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.
Check it out Los Angeleños: L.A. Theatre Works celebrates the 200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice with Christina Calvit’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, returning from the first leg of a 25-venue national tour for five performances, Nov. 15-18, at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater. There, the production will be recorded in front of a live audience for later broadcast on public radio and SiriusXM Satellite before heading back out on the road. Read more here.
Meanwhile, Dallas Children’s Theater is currently in the midst of a national tour of their production of Rob Kauzlaric’s adaptation of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. They’ll be hitting at least 30 states in their travels - you can see dates and locations here.
Ensemble members Jim Grote, Katie McLean Hainsworth, and Chris Hainsworth performed Spooky-awesome Poe Stories to a sold-out crowd at the annual Glessner House Museum event on October 27th. Katie performed The Tell-Tale Heart and The Conqueror Worm, Jim did Berenice and The Raven, Chris did Annabel Lee and The Black Cat, and then all three performed Never Bet the Devil Your Head. Performances were at the venerable Clarke House (the oldest buiding in Chicago).
And there’s more Poe — that you still have time to see: Phil Timberlake and Rob Kauzlaric will be performing The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and The Cask of Amontillado at Uncommon Ground on Clark at 8pm on November 11th in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater who will be singing some songs from their upcoming February production of The Fall of the House of Usher.
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!
…(and much less train!)
“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!
In our Fall MainStage production of The Woman in White, two of our story’s young heroes are artists: one is a highly accomplished painter, the other is his student. Local artist Jessica Brown demonstrated her range in creating both the fine art paintings by the master as well as the amateur efforts of the student. Several works-in-progress paintings were also created, as our actors spend periodic stage time working at the easel!
We are all so thrilled and impressed with the work and how it contributes to the show. I was eager to know more about Jessica, so I asked her a few questions and share her answers here (along with a little peak at one of her images).
Did you come from an artistic family? How did your interest and abilities in art first show themselves?
I did, indeed. My father has always had the music bug; he had an electric organ that he’d play by ear. My mother has always been an exceptional artist. So art is certainly in the blood. I also have a step-mother who’s artistically inclined. While I continued to draw, my sisters developed talent in singing and writing. All of them have been so encouraging and supportive throughout the years.
In grade school I remember a small crowd of classmates gathering as I drew hearts and rainbows. After that, I was usually volunteered to take on any drawing projects and was happy doing it. I also remember taking clippings of fashion models from magazines and copying them onto notebook paper. I’d spend hours listening to music ( a lot of Enya at the time) and tweaking those drawings. I had no idea that I was training myself to be an artist.
Who inspired you as a young artist?
I’m a big Jim Henson and Brian Froud fan. Their collaboration on various works like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal really left its mark on me. I remember spending a lot of time pouring over the faery and goblin illustrations of Brian Froud. I was also really inspired by supervising artists like Glen Keane and Chris Sanders at Disney, as well as Don Bluth. I copied what I saw in The Little Mermaid, Lilo and Stitch, and The Secret of NIMH. More recently I am awed by artists like Tony Diterlizzi, Alan Lee, and Charles Santore. My obsession with children’s books began with some of those artists as well as Holly Hobbie (Toot & Puddle series), Mary Englebreit (The Snow Queen), and Jennifer Eachus (The Big, Big Sea).
What was your formal education?
I earned my associate’s degree in illustration from Mercer County Community College. I later transferred to Moore College of Art and Design where I received my bachelor of fine arts in illustration.
What brought you to Lifeline?
I had just moved to the area and was exploring the local entertainment. Lifeline Theatre was running the production of Pride and Prejudice. I purchased tickets to see the show and had such a great time. Not long after, I began wondering how I could possibly get involved in some artistic capacity. I found some information on the website about volunteering and decided to contact them to see how I could help.
How did you and your work intersect with the rest of the production team/process?
My part in production came a bit later as the vision of the play really began to take form with the actors and set coming together. It happened suddenly and actually was pretty exciting as direction came in quickly for the different pieces. I’d had a bit of an idea of what was expected, but ultimately changes were needed as the vision of the set shifted. It was a wonderful challenge.
How did you decide what to create for this show?
I mainly took my direction from the set designer Alan Donahue and the play director, Elise Kauzlaric. I was given a lot of creative leeway with my interpretation of their ideas. The art style needed to be indicative of that time period and sensibility, so I did my best in adhering to those guidelines. The press photos were certainly key in helping me depict an accurate likeness of Laura. The nature studies were inspired by what most of us would see walking outside; a pudgy squirrel or a rabbit hiding in the grass. The landscape needed to be exemplary of a pleasant scene in Cumberland and also capture the spirit of affectionate collaboration between the two main characters.
Anything else you’d like to mention about yourself or this experience?
I had so much fun putting these pieces together for the play. It reminded me that if we allow ourselves to stretch and grow, we can accomplish pretty much anything we set our mind to.
Words to live by! Thank you, Jessica, for your beautiful and exciting contributions to the production!
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!
We are overjoyed to announce the hiring of Lifeline’s new production manager, Ben Dawson. Ben comes to us from The Goodman Theatre where he served as Scene Shop Foreman for the past two years. He is also a company member and production manager at Sideshow Theater Company and the technical director at American Theater Company.
Ben grew up in southeastern Massachussetts, where his family still lives. His interest in carpentry began with his grandfather and he learned to build at a young age, but did not anticipate how this would eventually be applied. In high school, the big guys were occasionally asked to go over to the theater department to move the heavy scenery around, but this was Ben’s only intersection with theater.
Enter Ms. Starkie, whom Ben describes as a great English teacher (who also happened to be the drama teacher). Ms. Starkie often gave her students a choice between writing papers and producing videos. From the videos, she identified talent and in this way Ben found himself playing Mr. Mushnik in the high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Ben planned to be a marine biologist and he chose the University of Rhode Island for its strength in this department. Once there, he was required to get a fine arts credit as part of his general education and he chose theater because he enjoyed his high school experience. Soon, Ben was at the theater department all the time – either in the play or building the play – as well as getting work- study jobs in the costume shop and in the box office. As much as he liked marine biology, Ben wanted the culture of theater – and the gratification that comes with creating a product that someone is coming to pay to see. Chemistry classes were interesting – but they didn’t seem fruitful in comparison. He finished with a double major in Theater (performance and technical), with a minor in Marine Biology.
After graduation, Ben moved to Sarasota Florida with a friend and worked at Florida Studio Theater and numerous other theaters in the area as well as serving as technical director for the local high school theater program. Deciding to further improve his marketability, Ben went to grad school at Florida State while spending summers at Utah Shakespeare Festival and later Santa Fe Opera. Post grad school, Ben put his tiny Florida convertible in the back of a moving truck with his other belongings and moved to Los Angeles, where he spent a couple years in television. He started as a production assistant, moved up to carpenter…to lead carpenter…to assistant art directing and was soon art directing his own TV shows. Among his favorites was Worst Case Scenario with Bear Grylls, for which he got to ride on top of an elevator, blow up a UPS truck, simulate an earthquake and work with (very well trained) attack dogs.
This was fun too. But after awhile, Ben missed theater. He had numerous friends in Chicago (coming here from both Rhode Island and Florida), he’s a big baseball fan and he had enjoyed his visits here. Ben’s been in Chicago for two years now and is still marveling at what a small world it is as he reconnects with more and more people from his past lives in other theater locations. We are thrilled to have Ben and his many talents join the team at Lifeline Theatre.
Priyanka Jethwani is from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. When considering colleges, she decided to come to the United States rather than the UK because in the UK you have to commit to a major and then stick to it for the whole four years. Since she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do, she figured she’d come to a place that allows you to change majors.
Priyanka started at Northwestern University as a Chemistry major. (No you are not reading amiss. Two of this summer’s interns started as Chemistry majors.) Priyanka soon became frustrated with the chemistry curriculum she was studying. The approach to the study was different than it had been at home and she wished she’d been placed in the basic level classes so that she would share the same foundation as her peers. Disenchanted with the Chemistry program and feeling unmoored, Priyanka experienced an existential crisis and came out a history major. (Or maybe she didn’t come out — but she’s no longer in crisis! Now she’s in an existential experience). She had always loved history but it had seemed a less practical choice, but she is happy in the program. Priyanka also loves movies, swimming, yoga and reading (”Harry Potter changed my life — as it did for numerous children across the globe”). She likes surfing the Internet and hanging out with friends. She loves to go to Indian weddings, dressing up and eating food.
When applying for internships, a friend who’s an arts administration major encouraged Priyanka to apply for arts internships with the premise that she’d enjoy it and that her administrative skills would apply in any setting.
At present, she has no fixed post-college plans. She figures most people don’t end up doing what they planned to do so she will have no intent — though she does hope to stay in Chicago and find a job that will keep her here. She ascribes to the idea that she will figure out what to do through practice and then pursue it.
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