Lifeline Theatre -- Big Stories, Up Close Buy tickets online Join our email list Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter It starts with YOU. Join our family of supporters today!
Go to homepageGo to Performances pageGo to Education pageGo to News & Events pageGo to About Us pageGo to Support Us pageGo to Contact Us pageGo to Work With Us pageGo to the Lifeline blog

Treasure Island, here we come

We’re just hours away from beginning the rehearsal process for Treasure Island and I wanted to take a moment to share my excitement about the all-star team we have in place for this project.

John Hildreth (adaptor of Johnny Tremain, Cat’s Cradle, The Shadow, Around the World in 80 Days, etc) has created our thrilling script; Alan Donahue (designer of Mariette in Ecstasy, The Mark of Zorro, and many, many more) is on scenic/projections/props; Kevin Gawley (designer of Island of Dr. Moreau, Dorian Gray, etc.) is on lights; Branimira Ivanova (designer of Mariette in Ecstasy, Dorian Gray, etc.) is on costumes; and Andy Hansen (Dorian Gray) is on sound. Fights will be by Geoff Coates (The Mark of Zorro, Talisman Ring) and I’ll be wrangling it all together with the aid of the intrepid Erica Foster, who’s back as stage manager (The Mark of Zorro, The Killer Angels, Around the World in 80 Days, etc).

The killer cast features such long-time familiar faces as ensemble member Patrick Blashill (as Dr. Livesey), John Ferrick (as Squire Trelawney), and Robert McLean (as Captain Smollett); some recently-familiar faces like Sean Sinitski (as Long John Silver), Christopher Walsh (as Billy Bones), Chris Hainsworth (as Isreal Hands), and Ezekiel Sulkes (as Ben Gunn); plus some folks brand new to Lifeline: Warren Weber (as Jim Hawkins), Matt Engle (as Black Dog), and C. Sean Piereman (as Job Anderson).

It’s an amazing team and I’m so fortunate to have all of them on board!

Fight and dialect rehearsals start tomorrow. Staging begins next week. I’ll do my best to check back in with some updates from time to time. ‘Til then…

See you on the island~
Robert Kauzlaric

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

Updates

Season auditions
We just had our general auditions for the year and – dang!  There is so much sparkly talent in this city. And it just kills me how many people totally rock and we don’t have a darn thing in this particular season that fits them.  Makes me want to do more plays. Except that would probably kill us. But we had our directors and writers and composers from our various shows in 09-10 there to see (the three days of) auditions and we were wowed by the people who auditioned.

More states and fresh blood in Busman!
Okay, Erica says it’s too early to post another map but I must report that we’re up to 22 states! We’ve added South Dakota and Connecticut and Rhode Island!   We’ve got 5 weeks to go so I’m hoping we add to the tally!  We’re welcoming some new folks into the cast for the extension.   Jon Stutzman, Chris Hainsworth and Jean Vanier will be joining us and we’re excited to have ’em.  Jean is a newcomer to Lifeline.  Jon was in Rikki Tikki Tavi and The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Chris was in Talking It Over and will be in Treasure Island this fall.

Our very first Property Condition Assessment
Constructed as a ComEd substation in 1933, Lifeline is built like a bomb shelter. (Our city building inspector recommends we all meet here in case of disaster.) But it’s also freakin’ old. We’re getting an expert guy over here next week to go over our building with a fine tooth comb. His report will tell us of “existing deficiencies, deferred maintenance, repair cost estimates and a reserve table of the expected useful life of building components.” I expect it to be sobering. But at least we’ll know. And it’s better to know….isn’t it?

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Busman’s Extension and more!

Woohoo!  Busman’s Honeymoon is a runaway train — extended thru July 26!
This is how many fans Dorothy L. Sayers has:   Erica posted a map in the box office and her team is coloring in all the locations we’ve had tickets purchased from — which now totals 19 states, plus Ontario — and, we’ve gone international!  Arrows off the map point to audience members traveling in from Paris, Rome and Madrid!    So seriously — we’re extended, but call ahead!  We are so totally packed — even those added Thursdays are filling up fast.  This is the fourth time Frances has adapted a Dorothy L. Sayers novel for stage at Lifeline and each one is more successful than the last.  The show is delightfully staged by Paul and features numerous Lifeline ensemble members as well (Peter, Jenifer, Phil, Jim and Rob).

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle rocked – and it’s coming back for GAAF!
Recently closing, our final KidSeries show this season was also a sold-out hit.  If you missed Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (or if you want to see it again), you have another chance!   We will perform a stripped down version of the show at Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest, right in front of Lifeline!  Showtimes at 2pm on both Saturday and Sunday August 22-23.    You can check out all the entertainment for this year, along with video from past Fests at www.GlenwoodAve.org.

Non-Equity Jeff Awards
It was a fun party on Monday night and the evening concluded at 9:50 pm, which has to be a new record.  Which meant we all had to repair to a nearby bar.  Lifeline came home with 4 awards:
  • Scenic design: Alan, Mariette in Ecstasy
  • Artistic Specialization: Geoff Coates, fight choreography, The Mark of Zorro
  • Adaptation: Katie, The Mark of Zorro
  • Sound design: Toy, The Mark of Zorro

A gazillion Jeff nominations!
Lifeline Theatre received 14 non-equity Jeff nominations this season, the most of any company.  (And y’know who came in second?  Our nearest neighbor — Theo Ubique.  Oh yeah.  The Glenwood Avenue Art District continues to take the world by storm!)  In addition to the wins mentioned above, congratulations are also due for these nominations:
  • Adapter: Rob for Dorian Gray, Christina for Mariette
  • Director: Elise for Mariette
  • Lead actress: Brenda Barrie for Mariette
  • Lead actor: James Elly for Zorro
  • Supporting actor: Paul for Dorian Gray
  • Ensemble: Mariette
  • Sound: Tim for Mariette
  • Production: Zorro and Mariette
More kudos for ensemble away from home!
In addition to the nominations they received for work at Lifeline, ensemble members Elise (actress, On the Shore of the Wide World) and Paul (director, The Robber Bridegroom)  are nominated for shows they did with our friends at Griffin Theatre!   Congrats to all!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Best. Benefit. EVER!

Lifeline’s annual benefit was held on Thursday, April 16, in the newly refurbished, totally sparkly, mosaic-filled dome room of Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center.  Elegant and totally grown up.

To go with our mystery theme (we’re gearing up for Busman’s Honeymoon at Lifeline), Christina adapted a Dorothy L. Sayers short story, The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face into a short play and hotshot, super-best-selling Chicago-based mystery writers Sean Chercover, Julie Hyzy and Sara Paretsky each provided totally different and HILARIOUS endings to the piece and took questions from the crowd after.

Many thanks to those that made this happen — despite most of them being up to their eyebrows in Busman’s rehearsal:  Frances directed the play-let and Peter, Paul, Jenifer, Jim, Shole, Phil, Katie, Rob and Elise played the multiple villains, victims and investigators. Also thanks to our rockin’ board and benefit committee!  Woohoo!

Behind the scenes of the Best Benefit Ever:
Outtakes (if only we’d had video documentation) include:  1) not being able to find the prop gun that was packed for the show, realizing it had been left in the trunk of an already valet-parked car and trying to get it back in time for the performance without being arrested for illegal possession of a wicked looking firearm (in reality just a starter pistol).  2) me and Allison going out for Subway to feed the set-up crew at lunchtime and me falling down an entire marble staircase at the Cultural Center but not hurting myself at all.  3) not being able to fit all our stuff back in the van at the end of the evening and trying to give the stuff that wouldn’t fit to the dock workers at the Cultural Center:  “Okay, please take the beer — no, I’m sorry, the vodka we can return for store credit, we have to fit that in somehow.   You can have the wine though.   What? You don’t like wine?  Okay, it’s just the beer then — and could you please take this cheesecake?”  4) Erica, Allison and me sitting on the floor at Lifeline with a bottle of champagne amidst the stack of boxes toasting the event’s success.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Au revior, Lord Peter

I’m sitting in the darkened theatre. Voices of designers murmur around me. In the black I can see a few blue-tinted faces as they stare intently into their laptops, almost unblinking, their eyes flicking from screen to stage, screen to stage. In front of me I can make out the skeleton outline of our set, waiting to be brought to life with light, sound and actors. We are about to start technical rehearsals for Busman’s Honeymoon.


As I sit here in the dark, I’m grateful for the efforts of so many people who are working to make my play a reality, and I can’t wait to see the result! On the other hand, this part of the process always marks the end of my participation. Although the actors will be playing these roles for weeks, perhaps months, my job is almost done, and I can’t help but indulge in a little bit of the sadness of letting go. The feeling is especially poignant for me this time, because I’m also saying goodbye to Lord Peter Wimsey, my hard-to-tame hero and muse over 9 years and 4 adaptations; borrowed, of course, from Dorothy L. Sayers.

I may adapt other Sayers books someday, and Lifeline might remount the 4 we’ve already done from time to time, so Sayers fans, don’t despair! However, I’ve spent almost a decade on Sayers, and I feel an inner pull to try something new. I’m excited to begin work on my next adaptation, Mrs. Caliban; a post-modern American fantasy which should completely cure me of my desire for change (and, who knows, may send me running back to Sayers for comfort sooner than I expect).

So, since it’s very possible that I’m saying goodbye for good to Lord Peter, I am feeling nostalgic about him and his lady love, Harriet. How blessed I’ve been to have ensemble members Peter Greenberg and Jenifer Tyler play them over the entire series! I wonder if Jen and Peter will experience their own nostalgia when Busman’s closes. (Perhaps they’ll blog about it…) I know they share my gratitude for the passionate Sayers fans who have supported us over the years. Their devotion and appreciation have made this experience immensely gratifying, and have helped make the series a financial success for Lifeline. Hurray! There’s been so much to celebrate!

I have hope that the plays will be produced elsewhere (check back here for news about a Canadian Strong Poison coming this fall), but at least for now, my love affair with Lord Peter is at an end. I’ll soon be reaching for my thumbed and dog-eared Sayers paperbacks to read with the affection one has for old love letters, to remind myself that I once had a dashing leading man who did my bidding (on the page) and who gave me much joy.

Au revoir, Lord Peter, and thank you.

Frances Limoncelli

Telling stories

Both Paul & Katie touch on the nature of artistic ensembles in their recent blog posts, something I’ve been pondering myself lately. I consider the Lifeline ensemble truly fortunate, since the primary function of the group is to choose and develop the material we produce, not merely just to direct/design/act in it. We aren’t stuck having a season dictated to us by an outside person – we work together to uncover the passion projects we want to work on. We don’t take a “back seat” role in productions we aren’t directing/designing/acting in – we play a vital part in the development process, from early discussion through draft readings, rehearsal runs, and the preview process.

As an ensemble member at Lifeline, I feel a sense of pride and ownership in every show we produce, since my voice and ideas were heard by the production team at every step along the way. This is equally true for shows like The Picture of Dorian Gray (which I pitched to the group and wrote the adaptation for) as for shows like Mariette in Ecstasy or Duck for President, which I “only” experienced as an audience member. And while some seasons go by when I may not be cast in roles I would have liked to play, or when the other commitments of life preclude me from participating as much as I’d like in the development of a show or two, still those shows are as important to me as the ones I personally submitted for the ensemble’s consideration. As is sharing in the growth and development of each of my fellow ensemble artists – and the theatre as an institution.


Sean Sinitski, Nick Vidal & Paul S. Holmquist in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Photo by Lindsay Schlesser.

The Lifeline ensemble exists to tell stories. Sometimes, as a member of the ensemble, I’ll act in those stories. Sometimes I’ll write them. Once in a while, I may even direct them (as with the upcoming Treasure Island – gulp). But most of the time my job is to encourage, question, challenge, support, and nurture my fellow ensemble members as we work together to creatively share the stories that excite us, with the audience that means so much to us.

Robert Kauzlaric

Mariette thoughts

Four months ago, I wrote a blog entry following the first rehearsals for Mariette in Ecstasy, with every intention of handing over new entries on a regular basis to report on our progress, both through the rehearsal process and the run (two very different animals). Obviously that didn’t happen! There are variety of reasons, primarily increased pressure at my day job and a lot less time for anything other than sleep, work, and rehearsal, but also because both the rehearsal process and the run turned out to be unexpectedly very personal. I’ve done a lot of shows, and sometimes one experience is a lot like many others. This one was different, in such that it was more difficult to comment, share, or otherwise dissect. I love reading blogs, but I’ve learned that there’s an element to blogging and reading blogs about experiences that can diminish or pigeonhole those experiences. Mariette was special, and I wanted it to remain special and personal while we were rehearsing and running the show. We closed the run one week ago today, to excellent critical acclaim and box office success, so I’m feeling a lot better about sharing.

Katie McLean and Brenda Barrie in Mariette in Ecstasy
Katie McLean and Brenda Barrie in Mariette in Ecstasy. Photo by Paul Metreyeon

Religion is a sensitive topic, even among friends. In portraying a person of such profound faith that she has dedicated her life to God, I had a great deal of personal exploration to do and many questions to answer. Sometimes a rehearsal hall is as safe a place as a therapist’s office to do that kind of soul-searching, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. This time, however, it was. And while my personal religious beliefs have not significantly altered because of this process, my understanding and tolerance of others’ beliefs has broadened, and my understanding of faith has deepened and become more meaningful to me. I am not inclined to expand or include specific details of my faith, but I am indebted to this production, and the people I was surrounded by, for fostering the kind of peaceful and reflective atmosphere in which one can open a door long believed closed, have a look around, dust off some shelves, sift through the drawers, and then just sit awhile, mulling things over.

It doesn’t make for the most interesting blog entry but I have to emphasize that everyone involved in this production was at the top of their game, was deeply passionate about their involvement, and gave of themselves above and beyond the call, whenever the opportunity arose.

When you work on a successful production, it is usually because everyone involved contributes in the ways I stated above, but it would be remiss not to single out the contribution of our director, Elise Kauzlaric. It wasn’t her first directorial effort, but it was her first MainStage at Lifeline, which I know from experience can be an overwhelming position, especially when you are juggling responsibilities at your day job, your friends and family, and other commitments you’ve made to the community at large. Elise handled everything, from the very first read-through to our closing night party, with her usual grace, aplomb, and elegance. She managed to convey what she was looking for while still welcoming everyone’s input, empowering the actors to develop their own characters while maintaining the overall tone, pace, and style of the piece. I want to mention that Elise’s success in the position came as no surprise to anyone. Her professionalism and talent shine through whether she is coaching dialects, playing the lead in a MainStage musical, or adapting a beloved children’s novel to the stage.

Being a member of the Lifeline ensemble affords one the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and do things we wouldn’t normally get to do anywhere else. Dorothy Milne asked me to adapt The Mark of Zorro though I had never adapted anything before. The actors in the ensemble aren’t guaranteed roles, shows aren’t chosen because the designers want to create lights or costumes for them, but we are all given the chance to explore new opportunities in an environment where the freedom to fail is balanced by the great cushion of ensemble support through every step of the process. The most exciting part of being in this company is when someone steps up to a new challenge and hits one out of the park.

Katie McLean

An Ensemble Prepares

There has been some discussion in the blogosphere of late on the role of an acting ensemble, lots of debate on that mysterious question of what ensemble members are entitled to expect. From Our perspective, I think we naturally look at each other first as a group of artists we respect, that we want to support, collaborate with, and help to develop each other’s skills.

In early discussions with Frances Limoncelli on Busman’s Honeymoon, she made it clear to me that she wished for the Lifeline ensemble to be as integrated as possible into the production. This presented an exciting opportunity: Peter Greenberg and Jenifer Tyler would naturally resume their roles as Lord Peter and Harriet Vane (now Lady Peter Wimsey!), to the joy of our fans of the Sayer’s series of plays adapted by Frances and presented at Lifeline over the years (Whose Body? in 2002, Strong Poison in 2004, and Gaudy Night in 2006). The remaining cast of characters offered some choice roles to our ensemble of actors and I was determined to find ways to invite them in where I could. I was not able to find a place for everyone interested in the show, but I was able to tap Jim Grote, Rob Kauzlaric and Phil Timberlake for the production.

We’ve been rehearsing for several weeks now and having a team of easy collaborators like us around has been a challenging and productive process. Challenging due to the fact that I am one of the newer kids on the block (I feel like I only just joined the collective, though I’ve been official for two and a half years now), and having a constantly open and collaborative process means continual honest evaluation and discussion of the work – the piece as a whole and the individual experiences/processes of each and every one of the actors. Productive for the same reasons, however. The non-ensemble cast (all people I’ve had the good fortune to work with before) has taken on the collaborative spirit of the rest of us and there is a game and open atmosphere for discussion and problem-solving really being developed. As we prepare to move downstairs from the rehearsal room to the set, we’re in a great place to find our maneuvers in the new geography together. And that collaboration, part of the core spirit of our company, will usher us into getting ready for tech.

Paul S. Holmquist

Our new Managing Director

Allison Cain is Lifeline’s new Managing Director! Yay! We are so happy and fortunate.

You may know Allison because she’s acted in four Lifeline shows (including the current Mariette in Ecstasy — closing April 5, don’t miss it!) as well as acting all over town. She was also Executive Director of the Factory Theater for 7 years and she has 20 years of real-life day-job hard-core business experience under her belt. Not only is she a fabulous actress but she knows her way around a spreadsheet and has a wise eye to the big picture and the looking-forward picture as well. Just the kind of leader we need.

Welcome to Allison!! We are so glad you’ve come to play for our team!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director