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Joan Knows: A lifelong pursuit begins another phase

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 5:30 p.m. CDT

Ron Koeppl. Mention that name anywhere from Main Street to the Great White Way, The Metropolitan Opera or Las Vegas, and the response will be a smile and a thank you.

That’s because his long career as a drama teacher and  producer has provided a stepping off place for many talented students. Students, players and audiences have a lingering joy in their hearts after encountering the enchantment of the theater arts in the company of Ron and his much beloved late wife, Gretchen.

Retirement? Not exactly. He had already retired from the faculty at St. Charles East. 

“The Wiz” was announced as his last musical production and soon “Noises Off,” a farce that is the repeat of a presentation in the ’80s, will be what he has declared as his very last.

 Look for “Noises Off” in October on the 10, 18, 19 and 20 at the Norris Cultural Arts Theater in St. Charles.

Now a resident of The Reserve in Geneva, he seems by no means retired, just at the stage where memories are still fresh and poised. He keeps up his influence in promoting the fine arts and perhaps writing a book. 

How about writing and scoring “The Other Wiz:  The Life and Times of Ron and Gretchen Koeppl?”

Gretchen was a multi talented player, actress and singer and inspiration to all. Casting could be a challenge. And who could do justice to the role of Ron Koeppl? 

As Ron gathered his memories in our recent chat, he remarked that the ’80s were  kind of a Golden Age or as he called it, OMG times.

So many of those talented went on to fruitful careers. Most in the region. Follow the operatic career of Wray. 

Koeppl cites Matt Jones, who appeared in “Phantom of the Opera;” Lawson Skala who appeared in “Jesus Christ Super Star” and “Phantom,” too, and was lauded by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

He  also cites Kim Saval who went on to appear in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Stephen Full appeared on the Disney Channel; Koeppl connects with many other former students and folks from Playmakers, and other community theater and fine arts comrades on Facebook.  All of us are deemed his “extended family.”

One might conclude with the over-used phrase – “All’s well that ends well.” ... But it isn’t over yet!  It’s up to Ron to cue when the fat lady sings ... .      

Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at   

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