Lifeline Theatre -- Big Stories, Up Close
It starts with YOU. Join our family of supporters today!
  • Go to homepage
  • Go to Performances page
  • Go to Education page
  • Go to News & Events page
  • Go to About Us page
  • Go to Support Us page
  • Go to Contact Us page
  • Go to Work With Us page
  • Go to the Lifeline blog

The Summer of Love!!

October 10th, 2014 Posted in General Thoughts, Posts by Dorothy, Staff | Comments Off

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

unnamed

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

Education in Jane’s time

October 8th, 2014 Posted in Guest posts, Jane Eyre 2014 | Comments Off

Note: This is a guest posting from Autumn McConnico, production dramaturg for our fall MainStage production of Jane Eyre.

“Isn’t she original?”

Jane Eyre. A short portrait of her faculties. She draws in charcoal, colors, and sketches. She debates over philosophy, religion, repentance, duty, and doubt with quite a few characters in the path of her novel. She tells her own story.

If we take her as a product of her period, how unique was Jane Eyre in the education and opportunity she received?

Today let’s talk about Jane’s education. At Lifeline, we have chosen to explore the childhood and early formative experiences – and characters – in Jane’s life as a presence in a way which I won’t tell for you here. You’ll recognize them when you see them. But as a fictional autobiography, JE gives us a large part of a young woman’s life to depict, and much of the earliest parts describe her education. Let us look at one of those early portions of Jane’s life though the lens of history. What was education like for Victorian girls, especially poor orphans?

Public education as we describe it in the United States (since the English term means something quite different) did not come about until well after the 1847 publication of Jane Eyre. Even the idea that all people should be educated took time to gain traction. Meanwhile, education for the poor was best found in parish schools and institutions providing tuition grants (“subscriptions”) by richer donors around the areas. Young orphans or poorer children with protectors motivated to educate them could perhaps depend on these subscriptions if a school with such a program were nearby, and these institutions might be more willing to accept poor pupils in order to expand their ranks – since after all, students could be asked to perform chores at the school. Charlotte herself attended the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan’s Bridge, in Lancashire starting in 1824, with a tuition starting at 14 pounds (compared to the 15 pounds for Jane Eyre’s Lowood Institution). From the Clergy Daughter’s educational report from 1842, quoted in Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Bronte:

“The system of education comprehends history, geography, the use of the globes, grammar, writing, and arithmetic, all kinds of needlework, and the nicer kinds of household work – such as getting up fine linen, ironing, &c. If accomplishments are required, an additional charge of 3L. a year is made for music or drawing, each.”

Charlotte and Jane’s educations may have been the exception in the field of female study. Anne Clough, visitor to girls’ schools in the mid-1800s, observed: “A few dry facts are taught, but the life and spirit are too often left out and there is a monotony in girls' education which is very dulling to the intellect”. Analytical work may be pursued little if at all, and even historical facts and mathematics would make up the vast minority of time compared to calisthenics, sewing, and maybe music and language drilling. Indeed, spiritual and biological general views had for a while held that women lacked the ability to combine a strong memory for facts with a logical faculty for reasoning their causes, chronology, and implications – a slowly fading sense which made emergence of female authors of autobiography or analytical fiction stand out, something we will explore more. According to Clough, Girls' schools intentionally "accentuating the differences between the sexes" and were valued for improving social graces and displayable qualities, the all-important "accomplishments." And all the time, conditions of the school, high physical demands and less consistent sanitary conditions, could present further obstacles for students’ deep education.

Cowan’s Bridge was known for poorly managed kitchens, and not all Bronte sisters survived the school before their father removed them from it. Certainly Charlotte admitted to allowing parallels in school life of the novel, as in many other aspects, between her own world and Jane’s. Bronte even tentatively recanted some of her harsher portrayals of Lowood’s conditions – for health of emotion and of body both – because of the condemningly easy connection to her childhood school. From Gaskell again:

“Miss Bronte more than once said to me, that she should not have written what she did of Lowood … if she had though the place would have been so immediately identified with Cowan’s Bridge, although there was not a word in her account of the institution but what was true at the time when she knew it”

Yet Bronte depicted these realities as well as the learning that Jane did get away with. Perhaps she was lucky in her chance to learn French and drawing, reading the works that she did, at a charity school.

Meet the contestants #4: Mike Speller

June 13th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off The 2nd Annual Smartypants Adult Spelling Bee is coming up on Monday, June 23rd at Mayne Stage. Between now and then, we'll be highlighting some of the competitors hoping to destroy the competition. Today, we meet Mike Speller. Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I am a Crest Hill (Joliet) resident, used to live in Park Ridge & Uptown areas as well. I love poker, basketball, and collecting matchbooks. I teach history through a Will County museum.

Q: How many Spelling competitions have you taken part in? Any specific experience(s) you'd like to share?

A: Despite my name I don't believe I've ever competed in the category beyond board games like Scrabble.

Q: What motivated you to sign up?

A: A bucket-list mentality, family honor, and a chance to show up Aaron Spelling.

Q: What gives you an edge over the other contestants in this year's Smartypants Spelling Bee?

A: Genetics, Arrogance, and possibly Alcohol.

Q: Anything else about yourself that you'd like to share with the world?

A: If this were a reality show, I'd dignify that with an answer; but until E! Channel calls, I'll remain mysterious.

Meet the contestants #3: Polly Bruno

June 10th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off The 2nd Annual Smartypants Adult Spelling Bee is coming up on Monday, June 23rd at Mayne Stage. Between now and then, we'll be highlighting some of the competitors hoping to destroy the competition. Today, we meet Polly Bruno.  Polly Bruno

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I hail from Hyde Park on the south side. All hail Hyde Park! I have also lived on the north side, in Evanston and in Glenview.

My favorite hobbies are reading, writing, dancing and cooking. I published a novel, Western Motel, in 1985 (as Polly Gross), and I am currently at work on a suspense novel. For my day job, I manage the meetings and events departments for a large retail pharmacy company. Previously, I managed a technical writing department, and I have been an English and Writing instructor at the University of California at Irvine.

Q: How many Spelling competitions have you taken part in? Any specific experience(s) you'd like to share?

A: I took part in my last spelling competition when I was in second grade. I was unfairly deprived of the win because I spelled Christmas "c-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s" and did not say "Capital C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s." Although this policy had not been communicated in advance, and though my opponent had gone on to spell the word incorrectly, Miss Andrews declared a tie.

In short, I am seeking redemption!

Q: What gives you an edge over the other contestants in this year's Smartypants Spelling Bee?

A: I have true grit and the will to win. Also, I spell really, really well.

Q: Anything else about yourself that you'd like to share with the world?

A: My personal motto is "Fortunas audentes iuvat," or "Fortune favors the brave."

Meet the contestants #2: Karen Werner

June 6th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off The 2nd Annual Smartypants Adult Spelling Bee is coming up on Monday, June 23rd at Mayne Stage. Between now and then, we'll be highlighting some of the competitors hoping to destroy the competition. Today, we meet Karen Werner.  Karen Werner Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I live in Rogers Park. Born and grew up in Detroit. I came to Chicago by way of Green Lake and Milwaukee, WI. I don't have any hobbies, ha ha! When I'm not working, I try to find cheap entertainment, especially local, including Lifeline and Mayne Stage. I am a self-employed massage therapist.

Q: How many Spelling competitions have you taken part in? Any specific experience(s) you'd like to share?

A: In the seventh grade, I won every one of my English class spelling bees, and went on to win the school spelling bee. In the eighth grade, I took third place in the school spelling bee, and was sent to the district spelling bee at the last minute, because the first and second-place winners were sick. They put me in the principal's office the morning of the district, and gave me lists of words to memorize. I remember I went out on the word ameliorate, a word I had never heard before.

I was in the Lifeline spelling bee last year, and all I wanted was to spell my first word right. That didn't happen. I spelled marionette (a word I had spelled correctly the week before) with 2 n's, which is correct in French. French was my favorite subject from 5th grade through my sophomore year in college.
Q: What motivated you to sign up?

A: I wanted to recreate a positive experience of competing and to have fun with it. And to face my fear - of being onstage, and of looking stupid - because I could remember everything when I was 12, but that was a few years ago. I still want to spell my first word correctly.

Q: What gives you an edge over the other contestants in this year's Smartypants Spelling Bee?

A: Nothing, and I'm OK with that.

Q: Anything else about yourself that you'd like to share with the world?

A: I'm just trying to show up...for life.

Meet the contestants #1: Edward Thomas-Herrera

June 3rd, 2014 Posted in Events, Uncategorized | Comments Off The 2nd Annual Smartypants Adult Spelling Bee is coming up on Monday, June 23rd at Mayne Stage. Between now and then, we'll be highlighting some of the competitors hoping to destroy the competition. Today, we meet Edward Thomas-Herrera.  Edward Thomas-Herrera Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: Originally from Houston, Texas, I have been a writer, performer, director, producer working in Chicago for the past 25 years. I am one of the founders of BoyGirlBoyGirl, a solo performance ensemble. By day (i.e., for money), I sit at a computer, read e-mails, and move papers from one side of my desk to the other.

Q: How many Spelling competitions have you taken part in? Any specific experience(s) you'd like to share?

A: Since reaching adulthood a very long time ago, I have not spelled competitively. Back in grade school, I used to kick spelling ass on a regular basis. Between Comanche raids.

Q: What motivated you to sign up?

A: My legal spouse thinks I'm a good speller. I hope to prove him right. Maybe then he'll start listening to me when I suggest what color we should paint the living room.

Q: What gives you an edge over the other contestants in this year's Smartypants Spelling Bee?

A: When I hear a word, I can "see" it in my mind's eye. Spelled correctly, of course. I also wear colorful pants.

Q: Anything else about yourself that you'd like to share with the world?

A: Blue. A robin's egg blue. It'll make the room look bigger while contrasting nicely with the rust-orange curtains and the brown couch.

An interview with Elise Kauzlaric

December 16th, 2013 Posted in Ensemble Activities, Guest posts | Comments Off At the heart of every show you see at Lifeline Theatre is the work of our dedicated artistic ensemble. These 27 Chicago artists are continuously proposing new titles for production, hosting script readings, providing feedback on projects in development, commissioning music, meeting with designers, attending rehearsals, and slating projects for future seasons of award-winning shows.  To continue our work throughout the 2013-14 season, we've launched our Page To Stage Campaign to raise $25,000 by February 28th. As part of this campaign, Alex Kyger, Lifeline's Development Director, interviewed two of our ensemble members. Today, Alex presents an interview with Elise Kauzlaric.  elise_ql Q: How did you first get involved with Lifeline?

A: I first auditioned for Bunnicula in 1999, and I ended up understudying two roles and I had a ton of opportunities to perform. And then two ensemble members that had been involved in Bunnicula, Shole and Sandy, cast me in another KidSeries show the next year, My Father’s Dragon.

Q: How did you end up becoming an ensemble member?
A: I acted in several more shows after My Father’s Dragon, with Queen Lucia, Strong Poison, and The Silver Chair. And I was also asked to direct a KidSeries show, Frances’ first Emperor’s Groovy New Clothes. And then I started coaching dialects for shows as well. So I had worn a few different hats after a few years and I had the chance to work with nearly everyone in the ensemble at that point. And I was asked to join the ensemble 2005. Before being asked, I had already considered it an artistic home for many years. I had worked here more than any other theatre and felt really connected to it. And since joining, I’ve had a chance to wear even more hats. I started to direct more and I wrote my first adaptation after joining the ensemble.
Q: What has surprised you most about working with Lifeline?

A: I don’t think it’s surprising, but something that's really notable is the fact that there’s such support from everyone in the organization for you to try and do new things. I had directed one KidSeries show and didn’t have a ton of experience when I began directing Mariette in Ecstasy. Christina, who adapted it, had such faith in me and she supported me throughout the process. And I think that’s something very special about Lifeline is that everybody is here to support you and really encourage you to try different things.

Q: What was the first show you adapted?

A: At the first ensemble meeting I attended as a member of the company, I brought up The Velveteen Rabbit. We were looking for KidSeries titles, and I thought “surely this book has come up,” because to me it was a well-known title and I had read it a lot growing up. And it turned out that the title was in the public domain so it was easy to get started on it. It was a natural project for me to do and a really comfortable one for me to do as my first adaptation.

Q: How does the ensemble support you when you’re taking on a production capacity for the first time?

A: Well, I think the biggest form of support comes from the group saying “Yes, you should do this adaptation” or “yes, you should direct.” Honestly, that’s the biggest step. And because our rehearsal process is set up to allow for support along the way, you consistently hear feedback from your peers from the first rehearsal to the opening performance. And ensemble members do that for you because they care about the show and they care about your own personal development as well.

Q: How do you think other ensemble members would describe you?

A: Artistically, I would hope that they would say that I have a lot of passion for the projects that I’m involved with. That the stakes are always high for me because my heart is always in it what I’m doing. I want the final product to be excellent, so I work hard.

Q: What do you wish other people knew about Lifeline?

A: I hope our audience members know how much care and attention we put into the choices we make. When adapting a show we have to decide what will be moving, exciting, and entertaining for our audience. And in that process, the small things are very important. I think people would be amazed at some of the things that we debate, it could be something that just goes by them and they don’t even notice. But that’s because we are really passionate about properly telling the story.

Q: How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since joining the Lifeline ensemble?

A: As an ensemble member, working with Lifeline has allowed me to continually grow as an artist in an intentional way. I have the chance to say for example, “I think this project will allow me to direct, which I’ve never done before.” It’s allowed me to be mindful about my growth.

And then, because I’m part of an ensemble, my ideas are often challenged and it forces me to articulate why I’m making specific choices. I can’t make arbitrary decisions. Because even if I don’t take a person’s suggestion, I will have to articulate and justify my choice.

Q: Do you have a favorite Lifeline memory that you would be willing to share?

A: I think that we all remember watching one of the early rehearsals for The Island of Dr. Moreau as a really special moment. It was before the set had been built and it was in a bare room with no technical elements and no costumes. The show was tight, the actors were committed, and it was stunning. And I remember thinking that THIS is what we want to share with our audiences: simply great storytelling.

And I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with other ensemble members. Even though we have a lot of debates, we also laugh hysterically together – it’s definitely a family. And these are people that I never would have met without this theatre. The relationships I’ve made here are really important to me. I’ve developed a lot of wonderful friendships.

An interview with Peter Greenberg

December 13th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

At the heart of every show you see at Lifeline Theatre is the work of our dedicated artistic ensemble. These 27 Chicago artists are continuously proposing new titles for production, hosting script readings, providing feedback on projects in development, commissioning music, meeting with designers, attending rehearsals, and slating projects for future seasons of award-winning shows. 

To continue our work throughout the 2013-14 season, we've launched our Page To Stage Campaign to raise $25,000 by February 28th. As part of this campaign, Alex Kyger, Lifeline's Development Director, interviewed two of our ensemble members. Today, Alex presents an interview with Peter Greenberg.

 peter

Q: How did you first get involved with Lifeline?

A: My very first experience with Lifeline was coming to see a show, actually. I was new to Chicago and a friend of mine invited me to see Pinocchio at Lifeline. And not long before I saw that show, I had seen another show with a group of women doing monologues called “Sweating Under my Breasts.” Well, when I came to see the show at Lifeline, a couple of the people from that show were in the front row. One of them was Dorothy, who was an ensemble member not artistic director, at that time. And I thought the show was great, the theatre space was cool, and the neighborhood was really funky. So Dorothy and I became friends and a few years after I had seen Pinocchio, Dorothy called me and said that she was directing a show, The Talisman Ring, and she asked me to play a role. She had never seen me perform before, but she thought I would be a great fit for that part. And that’s how I got cast in my first Lifeline show.

Q: How did you become an ensemble member at Lifeline?

A: I acted in a few more shows and I started to know more of the people involved with the theatre. And I believe it was Dorothy who talked me about the possibility of joining the ensemble. I was excited by the opportunity. I had helped run a theatre company before and I was missing the feeling of being part of a company instead of simply working from show to show.

Q: What do you wish other people knew about Lifeline?

A: Our KidSeries is unlike any other children’s theatre that I know of in the city. The artists that we have working on those shows always impress me with their commitment to the work. And I think the shows are phenomenal.

Also, I think people would be surprised by the variety of stories we tell. We receive a lot of attention when we do our long-dress shows with lots of British accents; but we have always been committed to contemporary and sci-fi works as well. From Sirens of Titan to Neverwhere to The City & The City last year.

Q: Do you have a favorite Lifeline memory that you would like to share?

A: There is one story that I’ll never forget. It was 7 or 8 years ago when we did Gaudy Night. And we did a special semi-staged performance of the play out at Wheaton College because they were hosting an annual Dorothy L. Sayers conference – which only happens every 5 years or so. And everyone in that audience loved that book. These were people, much like our audience, who have a long history of reading the author

After the performance, I was getting undressed in a classroom because were performing at this school. And the president of the Sayers society was this sweet British guy. And I’m standing in this room in my boxer shorts because I’m getting out of my costumes and he just started rushing toward me with his arms wide open. And loosening his tie. And I remember thinking “well, this is a strange situation.”

And he came up to me and I don’t remember the exact words he said, but he told me how much he loved the show and how much he appreciated the work we had done. And on his tie was the Wimsey crest for the Wimsey family in Gaudy Night. And he gave me his tie.

And that kind of appreciation for the book happens over and over again with our audiences. When we did Jane Eyre, there were people who came up to us afterwards who were seriously affected by the show. The great thing about doing adaptations is that so many people already know and have loved these characters, often, for decades. And at the same time, we introduce people to these stories for the first time. We have the most amazing audience you can imagine. And being able to interact with our audience – it’s why we love to make theatre.

Meet Lifeline’s Fall intern, Logan Toftness

December 12th, 2013 Posted in Posts by Dorothy, Staff | Comments Off

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!

An interview with Gabriela Coronel

October 30th, 2013 Posted in Education, Guest posts | Comments Off

Did you know that Lifeline Theatre provides free theatre education to over 500 students in 6 Rogers Park elementary schools every year? To continue offering this program  throughout the 2013-14 season, we've launched our Back To School Campaign to raise $7,000 by December 1st.  As part of this campaign, Alex Kyger (Lifeline's Development Director) interviewed some of the folks involved in this behind-the-scenes work that Lifeline does. Today, Alex presents an interview with a local teacher, Gabriela Coronel.

 

About Gabriela Coronel Gabriela is a 2nd grade teacher at New Field Elementary School. She has been teaching for three years now and Lifeline residencies have been in her classroom every year she has taught in Chicago’s Public Schools. She says there are a lot of arts partners that work with the school system, but if she had to pick one that makes the biggest difference in her classroom, it would be Lifeline.

Q: How did you get introduced to Lifeline’s residencies?

A: I've been involved with Lifeline for 3 years now at New Field School. Everything they do helps the children. It improves their presence in the classroom and it helps them academically. A lot of the kids right now are very shy and quiet at the very beginning of the school year. And then through Lifeline and learning to project their voices with the games they do, they become more confident. It's helped them with a lot of the presentations they do for Hispanic Heritage and Christmas; and we do a country study each year with presentations. And even just vocally, they become much more confident in themselves.

Q: What has surprised you most about having Lifeline in your classroom?

A: I've been surprised that it’s become a way to tie into all the different kind of modalities that the kids have. What I've noticed is that the child that is quietest or is performing the lowest academically, when Lifeline comes in they really get a moment to shine. They really express their talent. The kids that have low self esteem, the kids that have academic problems, they actually shine the most with Lifeline.

Q: What is most rewarding about having the residencies?

A: We have a lot of things that we need to be teaching the students. With Lifeline, it’s a fun way for the kids to be learning academic things. I know I give the teaching artists a lot of words because I have a bilingual class this year and the acting out of words, being able to visually see the words, really helps the students with their vocabulary and presentations. And even their comprehension skills, because a lot of the things we do with Lifeline are tied to stories and breaking them up and creating scenes. It’s related to fluency. The students are practicing their reading, they’re practicing writing. It’s like everything we do in the classroom, but in a fun way with Lifeline.

Q: How do you think the teaching artists or other teachers would describe you?

A: I actually think they would say I’m a lot like them. I’m very cooperative in the sense that every time Lifeline comes in (and this is another aspect about Lifeline I like) I also get to be part of it. Because kids watch me, and if they see that I don’t participate, they won’t participate. If it’s okay to for me to act silly, then they feel more confident. And very open, I've always liked acting so I've just been open to how it can help my students.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Lifeline?

A: I think when people hear Lifeline they just think of acting. And it’s much more than acting. For teachers especially, we like that Lifeline’s residencies have vocabulary involved, comprehension involved, and cooperative learning involved. Even self reflection, where the kids are getting that time to think about what they were good at and think about what they’re going to do better. All those aspects. A lot of people hear “theatre” and they think the kids are just playing and it’s much more than that with Lifeline.

Q: What would you say Lifeline does best in the classroom?

A: Tying their curriculum into what we’re doing in the classroom. At New Field School, each class does a country study. Last year, we had South Korea – so we adapted a folk tale from South Korea as part of our country study. The fact that we were able to tie the program into what the kids are learning is really wonderful.

 
Home | Performances | Education | News & Events | About Us | Support Us | Contact/Visit Us | Work With Us | Blog
©2013 Lifeline Theatre
6912 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, IL, 60626