Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a MockingbirdSaturday in the Arts is a weekly feature covering a trend, subject, event or personality of local interest. It runs every Saturday morning on your site for the best entertainment and arts coverage in the area, QuadCities.com!

I close my eyes and I can see
The world that’s waiting up for me
That I call my own
Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one’s been before
But it feels like home

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, out of the pain and peril of the Covid pandemic, Quad-Cities actor, director and

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

The new Mockingbird on Main is being started by Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay Strandin.

entrepreneur Tristan Tapscott invented a new reality for himself.

Since February, the Circa ’21 veteran (and former District Theatre artistic director) and his girlfriend Savannah Bay Strandin (another Circa performer) have poured their heart, soul and savings into a new theater, Mockingbird on Main – which will open July 29 at 320 N. Main St., Davenport, with its debut production, “The Mountaintop.”

Formerly occupied by the bridal shop and boutique Blush, the sophisticated space (with some stunning chandeliers left from the shop) has been renovated into an intimate cabaret, to seat 40 at tables, with a small 12-foot-by-8-foot stage.

“It was already in such good condition from the bridal shop, we didn’t have to change a ton,” Strandin said recently of adding the stage, proscenium, curtain, counter, tables and chairs, and an upright piano. “It’ll be an immersive, intimate experience,” she said. “We have a couple dreams.”

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Strandin and Tapscott at the piano at Mockingbird on Main.

More than a couple, actually. The cute couple – who met in fall 2019 at Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, performing in the classic “Singin’ in the Rain” – publicly teased the new theater in an online “New Beginnings” cabaret, with many submitted songs, which debuted in April and is available at www.themockingbirdonmain.com/video.

The pair closed the 76-minute video by singing “A Million Dreams” (from “The Greatest Showman”) and sharing scenes from the renovations then underway at the former Blush Dress Shoppe. Their lease began Feb. 1, 2021.

Strandin once was nannying for her young cousins, and broke down crying while watching the movie (starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum).

“All I could think of was us, and his crazy but brilliant mind, and me just wanting to be there to support him and go through all of it together,” Strandin said.

The Mockingbird idea sparked right before the pandemic, in February 2020 when Strandin and Tapscott were in a coffee shop across the street from where the former Harrison Hilltop Theatre (which he co-founded in 2008) sat on 16th and Harrison in Davenport.

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“I happened to run into Scott Tunnicliff – then executive director of the Hilltop Campus Village – and we started waxing poetic about the good old days of making magic in that old bank building. I started thinking of what we did and what I could still do,” Tapscott recalled. “I let my mind wander and do some daydreaming and then let the idea go. The rest of my year was so booked solid with work and I didn’t really

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Savannah Bay Strandin and Tristan Tapscott started renovating the Mockingbird in February.

want to deal with the fallout of ‘The Insane Tristan Tapscott Creating Again’ saga and I was dealing with some other personal issues.

“The timing was not right but the seed was planted. Fast forward a month and everything gets shut down and my year of work that was lined up turns into… well… nothing,” he said. Late summer last year, he thought about it again. Tunnicliff brought up the idea again.

“I could see what this space could be. I thought, I could really do something with this,” Tapscott said, noting they looked at several buildings. The owner of the former Hotel Davenport on Main Street asked him to name his own price, and agreed. “It became such a sweet deal and thought, entertainment’s gonna come back. If you’re gonna do something in the area, you might as well do it here, because downtown Davenport is really great.”

The owner and developer of the property “really insisted we keep talking and figure out a deal,” he said. “I kept throwing out ‘I-Know-He-Will-Say-No’ figures and he just kept yes-and-ing me. It got a point where I

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tapscott and Strandin on stage at the Mockingbird.

knew I would never see this deal again in that location and figured why not? People will be craving entertainment when we finally come out of this pandemic and I’ll be there opening the doors.”

“The location is perfect; we’d like to partner with some of the restaurants down here,” Strandin said. “I thought you were crazy,” she said recently to her man. “I didn’t see it right away; I thought it was a really cool space. This is beautiful, but is it the right space for our theater? I’m not sure. I had to trust Tristan and know his vision was there.”

The deal they got on the lease was very hard to say no to, he said. “I had been burned by that in the past, so I was very careful about that.”

Tapscott infamously moved the old Harrison Hilltop to downtown Rock Island in 2011, renaming it the District Theatre – first at the former Green Room at 1611 2nd Ave., then at a smaller space in the former Grape Life at 1623 2nd Ave., and finally in 2015 for about one year at the much larger former Rock Island Argus building, 1724 4th Ave.

After running out of money and the resignation of the District Theatre board in May 2016, Tapscott closed the theater and faced legal action from the building owner for failure to make lease payments, due into the future under contract.

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“One of the big things we made when we went into the Argus building in downtown Rock Island, we didn’t account for growth,” he said in June 2021, noting he sold out past 50-seat shows in smaller spaces, but couldn’t sell enough for the 125-seat Argus location. “We were still only selling 40 or 50 seats and the problem was, the rent was four times what it was before.”

“We had a lot of problems with just cash flow,” Tapscott said. “I’ve heard the stories. The stories I hear were from people who had no idea

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tom and Shelley Walljasper as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in 2011 at the former Harrison Hilltop Theatre.

what was really going on, weren’t really part of it at all.”

“The thing is, part of the reason I wanted to jump head-first into this (new theater) was, I had taken account of all the mistakes I had made, so I won’t make them again,” he said. “A lot of it was, I wasn’t a great person. I was hard to work with – I admit that. My temper was terrible. I made a lot of mistakes personally and professionally that I have learned from. The thing is, that was six years ago now. If you’re the same person you were six years ago, that is problematic. I hate to ruin everybody’s day – but people evolve and people change.

“I’m not the same person I was six years ago,” Tapscott said. “None of us are, I don’t think. So, even to this day when I hear people say certain things, you haven’t even talked to me in six years. You have no idea who I am now.”

“Plus, you’ve met this awesome lady, who is your better half,” Strandin chided him. Tapscott said his daughter Harper Leigh (who finished 1st grade this year) has changed him too for the better.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Strandin and Tapscott at their new theater, 320 N. Main St., Davenport.

“It was important to have her as a partner, personally in life, and professionally now,” he said of Strandin. “I want to make sure I’m not making a mistake here, because there’s a lot of things I could do wrong and I don’t want to do them wrong. And a lot of it just has to do with growth and who you are.”

“I’m getting this a lot and I knew I would,” Tapscott said of his past mistakes. “I’ll probably never live that down… but… let me say this loud and clear: This isn’t the District. Not even close. I could leave it at that and let it go, right? I can but can others?

“I am well aware of how some people feel about me. Some of it is justified. Absolutely. Look, I wasn’t a fantastic human being in many ways back then. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, you know?” he said. “I definitely disappointed a lot of people but no one more than myself. And furthermore, no one really suffered as much as I did. It’s the truth.

“I went down with this ship and took all responsibility. No one really knows that side of it because…well, no one really asked? Some did, and they really know. Most didn’t,” Tapscott said. “They just judged from afar without knowing the fallout. I remember everything. I lived it all. Was I awful at times? Yes. Did I make some big mistakes? Yes. Am I same person? No. I have evolved. I have grown. I know that’s a less dramatic and interesting story but it’s the truth.”

“Tristan learned a lot from running the theater in the past and since then he’s grown and learned even more,” Strandin said. “I’m not worried that his past experiences are going to overshadow this new adventure because things are different this time around.”

From Rockford to cancer and Circa

Strandin is a 26-year-old native of Rockford, and went to Western Illinois University, Macomb, then working at regional theaters around the country, including at Circa (her first show there was “Freaky Friday”). In 2018, she was diagnosed with large-cell lymphoma and had to take a six-month break for treatment, and moved to Chicago. She was there seven months before she came back to Circa in fall 2019 for “Singin’ in

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tapscott and Strandin with his daughter, Harper Leigh (named for the “To Kill a Mockingbird” author, Harper Lee.

the Rain,” where she met Tapscott, and Strandin moved here last year.

“I really love this area; it’s so convenient,” she said. “You’re so close to Chicago and St. Louis. It’s got an airport if you need to get anywhere. I’m close to my parents.”

For auditions now, it doesn’t matter where you live anymore, since actors send in video submissions, they said. “You don’t have to live in a big city to be seen,” Strandin said. “Which is great, because the cost of living here is so much nicer than Chicago.”

They both were in last fall’s “Rocky Horror Show” at The Speakeasy, did several virtual and in-person shows from The Speakeasy and are now in “Saturday Night Fever,” after she was in the all-woman “Beehive” at Circa. “There’s so much energy from the crowds; it’s great,” she said of “Beehive,” adding she was also in the Circa children’s show.

After this past year, Strandin can’t complain. “I like being busy,” she said. “Saturday Night Fever” will run through Sept. 11.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tapscott and Strandin at a recent rehearsal for “Saturday Night Fever” at Circa.

“It’s been wonderful to see this talented cast finally be able to perform this piece that’s become so important to them,” she said of the disco sensation, which closed March 16, 2020 – right before it could even open.

“I know, for Tristan at least, this was a way to find some closure in this wacky chapter. It’s always a pleasure to be back at Circa,” Strandin said. “And I get to sing some fun songs again… this time in the ‘70s. I had a blast with the ‘60s in ‘Beehive’ and look forward to this run. I’m thrilled to see a big musical back in this beautiful theatre!”

“Circa is home,” Tapscott, a 37-year-old who’s been in dozens of shows at the dinner theater since 2007. “I’ve been so fortunate to be able to play pretend professionally for so many years. I love playing this beautiful and historic theatre. It’s iconic and I can’t help but feel part of an important legacy when I hit that stage.

“ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ has some mixed feelings. This is what I was doing when my creative world fell apart so I think we are suffering from some wild Covid-19 PTSD,” he said. “In some weird way, though, it will always be a very important show because of that. And here we are… finally being able to close this chapter that seemed open-ended for so long.

“After a year and half, we finally get to do the show that we were worked so hard on right before the shutdown,” Tapscott said. “It was a heartbreaking time so it’s nice to be able mend some older show biz wounds. And because we have been living with the material for so long,

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

“A Saturday Night Fever” rehearsal at Circa, downtown Rock Island.

there’s a deeper understanding and appreciation of the show and what it’s about.”

Tapscott and Strandin both love the 1960 classic Harper Lee book, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (made into a famous Gregory Peck film), from which Tapscott named his daughter, Harper, and the new theater. “It was just a coincidence it was both our favorite book,” Strandin said.

“When my ex-wife Jess and I were expecting Harper, that was the first thing we thought of,” he said. “Then, when it was coming time to figure out what this was gonna be.”

“The fascination is how important of a novel that is, and how a lot of it still rings true today,” Tapscott said. In the Depression-era story, in a racist white community in a sleepy Alabama town, Atticus Finch (recently played on Broadway by Jeff Daniels in a new Aaron Sorkin version) defends a Black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white woman. Because of Atticus’s decision, his children Jem and Scout are subjected to abuse from other kids.

“It’s kind of sad that it’s still relevant, but it’s an important story,” Strandin said.

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The 1907 building that houses Mockingbird on Main has a new owner and it’s been under renovation, part of the former Hotel Davenport, now an apartment complex.

“It’s gorgeous,” Tapscott said. “It’s very like Tower of Terror at Disney World. It’s really cool, really interesting.”

Tapscott credited local actor Doug Kutzli for being very instrumental, designing the theater logo and its website. Among several past Tapscott productions, Kutzli has played Scrooge in his original version of “A Christmas Carol” and in the band for “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”

Creating an arts incubator

The Mockingbird is meant to be a venue that invites creative people of all stripes to play, and not dictate what shows and performances will be over the course of a year.

“We’re really hopeful that it becomes the arts incubator we’re trying to make it,” Tapscott said. “We have some projects we want to do. A few

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

The “New Beginnings” cabaret video was released in April to help promote the Mockingbird plans.

other artists are coming in later this year, they really want to do this show. I was like, great.”

“That’s how we want to run,” Strandin said. “We genuinely want people to reach out to us with a project they’re passionate about.”

“There are not a lot of spaces around where you can go rent and do something,” Tapscott said – noting the Mockingbird will be free to rent, but ticket sales will be split between theater and performers. “We offer a complete package of – you get our ticketing, our website, our PR when you use it. It’s not a vanity project for us; we have other things going on, of course.”

“We have a lot of friends who are really talented and we want to see them do something,” he said. “We’re not a board-run situation. It’s just us and an advisory board of friends we’ve talked to along the way.”

To those who question what shows can be done in that space, Tapscott is used to doing large musicals in small spaces.

“This has a different vibe than anything else in the area, and that’s what we wanted to do,” he said. “A theater in town is nothing new, but the way we’re doing it is a little bit different.”

“I have done big things in smaller spaces, and my superpower – or maybe my fault – is to be able to see something long before anybody else

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

The Mockingbird has three productions scheduled out through this fall.

can,” he said. “I can vision it before other people can, and sometimes people say, ‘You’re crazy,’ and I’m like, trust me.”

Tapscott can see several bigger shows working well there, including the classic “Cabaret,” and Strandin wants to do Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party.” “It’s set in the ‘20s. It’s so fun and wild,” she said.

“I think I made my mark in the Q-C on doing shows that were way bigger than the space they were playing in,” Tapscott said, noting “Sweeney Todd” at Harrison Hilltop as an example. “I still think that’s something that can be done, and I know the Black Box is doing it and a few other places. I do want to do that eventually – to walk in and someone say, ‘How?’ I think we sold tickets back in the day by people saying ‘He’s doing what? How is he doing that?’”

People are so used to seeing certain shows in certain theaters, but those rules aren’t in stone, he said. “You can do anything you want with this art form if you do it well,” Tapscott said. “Above all else, it’s finding a way to do it well and tell the story right. If you do it well, people aren’t gonna care what size the theater is.”

A more intimate space connects audiences to the story more, magnifying the emotions and impact.

“You don’t feel like you are watching a show – you feel like you’re part of it,” Strandin said. “That’s why I’ve always loved smaller, more intimate theater spaces, because the audience doesn’t really have a choice but to be involved in the show.”

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Tapscott really admired “Hate Mail” at Black Box and “Red” at Brunner Theatre (both two-person shows) for that kind of power.

“I like that a lot, rather than sitting a couple hundred feet back from the stage,” he said. “That thing is still enjoyable, but it’s a different experience. For me, if I’m gonna spend money on a show, I want an experience. I don’t want to just watch something – I could just go home

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

The Mockingbird On Main converted the former Blush boutique into a cabaret theater.

and watch that on a television. I like that the actor is right in my space, and so me and Covid didn’t get along really well, because I missed that.”

One intimate theater in Chicago Strandin really likes is Strawdog, where they do totally immersive shows, including audiences following actors around different places. “You could see a show 20 different times and see a different story every time you were there, and I’d love to do something like that in this space. That would be totally cool.”

Another vision Tapscott has is to start a show in the Mockingbird and have the audience get on the Pedal Pub, with drinks and go to different spots. “There are so many opportunities downtown. I just think there are no rules in the theatergoing experience, so you might as well like break them. Why not?

“I think the pandemic taught us, there’s endless possibilities to what is entertainment,” he said. “I’ve seen people get famous on TikTok for random things and that just goes to show that entertainment is everything and anything.”

They have been spreading the word among area actors and directors to let them know their space is available.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Harper’s play room backstage at The Mockingbird On Main.

Tapscott also hopes to have readings of new works and host anything from comedians to magicians to films. “We want this to be a place for everything,” Strandin said.

“It’ll be just a little place for fun,” Tapscott said.

They’re going for a more diverse lineup and a level of immersive work to audiences. “The space is small and that’s what we wanted, by design,” he said. “You’re very much right there.”

“I’m always really drawn to stuff like that,” Tapscott said of intimate theaters. “When there’s that barrier between the audience and actor, something gets missed in the connection. So there’s no pit between the audience and the actor. The actors and audience are kind of one, so the experience is a singular one, rather than two separate things.”

They also want to do a lot of outreach, beyond the theater walls, having connected with the Downtown Davenport Partnership.

“I’m very passionate about Shakespeare, so that’s one of the dreams, doing like Shakespeare in the park or by the river,” Strandin said. Tapscott suggested doing an outdoor concert version of a show.

Starting by scaling a “Mountaintop”

While the Mockingbird may be small, it has no small ambitions, since its first play – “The Mountaintop” (2009) by American playwright Katori Hall — is a fictional depiction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on earth set entirely in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel on the eve of his assassination in 1968 at age 39.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

“The Mountaintop,” about the day before Martin Luther King’s 1968 assassination, will open on July 29.

It is named for the famous “Mountaintop” speech he gave in Memphis April 3, 1968, which concluded:

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.

“And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

For the Mockingbird, Tapscott said the idea is to immerse the audience in what each show is about, so for “The Mountaintop,” they’ll display photos of Black icons over the years.

“It just felt like the right thing to do now, and if you ever read the ‘Mountaintop’ speech he gave, the night before he was assassinated, I think what it’s about is what we’re about,” Tapscott said.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Kira Rangel is director of “The Mountaintop.”

“There’s so much diversity in this area and we really want to amplify those voices,” Strandin said.

“The pandemic just did such a number on the arts scene that, people are wanting to see something,” Tapscott said. “I think there’s room for everybody in town and if we all can find a way to work together too, that’s gonna be successful for everybody. I think collaboration is definitely key moving forward.”

“It’s an imagined, what happened the night before,” Strandin said of the play. “It’s so cool,” Tapscott said, noting there also is humor. “It’s the perfect piece to kick things off.”

“We’re very excited about it,” Strandin said.

Tapscott met Iowa City-based actor Anthony Hendricks (who will play MLK) in Peoria years ago for “The Buddy Holly Story,” and Strandin met Hendricks at WIU, and this past fall, they did a short film together in St. Louis.

“The Mountaintop” has been a goal for Tapscott to do for a while, before the Mockingbird took wing, and asked Hendricks to do it.

Strandin met director Kira Rangel through “Beehive” (her first Circa show) and during a break at Theo’s downtown Rock Island, and asked her if she directed before. “It really felt right for her to do it. She’s so passionate,” Strandin said. “She’s so creative. We are very excited to have her working with us.”

Rangel – who recently called the Mockingbird “a dreambaby” – said by e-mail: “And not only am I a simp for Katori Hall, but that piece is just a staple in my library.

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“History will always be the snake that eats its own tail. That’s what I take away from ‘Mountaintop’,” she wrote. “We must acknowledge the mistakes we made as human beings so we are sure not to repeat them. From the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the brutal beating of Rodney King by the batons of policemen. And even with the advancements in body cameras and legislation our government are providing as solutions, the young EMT, Breonna Taylor, was killed while sleeping in her own bed and Philando Castile was killed in front of his own

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Erica Toney will play a housekeeper at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel.

daughter.

“It is not hard to imagine MLK rockin’ the BLM if you know what I mean?” Rangel said. “The lines that were drawn when people confused riots with peaceful protest reminded me of what ‘The Mountaintop’’s main theme is to me: Should you move on in peace or in anger? How will you choose to conquer the Mountaintop?”

She said the chemistry between Hendricks and Erica Toney (as the motel housekeeper) is “amazing and it is like I am a kid in a candy store. They inspire me with the rhythm they have and we only started rehearsals,” Rangel said recently. “I also do love getting to work with such motivated and passionate people like Savannah and Tristan.

“The ambitious hunger these two have is so motivating especially since we are all gonna be a part of the theatre’s grand opening,” the director said, adding another reason she’s involved is the lack of people of color as leads in Q-C theater.

“What I do love about the space is that it is a true thrust stage,” Rangel said of Mockingbird. “So you cannot escape. You have to dive into this journey head-first, hands inside the vehicle at all times. The ride this show takes you on makes this immersive setup all the better especially since all that visceral emotion is undeniably splat in front of you.

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Anthony Hendricks will play the famed civil rights leader.

“I have seen Tristan and Savannah already do so much with the space,” she said. “They’ve even turned it into a sound stage for their film productions. That’s sick. There is definitely boundless potential since it has the intimacy of a cabaret, but can still put on a full play production including projection design. In my own humble opinion, I would love to see a production of the musical comedy ‘Clue’ in that type of space. That’d be so fun.”

Hendricks said that while it’s “one of the greatest possible honors for a Black actor to pull on the great and legendary noblemen of our culture, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. … it is also one of the most humbling and daunting experiences for me as a young man who looked to this iconic figure as the foundation and the core of the civil rights movement.

“He and his wife have both had two individual humongous portrait paintings right next to a portrait of Jesus in my parents’ home since childhood,” Hendricks said. “I feel as though I am carrying the mantle of holiness and all of my ancestors taking on this role.”

“After experiencing everything that we have dealt with in the political climate of President Obama to Trump to COVID to BLM to Biden and the way politicians have put their agendas above the good of the nation as a whole — this allows us to take a moment to reflect on what we have really been trying to accomplish as a nation since 1968 till now,” he said. “It makes us take a really good look in the mirror to see who it is we really desire to be as a nation… not as individual races or even as individual people; But who are we as a collective.”

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Hendricks’ role as Dr. King is extremely challenging.

“That being said, I am an actor because I love the opportunity to push myself beyond the places that I currently exist,” he said. “It’s always a challenge. This is probably one of the biggest challenges ever, hopefully by the time we hit the stage, Dr. Martin Luther King will have spoken to me in a way that allows his spirit to resonate through this script, using me as a conduit.

“That’s my prayer anyway, but isn’t that what we as actors want every time we hit the stage, anyway?” Hendricks said. “I have faith in our team and our visionary. It’s been a pleasure. I have the utmost respect and faith in Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay. They are wonderful

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tapscott is a Circa ’21 veteran and former artistic director of Rock Island‘s District Theatre.

inspirations and delightful artists. I have watched them both at work and believe wholeheartedly that Mockingbird on Main is going to do such innovative and creative things in the Quad-Cities area. I’m just elated to be a part of the opening show and look forward to our next venture.”

Erica Toney, who will play the maid, wanted to do “The Mountaintop” also because of who MLK was.’

“He was selfless, loving, and wanted something so small such as fairness, to be treated equal. This story tells the good, bad, and the ugly, but that’s what makes it special. He was a real human being, but to us, he was a real hero.”

“Absolutely nothing has changed. Injustices against African-Americans are still taking place today,” Toney said. “It looks like he died for nothing. But that’s where we come in at, and that’s why we teach our children and the children after them the golden rule — treat others the way you want to be treated. We just have to continue to fight and tell stories to make sure his martyrdom was not in vain.”

Her role, Camae, “is unlike any character I’ve ever breathed into,” she said. “She’s a challenge, but she also loves hard, and is very compassionate. She doesn’t sugarcoat ANYTHING, and will tell you the truth. I love Camae’s realness and her vulnerability. I love her spirit and her laugh.”

Of The Mockingbird, Toney agreed the space is very intimate.

“You can’t hide or try to bypass anything on the stage. The audience will be able to see the twinkle in the character’s eyes when they smile, as well as the tears when they cry,” she said. “The audience will be able to feel Dr. King and Camae come to life and they will see words come from a page into existence.

“The space is very versatile. I can see this being the start of many shows and events,” Toney added. “The team they have is absolutely amazing.”

What the future holds

Strandin and Tapscott are looking into being able to allow customers to bring their own beverages, as opposed to having a liquor license.

“I know a lot of Chicago theaters run like that,” Strandin said. Tapscott said they may partner with local wineries or breweries to do tastings, but they won’t become a full bar. “It might be a complimentary glass of wine with your ticket,” she said.

“After the year we all had, when we were forced to take that step back, and analyze the industry as a whole and what we wanted to bring to it – it was very clear that to do everything we wanted, we had to put our money where our mouth was and do it on our own,” Tapscott said. “It was a long process to get to here, but I think it’s important the area has a place that is literally for everyone.”

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay Strandin.

“We want this to be a place where anyone can come and create,” Strandin said.

“The door’s open, so come on in and play. That’s what we’re all about,” Tapscott said. The other thing they learned during the pandemic was that the industry doesn’t really care about its artists, he said, praising Circa owner/producer Denny Hitchcock. “Once theaters closed, I credit Denny for keeping the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ cast on the payroll for as long as he did, but a lot of theaters didn’t do that.”

“What do I want to see from the area and are the current gatekeepers in the area going to bring that? They’re not, so what do we do to become our own gatekeeper,” he said. “Create the things that we wanted to see.  It’s like, what do I want to do? What’s not being done, and what can I do to do it? Luckily, there are so many good companies in the area doing amazing things, that I realize it’s a rough thing – there’s a lot of competition. But I don’t see everyone as competition, I guess.”

Strandin said artists support artists, and there shouldn’t be a rivalry among area theaters.

“It’s really about providing a safe space to create for the talented artists we know and love and for the new friends we can’t wait to make along the way,” she said. “This is not a vanity project for me and Tristan to star in shows we’ve always

Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird

Mockingbird on Main is a new theater opening in downtown Davenport. QuadCities.com is a sponsor of the space and its debut season.

wanted to do. Sure, we may do something here and there, but it’s more about the people around us and it always will be.”

Hendricks, Rangel and Strandin also will be in “Rocky Horror Show” this fall at The Speakeasy, with Tapscott directing it.

“The area seems to be kind of tribal – like if you something with us, you’re not allowed to do something over there,” he said of some other theaters. “I’ve never really felt that way, so one of my goals too is – we have this, but I want to do things at other theaters in the area, more than I have been able to. I’m hopeful to go to Music Guild and do something; go to Black Box and do something. The cliquey thing, I’ve never been a fan of.”

For Henrik Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” this fall, local playwright Alex Richardson has done an adaptation, cutting down the number of characters and from three and a half hours to 90 minutes. “It’s pretty slick,” Tapscott said. “He really kind of broke the fourth wall; actors talk directly to the audience and move within the audience.” That will be directed by Victoria House.

Local singer/actress Wendy Czekalski also plans to do a one-woman cabaret, “Wishes,” there in September.

At the end of the day, there is no rule book at the Mockingbird, Strandin and Tapscott agreed. Singing birds of a feather, they certainly hope it will fly.

For more information, visit www.themockingbirdonmain.com or www.facebook.com/TheMockingbirdOnMain

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Quad-Cities Theater Couple Works Hard To Birth a Mockingbird
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.