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One-woman show 'Sugar' sweet on life experiences

Having been a Southland resident since birth, it only made sense for actress Monique Cafe to unveil her one-woman show in the region.

     Theatre of Color presents "Sugar" Aug. 12-13 at Tinley Park Performing Arts Center.

     "I'm just really glad to be premiering it in the south suburbs, where I'm from," said Cafe, who was born and raised in Harvey, lived in Richton Park for 13 years and has lived in Matteson since 2004.

Inspired by true events, "Sugar" is a personal yet humorous journey through her life from discovering a family secret and misguided relationships with men to a life-changing event.

"I just always wanted to do a one-woman show about things that happened to me in my life," said Cafe, a 1977 graduate of Thornton Township High School in Harvey.

"Almost 10 years ago I started putting those different stories together and decided to go down to Chicago Dramatists to see how to structure it and get it set up properly. From there it evolved and I finally got it together."

The playwriting training she received included private coaching from actor and playwright Arlene Malinowski.

"The show is truly inspired by my real life so it's really personal," Cafe said. "I talk about my family. I have a cool family. A lot of people can relate to relationships with my siblings and my parents. I talk about some of my crazy experiences with men and talk about how I met my husband.

"I talk about how I got into acting and theater and about a lot of different choices I made in my life and why I made them, things that went wrong, things that went right and how it comes back around to today."

One of those things that went right was her union with her husband of 16 years, Charles Gary, who is directing her show.

"I met him actually in the theater. We act together and act separately, and he's actually a really great director," she said.

"Once I got my show together I asked if he would direct it for me. I've done excerpts around town and up north. I think he's doing a pretty good job."

Gary and Cafe also partnered to launch Theatre of Color, which originally started in 1995 but went on hiatus while she returned to professional actress work.

Cafe's resume includes commercials for Oil Express, Panasonic and Six Flags Great America.

"Theatre of Color was created to do quality theater in the south suburbs and we hope to continue to find a little bit more of a stable location. People who see that we're doing a show really need to support it if they want it to continue in the south suburbs," she said.

"It's convenient. You don't have to go downtown. You don't have to pay for parking."

The company was relaunched in 2015 and has staged shows at Freedom Hall in Park Forest and several Chicago theaters.

Cafe said the venue Theatre of Color booked in Tinley Park is well-suited for "Sugar."

"I needed a more intimate place. A one-woman show is always nice in a small theater. You can interact with the audience. It just seems more one-on-one," she said.

"The biggest challenge is it's all you. I have nobody but me on stage. Without an ensemble I don't have a break. It's all me."

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.



When: 7 p.m. Aug. 12; 3 p.m. Aug. 13

Where: Tinley Park Performing Arts Center, 16801 S. 80th Ave., Tinley Park

Tickets: $20; group rates available

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