In 2003, a bunch of theater addicts started shooting emails back and forth about working together. The result was Artists’ Ensemble Theater, an Equity professional theater founded in 2004, under the leadership of Artistic Director Richard Raether.

We began as nomads, but by our second season, we formed a partnership with Rockford University. Since then, AE has performed in the beautiful Clark Arts Center on the campus of Rockford University in northern Illinois.

The titles of AE plays may not always (or even often) be familiar. AE primarily produces plays that are new to the region and, in eight instances, world premieres. However, AE audiences have grown in size and enthusiasm for fifteen seasons and counting. 

Small stage, big ideas, adventurous theater: at AE, we build character(s).


Our Mission

AE is committed to ensemble-driven theater that challenges both actors and audiences.

Superb… the best talent seen on local stages.
A marvelous celebration of what makes theater special.
— Rockford Register Star


  • Season 1 – 2004-2005
    Dinner With Friends
    Inspecting Carol
    Over the River and Through the Woods

  • Season 2 – 2005-2006
    Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

    Nickel and Dimed
    On The Verge

  • Season 3 – 2006-2007
    I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change Jeeves Intervenes
    Tuesdays With Morrie
    Red Herring

  • Season 4 – 2007-2008
    Laughing Stock
    Almost, Maine
    Rabbit Hole

    The Dining Room

  • Season 5 – 2008-2009
    Our Town
    Murder Center Stage
    The Retreat From Moscow
    Radio Gals

  • Season 6 – 2009-2010
    Jeeves in Bloom
    Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol
    Might Have Gone Fishing
    Italian American Reconciliation
    Radio Gals
    (summer encore) 

  • Season 7 – 2010-2011
    The Underpants
    Moon Over the Brewery

    Rounding Third

  • Season 8 2011-2012
    Indian Blood
    Collected Stories
    Gee’s Bend

  • Season 9 2012-2013
    Jeeves Takes a Bow
    It’s A Wonderful Life
    Brooklyn Boy
    Meet Me In St. Louis
    (with Rockford University)
    Mrs. Mannerly
    The 39 Steps

  • Season 10 – 2013-2014
    The Mystery of Irma Vep
    God of Carnage
    Crumbs from the Table of Joy
    The Gifts of the Magi
    The Shakespeare Conspiracy

  • Season 11 – 2014-2015
    The Importance of Being Earnest
    A Christmas Carol
    Good People

    Will Rogers: An American Original
    The Spitfire Grill

  • Season 12 – 2015-2016
    Jeeves at Sea
    Twentieth Century

    (with Rockford University)
    Outside Mullingar
    Visiting Mr. Green
    Women Who Steal

  • Season 13 – 2016-2017
    Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Talley’s Folly
    The Last Romance
    Whistling in the Dark, 
    A Sherlock Holmes Adventure

  • Season 14 – 2017-2018
    Steel Magnolias
    The Lion in Winter
    It's a Wonderful Life
    Best of Enemies
    Dying for Attention
    The Woman in Black

  • Season 15 – 2018-2019
    Women in Jeopardy
    A Picasso
    A Christmas Carol
    Silent Sky
    Sherlock Holmes & the Precarious Position

  • Season 16 – 2019-2020
    The Fox on the Fairway
    Every Brilliant Thing
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    Cry it Out
    Jeeves Saves the Day