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In Memoriam

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Randy (Red Sky) Cagwin

1953 - 2023

It is with great sadness that we must report that another of our "old-timers" has left us.  Randy Cagwin passed away on Sunday July 16 at Edwards Hospital in Naperville.

Randy Cagwin’s connection with the Riverfront Playhouse goes all the way back to 1978 and our second production, “Rain,” in which he played a small part as an American soldier stationed in Tahiti.  He later played a Russian sailor in our production of “The Hostage.”  Still later, he played a French sailor in "My Three Angels".  (Perhaps Randy's time in the United States Air Force prepared him for playing so many different servicemen!)


Whether he appeared under his given name or as “Red Sky” (his nom de theatre), Randy was a constant presence at the Playhouse for many years, in such plays as "R.U.R", "The Gazebo", "Light Up the Sky", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Not Now, Darling", "Murder at the Vicarage", "A Streetcar Named Desire", one of our many productions of "Dracula", and one of our nearly countless productions of "A Christmas Carol". 


Randy was also involved backstage, including serving as co-stage manager of "The Burning Man".  In addition to the  stage, he worked as an extra in many movies shot in the Chicagoland area, including "Richie Rich", "U.S. Marshalls", "My Soul to Take" and "Men Don't Leave". 

But above all, Randy was an incredibly kind soul, with good cheer to spread over any occasion and always willing to help, no matter how it might inconvenience him. A prime example of this came when Randy was pressed into service to operate the snow machine during a production of "Bus Stop", even though he was there as an audience member and with a date!  (As Director David Morris pointed out to him, "You can see her at intermission!")  Randy was an original, here at the Playhouse and in life.  He will be missed by all who knew him. 


Laurel Dickerson Femiano

1957 - 2023

Laurel Dickerson Femiano, one of the founding members of the Riverfront Playhouse, passed on February 19, 2023.  Easily one of the nicest people to ever grace our stage, Laurel became a fixture at the Playhouse as one of our most attractive and talented ingenues, playing leading roles in such plays as “The Philadelphia Story” and the role that Artistic Director David Morris wrote specifically for her -- the Pretty Young Thing in “What Kind of a Girl Do You Think I Am?” 

Eventually, Laurel graduated to more mature roles such as Meg in “The Hostage” and Mrs. Manningham in “Angel Street.” Laurel’s last appearance was in 1994, as the defiantly amoral defendant in “Getting Away with Murder.” 

Eventually, Laurel and her family moved to Florida, but remained a loyal fan of all things Riverfront from afar, while doting on her grandchildren.  And we remain loyal fans of Laurel, remembering fondly the many ways she lit up our small theatrical world with her talent and good will.


Gene Scheffler

1962 - 2022

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of Gene Scheffler’s passing. Gene passed away peacefully on August 19th. If you’ve ever been to the Riverfront Playhouse you know Gene’s work. Gene first came to the Riverfront nearly 40 years ago and has been a driving force behind the theater ever since. Gene directed many shows over the years. He designed and built most of our sets, and was a lighting and special effects wizard. He was our technical genius, our favorite fix-it guy, and our creative mentor. He was our brother, crazy uncle, partner in crime, and trusted friend.
Godspeed, Gene.


David B. Coronado

1961 - 2020

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of David B. Coronado from complications due to renal failure. David B. performed in several Main Stage and Children's Theatre productions at the Riverfront Playhouse in the 80s & 90s. He was a sweet man with a huge heart who loved performing in plays as well as singing in karaoke bars in the Fox Valley area. We will miss his infectious enthusiasm. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.


David Morris

1927 - 2016

David Morris was more than just our original founding father -- he was a true "Renaissance Man" of the theatre who came to us with a lifetime of professional experience as an actor, director, house manager, stage manager, set designer and playwright.  After years as Artistic Director of the dinner theatre at Pheasant Run in St. Charles, David brought his unique vision to the new Water Street Mall in Aurora, creating what he called "the Fox Valley's only Storefront Stock Company."

That spirit of professionalism pervaded the Playhouse from the beginning -- and led to several of our alumni going on to professional careers in the theatre and elsewhere. David also cultivated  an environment of creativity and experimentation, inspiring members to develop original plays and musicals of their own.  Above all, he was always a teacher, someone who encouraged us to push the envelope and take risks.

Although David eventually left the Playhouse in the late 80's to pursue a teaching position at Tusculum College in Tennessee, his legacy continued to live on.  And when he eventually retired and returned to Aurora, he was happy to take a supporting role, mentoring and guiding us as our Elder Statesman and serving as an occasional guest director.

As David was fond of saying, "The Riverfront will never make you famous.  But if you work at it, you just might learn the craft of theatre."


Josephine Marie Gendiellee Morris

1924 - 2008

Known professionally in Actors Equity as Jo Morrison, Jo was a marvelous actress and singer, highly regarded by such local groups as the Dramatics Club, the Lamplighters and Playmakers. She also appeared in many professional theatres throughout her career, including Mill Run, Candlelight Dinner Theatre and Pheasant Run Playhouse (where she was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award for best supporting actress in Desk Set, starring Kaye Ballard). She also served on the original board of directors of the Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora, which was launched by her husband David in 1978.

She and David celebrated 54 years of marriage and raised four children, while making a living in the theatre -- a most difficult endeavor! But much as she loved the theatre, the center of her life was always her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren!

She will be dearly missed by her husband, David; her four children, Mark (Sharon) Morris, Christiane (Gary) Morris, Grey (Ann) Morris, Hugh (Viorica) Morris-Stan; her grandchildren, Adam, Ryan, Saragrace (Brian), Evan, Colin, Analissa, Gabriel, Doria (Vinnie), Adam, Keaton and Reeves; and her great-grandchildren, Angelo, Alyssa, Anthony, Alexa, and Theresa; and her beloved nephew, Michael McClanathan.

No one who knew Josephine Morris and needed her for any reason was ever turned away. The love she brought into this world will live forever, as will she in all of our hearts!


Thommas Dickens

1952 - 2018

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that Riverfront Playhouse regular and former board member, Thommas Dickens passed away on January 14, 2018. Thom has been a mainstay at the Riverfront Playhouse since his earliest appearance on its stage in 1978. Many will remember Thom from numerous performances including iconic roles as Van Helsing in "Dracula," Ebeneezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," and our beloved Burt in "Fat Bill's Roadside Cafe."

For many of us, Thom was more than a fellow actor or theater colleague. Thom was a member of our family, and we are deeply saddened by this great loss.


Steve Rasmussen

1950 - 2019

Steve Rasmussen was one of the most unique individuals to ever work at the Riverfront Playhouse.  But why qualify it?  He was one of the most unique – and beloved –  individuals on Planet Earth. 

Along with his contributions to the Riverfront, Steve was the official Santa Claus of the City of Aurora for many years – and, with his flowing white beard, round belly and encyclopedic knowledge of all things mythological, Steve had a ready answer to all children’s questions regarding whether he was the REAL Santa. (And many of those children came away with the sincere belief that he WAS!)

He was perhaps best known for his portrayal of Fat Bill in all of the incarnations of “Fat Bill’s Roadside Cafe,”  a notoriety that he found both troubling and exhilarating. But Steve played many different roles while at the Playhouse, including Eddie in “The View From the Bridge,” Weller in “The Gin Game” and Gideon Rye in “Preacherman.”  His last appearance was as Professor Lyman in “Bus Stop.” 

Nothing might convey Steve’s unique character better than quoting from his program bio, which never changed – or needed to be changed – over the years: 

“Steve would like to go on the record as saying that he did NOT want to be a part of this show.  Of course, that is what Steve has been saying about EVERY production since he first joined the Riverfront in 1979.  Despite this profound aversion to all things theatrical, Steve has managed to act, direct, and design countless productions at the Playhouse, as well as serve for a time as President of the Board of Directors.  But this is absolutely his LAST show – and this time he REALLY MEANS IT!”


Jack Schultz

1953 - 2012

Born John Erdmann Schultz Jr. in 1953 in Johnstown, Pa., he earned a B.A. in journalism and taught English and coached sports for a time at St. Benedict Catholic Middle School. He later spent 32 years with MetLife, which transferred him to Aurora in 1976. He was a senior business systems analyst, who retired early in 2009.

An incredibly talented playwright, musician, songwriter, actor, and director, "retirement" simply meant more time for Jack's many artistic pursuits. Jack had met his best friend and soul-mate, Sherry Winchester, at the Riverfront Playhouse in 1983 and they starred in "White Cargo" in January of 1984, the first of many productions together. They married on Sept. 3, 1988, and just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary. Their son, Jackson, arrived in 1989. Daughter Heidi was nearly born onstage in 1990 during a production of "On Borrowed Time."

Jack wrote some of Aurora's most beloved stage productions, including "Fat Bill's Roadside Cafe," and "Night of the Living Dead: The Musical." Every few years since 1987, Jack wrote a fresh play for the consistent characters of Fat Bill's, taking them through the many stages, twists, and turns of life and endearing them to generations of fans.


Jean Christensen

1934 - 2006

Jeannie appeared in a number of plays here at the Riverfront, including, Arsenic and Old Lace, Getting Away With Murder, Move Over Mrs. Markham, The Torchbearers, Sherlock Holms and the Curse of the Baskervilles, The Gin Game, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Not Now Darling, Enter Laughing, Everybody Loves Opal, and so many others.

Not only was she a consummate actress with impeccable comedic timing and professionalism, but she was a valued supporter of the playhouse who shared her talents with us throughout our history. Most of all, she was a Friend.

She will be sadly missed in ways that we haven’t even begun to realize, but she will live on in the memory of her friends, her fellow actors, and the audiences that she delighted over the years.

So long, Jeannie. We’ll see you on the other side.


Stephen Preston Schroeder

1965 - 2019

Our hearts are heavy with the passing of Steve Schroeder. Steve did one show with us, stepping into the iconic shoes of Fat Bill August of 2018, and masterfully making the role his own. He was a sweet, funny and talented man, and will be missed. We offer our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

Remembered for his love of Disney, Phi Theta Kappa and theater, Steve Schroeder left a legacy at COD and beyond.


Steve was the Phi Theta Kappa adviser of 19 years, former forensics adviser and speech communication professor at COD.

Schroeder was also involved with Wheaton Drama, a volunteer community theater group,  and the Jeff Awards, which honors theater productions in Chicago.  

His memorial service, which took place on Aug. 12, had over 500 people attend. 

Schroeder put Phi Theta Kappa in his will, donating a sum of money to the organization. The donation makes Schroeder an Athena Society Member. The money may be used for scholarships.

Deco Swirls
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