Forward Theater Company has been hit hard by the death of one of its founders, Colleen Burns. Her life will be recalled in a special performance at the Overture Center on July 18.
"Colleen Burns was an incredibly gifted actress and an important voice in our company," says artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray. "We looked forward to collaborating with her on many projects - as a performer, a director, a writer and a great friend. She brought decades of experience with her when we founded Forward, and she was an important voice in our first meetings.
"Colleen's high standards, her professionalism and her passion for her craft contributed enormously to the culture of the organization. Actors who were new to the company looked up to her."
Burns, an actress, playwright and composer, died June 10 at 58. The Beloit native received her degree in theater from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Besides performing in Madison, New York and Atlanta, she had been a member of the national touring company of The Vagina Monologues.
She starred in Forward's first production, All About Eve, in November 2009. Burns was in rehearsal with Forward for Moonlight and Magnolias earlier this year when she was forced to withdraw due to health issues.
"Colleen definitely shaped the vision of the company," says Gray. "When we initially talked about the mission for Forward, discussing and debating the artistic goals of the company, she simply said, 'Good plays done well. That's what we should do.' And we did."
Burns also served on Forward's advisory company, a sort of board for creative matters. While tragic, Burns' passing has no effect on the troupe's business health.
"To honor her, Forward will proceed with its third season, as she would have wanted us to," says Gray. The company will also establish a fund to underwrite performances by one actress per season, in Burns' memory.
"In this way she will be with us, building on our successes with every new season," says Gray.
Burns' life will be celebrated during a special program of stories and songs at 7 p.m. Monday, July 18, in Overture's Playhouse. The event is free and open to the public.