Kathy Calder hadn't won anything since her senior year in high school. At a prom raffle, she collected an electronic typewriter she used in college. 

So Calder, who will be 60 in November, didn't expect anything when she entered Genesius Guild's contest after watching an evening performance. The winner would land a guest role in the summer's final production, and Calder hadn't acted since a second-grade play. 

"I threw in $5 and didn't think much of it," Calder said. "I guess I thought it was a stretch."

Last week, she got the call: She won. The Rock Island woman, who teaches at Black Hawk College, would join the cast of the Greek comedy, "The Birds" for two shows.

"I just laughed," she said. "There are a lot of things I don't know, like timing and where to stand, so it's a little intimidating." 

Calder, who is originally from Texas, is up to the challenge. In the Greek comedy, she plays herself, a theater amateur who spontaneously wound up on stage and doesn't know her lines or have a costume. 

"Some of it is ridiculous and just hilarious," she said. 

Giving audience members a chance to win a part is a first for Genesius Guild, which closes out its 60th season this weekend. But Calder's character will fit in with the tone of the play, said Calvin Vo, who plays a lead character in "The Birds."

It's tradition for the guild to finish a season with a Greek comedy that's rewritten and redone with modern references. Don Wooten, the group's founder, rewrote "The Birds" this time. 

He replaced jokes that would've been funny, or made sense, in 414 BC, with quips about iPhones and television shows and Pokemon. 

"You spend all summer with this heavy stuff, the tragedies and Shakespeare," Vo said. "This is a happier way to close out the summer." 

In the play, originally written by Aristophones, the two main characters are leaving Athens because "the political system has become so crazy" that they want to live with the birds, Vo said. 

"Whatever is going on with our politics, we poke fun at it all," he said. "You look at the crazy things that are going on that are stressful and you see that this kind of struggle has been going on for as long as people have been performing things on stage."

The crew has about 10 days to put the play together, which Vo calls an "insanely fast" pace. They rehearse the other titles for at least one month. Vo read the rewritten script fresh off the printers last week. Since then, Wooten has added half a page to the script. 

"Everything is as polished as possible in that time period," he said. "We're all flying by the seat of our pants."

Vo, who teaches drama at Moline High School, has a long theater resume, but makes an effort to act in a performance with Genesius Guild each summer.

"It's because of this unique blend of people," he said. 

"There are high school students with people who have been doing this for 20 years, and people who went to theater school in New York alongside people who are accountants during the day," Vo said. "And we put on things like Shakespeare together — that doesn't happen, especially for free shows." 

And now, that diverse list includes Calder. 

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, she'll go to the same Lincoln Park stage she has visited each summer for at least five years. Except this time, she'll be on stage,.

"It wouldn't still be here after 60 years if people didn't love it," she said. "It's one of those things I didn't know I wanted to do until I got the chance."


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).