Novelist, Playwright Pays Tribute to Late Author by Pairing Novels with Theatre Production
Chicago’s Richard Engling remembers friend Fern Chertkow with the Afterlife Trilogy
EVANSTON, Ill. – It has been almost 30 years since award-winning author Fern Chertkow ended her own life, but her legacy lives on through the Afterlife Trilogy, a unique undertaking that fuses her writing with the work of novelist, playwright Richard Engling and his creative team at Chicago’s Polarity Ensemble Theatre.
Paying tribute to the late author, the trilogy combines two novels – Visions of Anna by Engling and She Plays in Darkness by Chertkow (October 7, 2014, Polarity Ensemble Theatre Books) – with a powerful play written by Engling, Anna in the Afterlife, which will run April 23 to May 24, 2015. The three works span 35 years of creation, offering a multi-sensory experience when taken as a whole.
In addition to a book release event, Polarity will present a number of readings throughout October and November at bookstores, libraries, and book groups.
“The Afterlife Trilogy is about honoring our lives, our loved ones, and our heroes even as they pass out of this world,” Engling says. “It is about the sacred qualities of our memories. It is about the wounds that become the sources of our greatest gifts. It is about making sense of that which cannot be understood.”
Engling and Chertkow became close friends in graduate school studying fiction writing. They had each come from other disciplines: music for Chertkow and theatre for Engling. The two spent a year in Europe after graduate school and experienced a particularly magical time living as novelists in Paris.
Deeply affected by Chertkow’s death in 1988, Engling used his friend as inspiration to pen his novel Visions of Anna and play Anna in the Afterlife, both touching on friendship, death, and selfdestruction. Anna in the Afterlife went through an in-depth development process with Polarity Ensemble since first appearing in the theatre company’s 2011 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays.
Disturbingly prophetic and brimming with lyrical prose, She Plays in Darkness is the earliest of the trilogy’s works, written by Chertkow just a few years before her death. Chertkow infused much of herself in the lead characters, twins Cynthia and Rosemary, slowly revealing a self-destructiveness that echoes the mystery of her suicide explored in Visions of Anna and Anna in the Afterlife.
Engling is the co-founder and artistic director of Polarity Ensemble Theatre in the Windy City. He is an actor, director, playwright, novelist,and musician.