Category Archives: Staff

The Summer of Love!!

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

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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!

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

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

Fanny and Hester Retire From the Stage (For Now)

Show mice Fanny and Hester took a curtain call with the cast on closing night of The Woman in White.  Named after two character’s from Wilkie Collins‘ book that did not make it into the play, Fanny and Hester took turns starring opposite Chris Walsh as pets of his villainous but mouse-friendly Count Fosco.  Hester remained a little stage-nervous throughout the run but Fanny became quite the ham — sitting up in Count Fosco’s hand and enjoying her audience reaction.

With the closing of The Woman in White, the ladies will continue to reside at Lifeline in the upstairs office on their shelf between Rob and Alex‘s desks.  The routine of coming out of their cage every day to rehearse with Rob (who has acted as their trainer) is a ritual that will be maintained as it is also a nice stress reducer for all who share the office.  It is also supposed that our show-biz mice would rather stay amongst the theater folk than to go home and share quarters with Rob and Elise’s several cats.

Pictured below:
Hester strikes a thoughtful pose, Fanny enjoys a snack…and then falls asleep.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline welcomes summer intern Autumn McConnico!

Autumn McConnico grew up in Pensacola Florida and first became interested in theater in high school when she took a drama class to fill an elective. She expected to hate it and ended up loving it. When applying for colleges, Autumn’s drama teacher mentioned that Chicago was a great city for theater — so even though she planned to major in Chemistry, she figured this would also give her the option to be involved with theater on the side. Autumn loves the University of Chicago for its flexibility and support and because its theatre organizations are student-run. The school has a great infrastructure for allowing students to do what they want to do: if a project is proposed appropriately and there is student interest, the University finds a way to make it happen. But as much as she loves the University of Chicago, it turns out she hates chemistry labs. She loves the theory — how six carbon rings bend to multiple shapes, how two molecules interact depending on relationship — but putting clear liquids together and heating them turns out to be really tedious. So after a year of Organic Chemistry, Autumn spent her second year dancing around the theatre major — and by the end of that year, she had settled on it, with primary interest in arts in education and playwriting. Autumn is working on her BA in arts in education as she enters her fourth year and she has also had several plays produced in the U of C’s annual New Work Week festival. Last year, Autumn took the “Chicago Theatre: Budgets and Buildings” class at U of C and as part of that class, took a tour of Lifeline. She was engaged by our mission, particularly the KidSeries and dedication to adaptation. Lifeline seemed to be a great place for writers and she wanted to get a glimpse at how we approach adaptation.

Autumn loves to make books and even taught a bookbinding class for fellow students at U of C. You can often find her poking thru free book bins — both in search of reading material, and also in search of interesting covers that she can use to make her own books, thru one of several stitching methods she described to me!

Autumn recently received a grant for a performance installation at U of C. This is in development now and will be executed in the Fall. It will be based on the short story “The Mnemone” by Robert Sheckley. She will be making books and artifacts to create a sense of the world of that story, assisted by regular on-site performances which offer glimpses of the living characters. The project fills her with both joy and trepidation.

Autumn plans to stay in Chicago after graduation and will look for work in theater. As a long term goal, she hopes to form a theater company centered on arts in education, likely for high school students — and maybe she’ll even find a way to work in a little Chemistry.

Lifeline welcomes summer intern Mary McDermott!

Mary McDermott hails from the Village of Kill, County Kildare, Ireland. She describes herself as a bookworm and has been involved in drama since she was 8 years old. Mary is a student at the Conservatory of Music and Drama at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The Conservatory has a relationship with Columbia College here in Chicago and Mary has been at Columbia as an exchange student for the past semester. Mary extended her stay to intern at Lifeline until August, after which she will return to Dublin for her last year of school. Mary has loved her experience at Columbia and starred there as Julia in 1984. This production was adapted and directed by Tiffany Keane as her final Columbia directing project. (Tiffany is a former intern and currently a Lifeline house manager and storyteller). Mary is is enjoying working at Lifeline and participating as a writer/performer in the Lifeline Storytelling Project. Mary looks forward to pursuing an acting career post-graduation in either Dublin or Chicago. She is greatly enjoying her stay here, but is baffled by the Chicago compulsion to put either cheese or cinnamon in everything. We are excited to have her with us this summer!

Lifeline bids sad adieu to production manager Cortney Hurley

After serving over six years as Lifeline Theatre’s Production Manager, Cortney Hurley is leaving to pursue new adventures. We wish to express our heartfelt thanks for the time she spent with us: wrangling budgets, climbing ladders, troubleshooting antique light systems, scheduling meetings, solving problems and finding new and exciting designers and technicians amongst her vast network of contacts — and then luring them in to Lifeline. Cortney is hoping this next chapter in her life will allow her to see more actual theater as an audience member and have fewer sleepless nights. She is currently working a new job just two doors away from us, so we still get to see her for the occasional lunch and after-work beer. This past week she ran over to watch our midday Summer Junior Camp show (a 4-6 year old-written play version of Harry the Dirty Dog). We owe Cortney great thanks for her time with us. We will miss her and we hope we continue to see her often.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Long-time Lifeline funder, S&C Electric, gives Lifeline team a tour!

On March 30th, Lifeline staff, interns and ensemble were given a private tour of the S&C Electric facility just a few blocks from Lifeline. The trip was arranged between Alex (our shiny new development manager) and Sue Keyes of S&C, who is our main contact and advocate there. The S&C Electric Company was founded in 1911 “with an idea and $,1000.” It has been a family-run company for most of its 101 years and became employee owned within the last decade. The company employs 1,700 at its Rogers Park facility and another 800 at its other facilities (national and international). The Rogers Park plant spans 45 acres and three Chicago zip codes (though it is primarily in our own 60626). The company is known for its community focus, employing Rogers Park residents and also for not laying their people off during hard times. S&C has supported Lifeline since 1988!!! (They added support for Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest in 2008.) We are proud to be supported by this great Rogers Park company and to have the opportunity to get to know them better!

Left to right: Joe Schermoly, Dorothy Milne, Cortney Hurley, Alex Kyger, Allison Cain, Sue Keyes, Georgia Knapp, Julie Wiltjer, Alan Donahue. (Should have seen us in our safety goggles and headsets as we toured the plant!)

Staff news
Our production manager, Cortney Hurley (pictured in tour shot above), leaves us at the end of this season (June 30th). We thank her for 6+ years of dedicated service and wish her well on her next adventure. We hope she visits us often.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Welcome to our new interns!

Lifeline welcomes two new interns…

Georgia Knapp, who will be with us through June.

Georgia was born in England, grew up in Guantanamo Cuba, then lived in Germany for a couple years (where she learned the language) before her family settled in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. She notes that she was named Georgia long before her family moved to the state that shares her name. St. Simon’s Island has a land mass of 17 square miles and she reports that it is easily walkable in a day. Georgia was an English with an Emphasis on Creative Writing Major at Kalamazoo College (spending time in their Study Abroad program in Aberdeen, Scotland). She has also worked as a park ranger for the National Park Service at Ford Frederica National Monument (the first colony settled in Georgia) and then in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before arriving in Chicago, she also spent some time working on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Most recently, Georgia finished an internship at Northlight Theatre in Evanston and at Lifeline she is assisting in administration, front-of-house, marketing, development and production areas as well as participating in the Lifeline Storytelling Project as a writer and performer. Georgia also recently had a creative non-fiction piece (The Marshes of Glynn) published in the Fall 2011 e-zine, The Smoking Poet. Post-Lifeline, Georgia hopes to find a paying job in theater (though she also retains high interest in the park service as well as the fields of publishing and free-lance editing). Georgia has a life-long ambition to meet a real moose and the photo below is as close as she’s gotten thus far: taken on one of her many travel adventures, this one near Pancake Bay in Ontario.

And Julie Wiltjer, who comes to Lifeline thru the Chicago Semester program and will be with us full-time into May.

Julie grew up in Worth, Illinois, about a half-hour outside Chicago and credits her older sister for sparking her interest in theater. Julie became active in theater in middle school, while also being on the soccer, basketball and track teams. She briefly abandoned theater in high school to focus on her athletic pursuits, but in her junior year she decided she missed and preferred theater and dropped sports to return to the stage. Julie is now a senior theater major and music minor at Trinity Christian College and will graduate in May upon completion of her internship at Lifeline. When at home, Julie drives a 1999 Ford Contour named Bella but she is enjoying this trial run of living car-less in Chicago and finding her way around on the CTA system. Though Julie doesn’t have GPS on her phone, she has a foolproof and personal GPS system in her dad, who is a garbage truck driver in Chicago. She can call him from any location and be assured of his immediate ability to identify her coordinates and best path to her destination. Julie recently played Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at school, where she also enjoys singing in honors choir. Theater now counts as Julie’s main sport, though she also likes hanging out with friends and playing board games, confessing a serious addiction to the game of Clue. Julie looks forward to moving permanently to Chicago post-college and seeking jobs in and around the theater scene. While at Lifeline she is assisting in the front-of-house, marketing, development and production areas, as well as participating in the Lifeline Storytelling Project.