Category Archives: Building

Clare Roche, Master Electrician, Brightens Lifeline With New Lights!

Lifeline is excited to welcome back Clare Roche for another season as Lifeline’s master electrician.   Clare hails from Cincinnati, Ohio and became interested in theater in high school while watching it from the orchestra pit.  As a violin player, Clare always played for the high school musicals.  When her school produced Man of La Mancha, it turned out there was no violin part.  When Clare heard the production needed a light board operator, she volunteered for the job and the rest — as they say — is history.  Clare graduated from Loyola University with a Theatre degree and first came to Lifeline as the stage manager for the Fall 2010 production of The 13 Clocks. She assumed the role of master electrician later that season with Hunger and How to Survive a Fairy Tale.  In addition to working at Lifeline, Clare is part-time faculty at Loyola University’s Theatre Department, where she serves as the Lighting and Sound Supervisor.  She also works as production manager for 500 Clown and as production manager for sound designer Mikhail Fiksel.

Clare recently alerted us to a super-affordable lighting upgrade opportunity through her connection to Loyola University.  Loyola is in the process of opening two new theaters and with that overhaul, Clare  secured 35 lights and 36 circuits for Lifeline that Loyola has replaced with new equipment.  The equipment  is a welcome replacement for our 1960’s era lighting instruments.

Some of the Lifeline lights that have been replaced are still in good working order but just not right for Lifeline.  These working lights will not go to waste, thanks also to Clare, who has identified homes for them.  Two of Lifeline’s storytellers and former interns, Jessica Wright Buha and Tiffany Keane, are producing new work in small spaces and these lights will serve them well.

Our thanks to Clare and Loyola for making possible an improvement we never would have been able to afford.  And our double thanks that she saw a way to pay it forward and send our best old lights on to younger companies.

Clare is a woman of many talents, a tenacious problem-solver, a thoughtful collaborator and a perpetual sunny spirit.  We are lucky to have her on the Lifeline team.

Artistic Director

Duck for President COOKIES (and other awesome new stuff)!

Lifeline’s concession stand is not just candy bars and peanuts anymore!  Now serving baked goods from  Lovely, Too Bakery on Bryn Mawr,  Duck for President cookies are only one of our scrumptious new offerings!  See the hard-working Lifeline staff below, pressed into service to taste-test the products.  Verdict:  Delicious!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline Has New And Improved Faux Bricks

…(and much less train!)

Many thanks to Joe Schermoly and Ben Dawson who led the window improvement project in the theater!

“What windows?” you ask?

The big windows on the east side of our building facing the train tracks. On the inside of the building, those are in our theater space, the one place that natural light must be eliminated! For the past 30 years, these windows have been covered by a thin piece of painted masonite, which did little to block outside noise and draft. Now these window units have been stuffed to the gills with insulation, fire-proofed to the max and are covered over in a faux brick covering that is being artfully painted by Summer interns Autumn McConnico and Galya Loeb, under Joe’s artistic direction! When you come to see our next show, you will notice (or maybe you won’t notice and that’s good too!) that sounds of the Red Line are considerably dampened!

(Almost) Naked Man Found In Lifeline’s Basement

Lifeline Production Manager Ben Dawson biked thru the rain to get to work last weekend and thought he was alone in our basement laundry room when he threw his soaked clothes into the dryer. Imagine his surprise when a 20-person tour rounded the corner and came upon him, clad only in his shorts. Tour leader Erica Foster tried to reverse direction and stem the tide that followed her but it was not to be. Ben was one of the Lifeline backstage displays.

Lifeline’s tours for the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s Open House Chicago weekend were enthusiastically received by all — even those that did not see the (almost) naked man.

Lifeline was once again chosen as one of the 150 Chicago buildings included in this event, held all day October 13-14. Visitors got to peek into tech rehearsals for Duck for President as well as all our backstage, storage and the upstairs office — which included meeting Hester and Fanny, our two show-mice, who share a featured role opposite Count Fosco (Chris Walsh) in The Woman in White.

Besides the livestock and the people, here are a couple behind-the-scenes views that were featured on our tour!

Autumn goings-on

THE NEW YORK FREAKIN’ TIMES calls The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! “One of the best children’s shows of the year. Case closed.” Yowza!

This adaptation by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric (from the book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith) first played at Lifeline in 2007 and has since had productions all over the nation. It is currently being performed by Atlantic Theater Company in NYC thru the end of October. Check out the article in The New York Times and another review too!

We are thrilled to welcome Joe Schermoly as Lifeline’s new Technical Director. Joe is a scenic designer who also works as a TD and we are super lucky to add him to the Lifeline team in both capacities. You can see Joe’s design work on our stage right now as the scenic and props designer (and the tech director) for The Count of Monte Cristo (now extended through November 13th). You can find out more about Joe by checking out his website.

We are also bidding a fond and sad adieu to our former tech director, Ian Zywica. Ian spent the last two years at Lifeline, tech directing our shows and also designing The Moonstone, The Last of the Dragons, and The Blue Shadow. We will miss him greatly and are hoping he will visit us often.

Ensemble member Paul Holmquist and his wife Kristina Fluty are new parents!

Gus Carlson Holmquist arrived on Monday September 12th. He is hale and hearty and beautiful.

In the midst of six shows this past weekend, Lifeline was honored to participate in Open House Chicago! It’s an event produced by the Chicago Architectural Foundation and this is the first time the Rogers Park neighborhood was on the explorer map! Shuttle buses brought people to the neighborhood and we were toured by over 200 people this past weekend (although most of them didn’t actually see the performance space because we had so many performances going on)! Our visitors were thrilled to see all our secret areas of the building and many vowed to return to see a show. It was great fun to introduce so many new people to our building.

THE 13 CLOCKS got a nice preview feature in the Sun-Times and a great review in Time Out Chicago Kids and is a visual treat. It features “mini-me” puppets and other theatrical devices that are brand new to our KidSeries. Amanda Delheimer Dimond directs for the first time at Lifeline and we are so happy and lucky to have her with us.

The 13 Clocks is a Rob Kauzlaric adaptation with both new faces and old favorites in both the cast and production teams: Scenic designer Chelsea Warren (Mr. Hatch, Mrs. Caliban, Flight of the Dodo, The Dirty Cowboy), sound designer Mikhail Fiksel (Neverwhere, Watership Down, The Last of the Dragons), props designer Katherine Greenleaf (Arnie the Doughnuti), costume designer Nathan Rohrer (assisted on Treasure Island), plus newbies Melanie Berner (puppet associate), Heather Gilbert (light designer), and Clare Roche (stage manager). The cast includes newbies Joey DeBettencourt, Mildred Marie Langford, and David Guiden, plus Lifeline returners Mike Ooi (Neverwhere, The Last of the Dragons, Zorro) and Jonathan Helvey (Zorro). Rockin’ understudies that are more than ready are: Ariel Begley, Jacquis Neal, and Morgan Maher — all new to Lifeline!

The City of Chicago has invited us to participate in its In the Works series! There will be a reading of Hunger on the Pritzker Pavillion Stage for three performances November 17-19. (Don’t worry, it’s not outside! The stage will be in it’s “indoor” configuration – audience sits on stage, actors backs are to the glassed in wall overlooking the park.) This includes a talkback with Chris Hainsworth (adapter), Rob Kauzlaric (director) and Elise Blackwell (novelist), whom they’re flying in for the weekend.

We hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

December updates

Arrr! G’bye mateys!
The Treasure Island/Dooby Dooby Moo set is gone.   It is in little bitty pieces in the big dumpster in our driveway — except for the 800 pound telephone poles (ship masts) which have been wrestled into storage by the mighty Ian (heroically assisted by Barney Chin, Travis Zywica and our intern Chris Scholtens.   It is always strange to see the theater swept clean, but soon it will be filled with new adventures.

Expanded floorspace in our shop!
Ian has redesigned the shop layout and Barney has used our brand new welder to create off-the-floor hanging storage racks for all our lumber.  The acreage this has created downstairs is incredible!  We can now stretch out and paint an entire stage drop instead of a section at a time! And there’s still room to build — and we look so clean!  Go team!

Restructured and reorganized costume storage!
Erica and intern Meghan Earhart are slaying their way thru costume storage in a reorganization effort that makes me mist up every time I walk by.  We had put up plastic shelving for shoe storage but the gals nearly got buried in a shoe avalanche when the cheap pieces of… plastic… broke!  We have decided to reconsider shoe storage.   Ian and Barney came up out of the basement and consulted on the project and we’ll soon have permanent shoe storage, as sturdy as those new lumber racks downstairs.

Spanish lessons!
Lea, Erica, Dorothy and Meghan have been taking Spanish lessons once a week with box office associate/former caballero/sometime pirate/former LL shuttle driver Eduardo Garcia.  Our first test is this coming Tuesday.  When we’re a little better, Allison is going to join our little class as well (because she’s already ahead of us on the basics).   Soon we’ll have bilingual customer service!  Well, not soon perhaps. But eventually.  That is the dream!

Intern news
We are sad to say goodbye to Meghan who came to us thru the Chicago Semester program.   She has been of invaluable assistance for the term she spent with us.   She was costume crew and blood maker for Treasure Island.  She worked box office, participated in our education program and was instrumental in the accomplishment of countless projects.  We will miss her!  Our shop intern stays with us for now.  Chris Scholtens comes to us from Triton College (where Ian also teaches).  He is assisting with set construction and shop reorganizing with Ian, as well as working with Erica on box office and facilities projects.   We are glad we get to keep Chris thru the spring!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Catching up on this past summer…

Glenwood Ave Arts Fest
The 8th annual Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest was a total blast!  Lifeline’s Mrs. PIggle-Wiggle did a reprise there on both Saturday and Sunday — our first time doing a full show outdoors!  Many families who have not yet been to Lifeline were able to see the show.

We sold several subscriptions during the Fest and about a dozen Rogers Park Flex Passes!

Here’s a shot from the south stage at GAAF 09…

Our new-ish sign is looking snazzy and both Glenwood and Morse were packed like this all weekend.  About 90 artists participated and the art was eclectic and unique — just like our neighborhood.  There’s nothing generic about Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest.   All food and beverage booths are from Morse, Glenwood and Clark street bars and restaurants:  Duke’s, Heartland, The Glenwood, Gold N Pear, Grill Inn, Morseland… and our friends from Grande Noodles are pictured below.

I think I made the MOST visits to the Grande booth, but I did manage a snack from each and every delicious participant!

Our talented and generous neighbors at B1E Gallery
I’m sure you’ve already noticed the sculpture garden just south of Lifeline Theatre.  Its ever-changing display fascinates passers-by, both young and old.  The sculpture garden is the outdoor portion of B1E Gallery, one of Lifeline’s newest neighbors.  They’ve really made a big splash in a short time on our block.

For the past year, Lifeline’s south wall has been adorned by enormous, colorful paintings by B1E artists Andy DeLaRosa, John Bambino and June Bralich.  Easily seen by the train, these paintings have really added to Lifeline’s glamor and eye-appeal!   Here’s our wall from Aug 08 to Aug 09 below!

This year on Fest weekend,  new paintings were installed by B1E.  This year’s artists are John Bambino, Diana Berek and Robin Giove.  John painted Angry Rabbit and Pissy Tortoise, Robin painted Duncan (the referee dog) and Diane painted the triptych,Time Gathers All.  We break into smiles every time we see ’em.  And we’re glade to be joined on the block by B1E, whose presence makes Glenwood Avenue Arts District just that much cooler.

Photos by Al Goldberg

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

August Updates

New Driveway! (And a new adventure for our former gates…)
Yesterday’s activities at Lifeline were underscored by a jackhammer rhythm and a basso sledgehamer beat. Our flaking, scaling, crumbling driveway is being replaced!

Removing the old concrete

The first and most daunting job was prying out a deeply embedded steel post that protruded out of the center of our driveway. Back when we had working gates, this protrusion functioned as a gate catch at the center of the drive. But our gates have long since ceased to function and with the removal of the post, we’ll no longer have to put a big orange cone over the hazard every time we have company.

Once the new concrete is poured today, we’re going to be smooth and beautiful and welcoming!

And what’s to become of our cute former gates? Never fear, they will have future life! The sculptor next door, Andy DeLaRosa (of B1E Gallery) has offered them a home. They will be soon decorating Andy’s sculpture garden. Be sure to check it out when you next visit us!

Drama Camp — full of fun and hilarity
Lifeline’s Summer Drama Camp for 7-12 year olds, led by Jasmin and Eddie, had its final performance on Saturday, July 25th. The final showcase featured a drum circle with drums the students made, demonstrations of games, improvisations and several short plays that the students had written themselves. A good time was had by all! Our Education Director, Lea, is already in full planning mode for next season’s off-school workshops and camp offerings!

Sneak Peek for Treasure Island, August 9th
Our sneak peeks are among my favorite Lifeline events and this one was particularly fun. “Jolly Jolly Grog” (rum punch named after one of the sea shanties in the show) was served along with the usual wine and cheese and treats. Subscribers and donors mingled with Lifeline artists, staff and board. Brani showed her renderings, costumes were modeled and blood packs were discussed. Chris and John demonstrated a knife fight from the show and then broke it into slow-mo pieces so Geoff could explain the techniques and deceptions they use to fake us out. Alan‘s set model was on display and we got to see the firing of one of the antique pistols that he and Geoff have rigged up to fake/shoot. As always, we took folks on tours around the facility so people get to see our hidden nooks and crannies. It is great fun to get to meet our donors and subscribers and express our thanks to them with these parties!

The Farm Animals are back!
Shole and George and Jim are working on Dooby Dooby Moo, another tale from the popular series by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. This time the farm gets involved in a talent show! We’re bringing back TWO former Farmer Browns to share the role. Craig Thompson, who originated the role in Click Clack Moo will perform on weekends and Ben Kirberger, who was one of the Farmer Browns in Duck for President, will perform the weekday performances. Amanda Link (formerly Hen in Duck for Prez) is back to play Ewe. Elizabeth Dowling (Pig in Giggle Giggle Quack) is back to play Pig. Heather Currie (Pig in Duck for Prez) is back to play Cow, and we welcome Nathaniel Neimi as our brand new Duck. Whew! That’s a lot of animals (and former animals). We’ve collected quite a barnyard as we move into producing our 4th book in this popular series. As usual, Doreen and Betsy and their families will fly in from NY to see the show — this time for opening (October 18)! Yay!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Building & Busman’s

Building update
The expert property-condition-assessment guy said our fine old building is in GREAT SHAPE!! Oh, we need a new roof and some tuck pointing — but it’s not urgent yet so we can save up for that!  It was so gratifying that he was wowed by how sturdy we are. We’re perfect for a green roof. Or a whole rooftop garden. Yes — my fantasy of the rooftop garden and cocktail lounge lives!!! We just need someone who wants to invest in such a project! (And did I mention the view?!?)

Busman’s marathon coming to a close on July 26
After a 13-week run, Busman’s Honeymoon is finally coming to a close. The cast has been doing 5 shows a week (2 of them on Saturday) and I’m glad they’ll soon be getting a well-deserved rest. Everyone except Rob Kauzlaric, Chris Walsh & Chris Hainsworth, who begin rehearsals for Treasure Island on July 27. Yes, that is one day after the close of Busman’s. No rest for the wicked. Or for pirates…

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director