 1920s," Domschke says. "Putting the play in the '20s gives me more freedom to make the play more bouncy and active."
The change gave the women characters more freedom -- and less restrictive costumes -- than they would have had with the original 19th century staging.
Plus, the change allowed Domschke to do what he loves best as a director: "developing a world vision through the play."
"I enjoy developing a play," he says, "so you create a whole world on the stage."