Category Archives: Posts by Dorothy

The Summer of Love!!

Lifeline recently bid sad adieu to the phenomenal intern class of Summer 2014:


Left to right: Julianna Donaher (directing major at DePaul), Browyn Sherman (recent graduate from Loyola), Claudia Roy (acting major, Columbia), Martin Hanna (acting major ISU), Emily Wills (acting major, Northwestern), and Bo Johnson (Comedy Writing & Performance major, Columbia College)

This group excelled in can-do attitude and enthusiasm. Three cheers for Martin, who is on his way to spend a year at Arts University College at Bournemouth, and Browyn, who has now graduated from Loyola and assistant directed Jane Eyre. Look for Bo, Emily and Browyn — you will see them at Lifeline this fall working front of house and driving the shuttle! We hope the rest of intern class summer 2014 will also be back at Lifeline soon! And we cheer them on as they finish their college degrees!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Meet Lifeline’s Fall intern, Logan Toftness

Lifeline welcomes Logan Toftness, who is interning here through February and comes to Lifeline by recommendation of ensemble member Kevin Gawley. Logan is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Theatre Department, where Kevin heads the Scenic & Light Design Department. Logan’s areas of interest are writing, directing and all things theater.

Logan Toftness Headshot

Logan hails from River Falls, WI (which is very near the Twin Cities). Her interest in theater began in elementary school and her writing career began in high school through her 4H Club. The Club did not offer a writing focus, so Logan and a friend created one and for three years they wrote and directed plays within that program. Logan finished college as a theater major and had several projects produced as a playwright. One of her favorites was a farce titled Thieves and Bad Bad Lies, which featured a deserted cabin in the woods and many mistaken identities.

Post-Lifeline, Logan has a job leading geology tours at Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, Wisconsin and will also be directing Beauty and the Beast for the Chippewa Falls Middle School. Her proximity to the Twin Cities will allow her to pursue theater activities there as well.

At Lifeline, Logan assisted at the Pistols for Two concert reading, has begun working with Alex in the Development area, works in the box office with Erica, is learning financial management with Allison and will be attending community meetings, supporting Fillet of Solo and working with Lifeline Storytelling Project with Dorothy. She has been an immense help already and we are thrilled she will be spending her winter here at Lifeline. Thanks to Kevin for sending her to us!

Ensemble member Elise Kauzlaric accepted into London Master’s Degree program!

All of us at Lifeline are busting our buttons over Elise Kauzlaric‘s recent acceptance into an intensive Master of Arts program in Actor Training and Coaching at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.  Elise packed her bags shortly after The Woman in White opening and will not return to us until late summer 2013.

First, I have to totally crow about this honor because Elise is too modest to do so.  When I shrieked, “This is a hugely competitive program you got into, isn’t it????”   She said, “Oh I don’t think….I really don’t have any idea….”   Pressed, she admitted that her class is quite small and that no one she auditioned with seems to be in it.   Doing my investigative journalistic research, I see that the school holds auditions in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — and only a handful of applicants are accepted.  So…. am I right?  She totally rocks.

Elise has been acting in Chicago since 1997 and dialect coaching since 2002.   In recent years she has been directing more and loving it.  She has also had the opportunity to teach as adjunct faculty at both DePaul and Roosevelt and loves that too.   Her interest in graduate programs came from feeling she could benefit from focused work in her new areas of passion.  The Master’s program at the Central School was perfect — it is geared specifically to directors and teachers so it will be useful to her in both areas.  She’ll have the opportunity to explore different acting techniques and theories while also overlapping with the voice and movement departments.   (And there’s an acting program there, so she’ll be trying out all her new methods on real actors!)

Elise was born in Louisiana, spent five years in California and then went to elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska.  There was little theatrical opportunity there but her Dad likes to sing, her Mom plays piano and when shows came to Alaska Rep, her family attended.  She remembers seeing the first Broadway tour of Annie in California when she was seven and finding it very exciting.  At the age of ten, she saw Tartuffe at Alaska Rep., which also made a big impression.

The family returned to Slidell, Louisiana, where Elise attended junior high and high school.  Here, too, there was little theatrical opportunity, but there was a high school speech club and it would go to a statewide forensics competition.  The competition included dramatic interpretations:  Elise did some monologues for these and, as a senior, she directed a one-act.  (Her one-act won.)

Once Elise was old enough to drive, she was able to participate in Slidell’s community theater, where she was in the chorus of Cinderella, played Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, and was a Ronette in Little Shop of Horrors in a production by a local youth organization.

When Elise headed off to college, her parents headed off to Malaysia for her Dad’s job.  Elise planned to study theater and her father encouraged her to consider a conservatory:  if she was going be a theater major, he thought she should go to a place that specifically focuses on her area of passion.  This turned out to be great advice.  Elise chose Webster Conservatory in St. Louis, and she not only loved the school but she also met her husband Rob there.  She noticed him in her early days on campus, but they got to know each other when they were cast together in John Patrick Shanley’s The Red Coat.

Elise’s first Lifeline show was when Shole cast her as  an understudy for the 1999 version of Bunnicula.  Then Sandy cast her in My Father’s Dragon.  The Silver Chair and the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle followed and in 2005 Elise became an ensemble member at Lifeline, where she acts, directs and adapts.  And she’s a dialect coach.  Did I mention she’s a singer too?  And also a dancer!

Elise is probably our most-traveled ensemble member.  Family visits alone have taken Elise around the globe as her parent’s stint in Malaysia was followed by 6 years in Scotland.  In addition,  Elise’s older sister works for the Foreign Service and her duties have taken her to Mali (West Africa), Italy, and Mongolia.   Elise hasn’t made it to her sister’s current post in Mongolia (yet!) but she has also traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, France, and Czechoslovakia.

With all that travel, Elise has never had the opportunity to spend time in London before.  She’s been through London a couple times:  once in college staying overnight at a hostel and one time with Rob when they were also just passing thru.  This school year will be a real opportunity to get to know the city — and she is armed with a gift from ensemble member Paul Holmquist.  Paul gave her  a collection of “London Walks” that he used on his visit to London when he was doing research prior to directing the play Neverwhere at Lifeline. Elise, who was in that cast, will be able to visit these locations and immerse herself in London history — and relive Neverwhere as a bonus!

All of us at Lifeline are cheering Elise on in her adventure.  Our buttons have totally burst off.  We look forward to many stories — and we also look forward to benefiting from her new skills and expertise when she returns to Chicago.

Meet Fall Intern Rebecca Munley!

Rebecca is a recent graduate of Northwestern University and was drawn to Lifeline because of her keen interest in adaptation. Though she entered NU as an actor, Rebecca soon discovered that her real passion lay behind the scenes — and noted that a director gets to be involved with every part and person in the process. Rebecca adapted and directed a “heavily” staged reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray at NU and, shortly after graduation, came to Lifeline to assistant direct Elise Kauzlaric‘s fall production of The Woman in White.

Rebecca was first bitten by the theatre bug when she saw a production of Hansel and Gretel as a child.  She couldn’t stop thinking about it for days and still remembers it vividly. She began performing in high school, and was inspired by her drama teacher, Mr. Graham, who encouraged students to do adaptation projects and direct their own scenes for class.  He also highly recommended the Chicago theater scene.

Rebecca grew up on the east coast and was in love with New York her whole life. Her father went to Cornell for grad school when she was a baby, and brought her back a teddy bear wearing a Cornell sweatshirt, and thus grew up with the intention of attending Cornell. She visited the campus, it was lovely, she got in. But….

Rebecca had visited Northwestern University a couple years before and had been so drawn to it. And of course there was that recommendation from her high school drama teacher to consider as well. So Rebecca had a feeling and went with it — and she’s sure glad she did. She loved the NU program and in her time there her focus evolved from acting to directing and adapting. She also fell in love with the Chicago theater scene, particularly the ensemble-based work, the challenges of small theater (both in space and budget) and the knowledge that there is already a large female director population here. Rebecca has graduated from NU and just completed her internship at Lifeline. We are glad that she will be remaining in Chicago and will look forward to keeping up with her further adventures here as a theater artist.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Sneak Peek Duet! (The City & The City and The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost

Because December is crowded (have you noticed how crowded it is?) we scheduled two sneak peek events at exactly the same time.   Sneak peeks are our special events for donors and subscribers where we do a little behind-the-scenes preview of upcoming shows and enjoy some wine and cheese and mingling.

On the December 8th Sneak Peek duet, the KidSeries families went upstairs and saw an excerpt from The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost and then the kids participated in a drama workshop and then came downstairs for snacks.

Simultaneously, The City & The City crowd had snacks and beverages in our lobby and then went into the theater to see some City scenes and movement work.

Thanks to our subscribers Char Uney and Nona Flores for providing delectable edibles for this event.  And thanks to the cast and crew of both shows for their inside-the-process presentations and Q&A sessions.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline Welcomes Aly Amidei to the Lifeline Artistic Ensemble!

Aly Amidei is one of the busiest, most sought-after women in show business and we are honored that she accepted our invitation to join the Lifeline artistic ensemble. Aly is both a writer and a designer and has designed costumes for Lifeline productions of Watership Down, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Woman in White and (upcoming this spring) The Three Musketeers. She is also a company member at Strawdog Theatre, the artistic director of WildClaw Theater and is the Costume and Makeup Coordinator for student theater and dance productions at the College of DuPage, where she also teaches part-time (classes in makeup and in theater appreciation).

Aly’s first show at Lifeline was in 2011, but we have been following her career for years prior — and she’s been aware of Lifeline for too. The first show she saw here was The Mark of Zorro, but she has heard many Lifeline tales from her husband Brian who appeared in The Killer Angels, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King at Lifeline before she had met him.

Aly’s path to theater could be viewed as random coincidence…or perhaps as destiny. Aly grew up in the northwest suburbs. Her family spent every weekend at the go-cart track, where her dad and sister raced go-carts and she and her mom worked at the track. Aly was interested in science, played sports and began sewing at the age of four. Aly is tall, her sister is taller and they required clothes for tall, athletic girls. “Forget about buying a prom dress,” Aly explains, “we would just ‘Hulk, smash!’ store-bought clothes. So we just made our own.”

Aly was exposed to Chicago theater in high school. In her sophomore year, Aly worked at the Dairy Queen with a comic book store next door. Trading ice cream for comic books, she became an avid fan of the horror genre and particularly of Clive Barker. Imagine her ecstasy when she learned that the Organic Theater in Chicago would produce In the Flesh, a Clive Barker adaptation. She couldn’t drive yet, but wrangled a friend’s dad into driving them to see the preview benefit hosted by Clive Barker himself. This was the first show Aly had ever paid to see — and she still has the signed poster.

It turns out that In the Flesh was an important production in many ways. It was the genesis for the eventual founding of WildClaw Theatre. It featured Ray Wild in the cast (the actor for whom WildClaw is named) and fellow WildClaw ensemble members Charley Sherman, Steve Herson, Paul Foster and Aly’s now-husband Brian Amidei were all involved in that production. Aly’s Chicago family was already waiting for her and she didn’t know it yet.

Aly intended to be a scientist when she grew up and in her junior year was in a small AP Bio class which got to take a lot of field trips with their science teacher — who was also a theater geek. So when AP Bio took a trip to Chicago to tour a Water Reclamation Plant, they also stayed to see The Man of La Mancha, or paired a morning at Fermi-lab with an afternoon matinee of Annie Warbucks (the sequel to Annie… you heard me). Her interest in theater (as an audience member) continued to grow. But the idea of participating creatively had still not occurred to her.

Aly went to Knox College, three hours from Chicago with an eye to their science programs. Since she’d AP-ed out of all the freshman classes, Aly was left with little to do in her freshman year so she took some electives, one of which was painting. She liked art and thought perhaps she could combine her science and art interests and become a medical illustrator. But fate once again raised its hand. The resident assistant in Aly’s dorm was a costume designer in the theater department. When she discovered that Aly could sew, she got her a job in the costume shop. This was the first time it occurred to Aly that there were jobs in theater. And since she wasn’t taking any major classes her freshman year, she was absorbed into the theater department and then never left it. She tried acting and did not find it exciting. But the costume stuff? The tech stuff? All her interests converged here — her science geek passion for problem-solving, for using materials in new ways — these were muscles she could flex in theater.

Aly almost went to Champaign-Urbana instead of Knox and marvels at how her life might have been different. It feels unlikely that she’d have stumbled into theater at such a large school. “Would I have been happy as a biologist?” she asks herself. “I do still love science, but . . . now I can write about it!”

Aly writes a lot. About ten years ago she started writing some Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction. Then Hank Boland at Strawdog began a program called Wireless and Aly helped generate content for that, creating radio plays with Chris Hainsworth, Anita Deely, Sean Mallary, Andy Lawfer, John Henry Roberts and Mike Dailey in what became known as The Hit Factory. Aly created a comic book character, Stella Stargirl (whom she also featured in some radio plays as well as her comic books). Her first full-length adaptation was Carmilla with WildClaw, which was chosen for production in early 2011 at the Department of Cultural Affairs Storefront Theater where it received glowing reviews.

Aly looks forward to writing for Lifeline. She is eyeballing our KidSeries as a first foray and is excited about participating in Lifeline’s script development process, which she has closely observed as a designer here. She also looks forward to continuing to design. She finds designing for an adaptation particularly fun because you have access to all this extra information from the book, rather than having just the script alone to mine. As the designer she can pick and choose where she wants to put her own stamp on things and fight against people’s expectations — and where she has the opportunity to make fans happy with little insider touches that no one who hasn’t read the books would know. For The Count of Monte Cristo it was fun to exactly replicate the description of Edmond Dantes’ costume from the book. But it was also thrilling to struggle through the interpretive challenges of Watership Down, which she names as the hardest and most exciting thing she did all last year.

On a personal note, Aly met her future husband, Brian, at Strawdog Theatre in 2005. She was hired as an emergency last minute replacement costume designer for Impossible Marriage and Brian was an emergency last minute replacement to play the part of the randy Reverend. They bonded over the Chicago Bears, author James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series) and New Orleans. Brian made a pass on opening night and the rest, as they say, is history.

Aly’s next project at Lifeline will be the costume design for this spring’s The Three Musketeers. We are proud and happy to welcome her as a new ensemble member of Lifeline Theatre.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Sneak Peak of “Fillet of Solo” Results in Laughter!

Lifeline offers “Sneak Peek” events to our subscribers and donors a few weeks early in the rehearsal process of every Lifeline show.  These events are among my most favorite things we do because they give Lifeline staff and artists the opportunity to get to know our biggest fans and supporters. The Sneak Peek event for our Storytelling festival, Fillet of Solo, was another riotous good time.

As usual, the evening began with wine, cheese and mingling, then we did a teaser presentation of sample stories and ended with conversation, building tours, and more snacks and wine!  Guest performers included Amanda Rountree (who is developing a one-woman show for the Fest and, by the way, also works in Lifeline’s education department, both on-site and as an artist in residence at our neighboring Chicago public schools), Kris Simmons (from the kates), and Dana Norris, artistic director of Story Club.  Festival founder and current co-curator Sharon Evans (Artistic Director of Live Bait) was also in attendance along with storytellers from 2nd Story, The Lifeline Storytelling Project, Sweat Girls, and solo star Tekki Lomnicki — all of whom will be participating in Fillet of Solo.  We are so proud to be hosting so many powerhouse Chicago storytelling collectives at this Festival.

Remember that a Fest pass to see the whole kaboodle of shows between Jan 3-20 is only $30!

Storytelling/Live Lit groups that will be part of this Festival will include:

– En Solo

PLUS…solo shows by Tekki Lomnicki, Kim Morris, Amanda Rountree, and Eric D. Warner!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Behind the Scenes of The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost

Scott T. Barsotti is vividly remembered by Lifeline audiences as Fiver (the young rabbit whose future visions save the wandering tribe) in Watership Down. But did you know that Scott is even more well-known as a playwright than he is as an actor?  He has had plays produced in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New Orleans and coming soon — at Lifeline Theatre!  Scott’s favorite childhood book is Geoffrey Hayes’ The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost and he’s adapting it for Lifeline’s KidSeries, opening In January.  The play will contain music by Troy Martin and Matthew Test and will be directed by Paul Holmquist (who played Hazel, Fiver’s big brother and leader of the pack in Watership Down).  Scenery will be designed by Joe Schermoly.  We shot a little backstage video to give you a peek at what this team is up to, getting ready for the show!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline Celebrates the Holidays!

Lifeline’s annual holiday party was so romantically lit that my photos all look like they were taken underwater and lit by jelly fish. Every year we invite all cast and crew, board, staff, ensemble and interns for the season, and this year about 75 Lifeline peeps gathered on December 8th for the party. We had pizza from JB Alberto’s and other snacks and desserts delivered by Lifeline subscriber and baker extraordinaire Char Uney, who provides sweet treats for many a Lifeline event. And we drank a toast to our good friend and neighbor Neil Lifton, the owner of Duke’s bar who left this world about this time last year. (When the bar closed, Neil’s wife Mary donated some of the bar stock to Lifeline so we were able to toast our departed friend in style.)

Because Santa’s elves were exceptionally slammed this year and fell behind on the prep work, there was no cookie decorating contest this year. But Lea Pinsky found kits for gingerbread villages at the store so we were not without activity for the ever-crafty Lifeline visiting artists!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Our Block Rocks: Neighborhood News!

The Rogers Park Parents group had a terrific Halloween celebration on Glenwood Avenue this year: crafts, games, candy — and a magician! The event is usually in Jarvis Square but was on Glenwood Ave this year due to the construction at Jarvis.

We have a new neighbor on Glenwood Ave! Welcome to Armilla: A Voyage Home. Specializing in vintage, reclaimed treasures, small furnishings, lighting, art glass, pottery, finds, classics, curiosities, repurposed wares and eclectic furniture. Located at 6928 N. Glenwood between Morse and Farwell in our very own Glenwood Ave Arts District, Chicago.

Welcome also to MorseL, 1406 W Morse Ave: our newest restaurant in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District. Opened Halloween night at 5pm.  The menu has a lot of range — there’s a fried chicken special on Mondays and a mussels special on Fridays.   Here, Erica and Dorothy taste-test the Grapefruit apertif (delicious!).  Behind us are Colm and Tom, of the Glenwood-Sidecar-MorseL family.

And you know what else rocks?  Both Act One Pub and Morseland, as well as serving food late-night, are now open for lunch even on weekdays!  Add those to our previous yummy lunch-time options within a block:  Los PortalesNoon Hour Grill (Korean), Heartland Cafe, Far East Kitchen, Sub Brothers and Grill Inn and we have plentiful choice whenever we step out of our building!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director