Category Archives: Uncategorized

Original Paintings On Stage At Lifeline!

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!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline Welcomes New Production Manager Ben Dawson!

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.

Survey winners

Each season, we draw the name of one person that filled out our audience surveys to receive a complimentary subscription the following year. Congratulations to Anne Fogarty (KidSeries) and Ann Bradlow (MainStage) for winning this year’s drawing! And thanks to everyone for their patience as the extension of Pride and Prejudice moved the drawing back over a month.

Hunger and the Siege of Leningrad

Note: This is a guest posting from Maren Robinson, production dramaturg for our winter MainStage production of Hunger.

Rehearsals for Hunger started after Thanksgiving and going into other holidays there was plenty of food in the rehearsal room. The abundance of food at our American holidays reminds me how far removed we are from real hunger. Most of us don’t even go a day without food; much less endure a prolonged famine during an unrelenting winter. (At left: residents of Leningrad with a still smoking bombed building behind them)

On July 8, 1941, Hitler wrote in his journal that he wanted to raze Leningrad. On September 4, 1942 the Germans began to bomb the city.

The Siege of Leningrad was the only time a major city in an industrialized, western, nation underwent this level of starvation and death from famine. Though estimates of the number of deaths vary, and Soviet reporting may be have been optimistically low, most believe between six hundred thousand and one million people died during the siege.

The city was blockaded by the German army for almost 900 days. The city was regularly bombed and the occasional evacuation routes, such as the ice road or “road of life” over the frozen Lake Lagoda was often bombed by the Germans as well. The winter of 1941-1942 was particularly harsh winters and the residents of Leningrad were without power only increased the suffering and death from the ongoing famine. On January 27, 1944 the liberation of Leningrad was complete. (Right: trucks on the ice road over Lake Lagoda)

The physical symptoms of starvation can take many forms, often related to the lack of nutrients and vitamins available in the meager food supply. The body will attempt to fend off starvation by consuming the body itself. An adult can lose up to half his or her weight. Symptoms of starvation include, shrinking of organs such as the lungs, heart and testes or ovaries, chronic diarrhea, anemia, loss of muscle mass and muscle weakness, sensitivity to cold, irritability and difficulty concentrating, decreased ability to digest food, swelling from fluid under the skin, and immunodeficiency.That was about one third of the population of Leningrad.

Symptoms at the final stages of starvation include: hallucinations, convulsions, severe muscle pain and changes in heart rhythm. Additionally, those who are starving are susceptible to other illnesses such as scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency, and succumb more easily to colds and other diseases. (At left, Sophia Petrova before the war and after the siege)

When I am falling asleep I always see bread, butter, pies and potatoes in my dreams. . . These days my whole nature seems somehow to have changed abruptly. I have become sluggish, feeble, my hand trembles when I write and when I walk my knees are so week that it seems to me that if I took another step it would be the last and I would fall down.
Yura, a Leningrad schoolboy, November 9-10, 1941

It is hard to imagine what the minimal rations the people of Leningrad were living on during the siege. The table below shows the bread rations. It is important to know that the bread was heavily mixed with saw dust and had a gray color and little nutritional value.

Rations of Bread During the Siege (in grams)

Date

Workers &
Engineers

Workers in
workshops

Office Workers

Dependents

Children
under 12

July 18, 1941

800

1000

600

400

400

Sept. 2, 1941

600

800

400

300

300

Sept. 12, 1941

500

700

300

250

250

Oct. 1, 1941

400

600

200

200

200

Nov. 13, 1941

300

450

150

150

150

Nov. 20, 1941

250

375

125

125

125

Dec. 25, 1941

350

500

200

200

200

Jan. 24, 1942

400

575

300

250

250

Feb. 11, 1942

500

700

400

300

300

Mar. 22, 1942

600

700

500

400

400

800 grams is about 28 ounces 200 is about 7 ounces

Sources and for Further reading:

“Leningrad Under Siege,” and “The 900 Days”

Openings and Welcomes

How to Survive enters the home stretch!

Opening January 8, How to Survive a Fairy Tale was in tech over the holidays. While the rest of us were sipping eggnog, our valiant Fairy Tale team was figuring out how to make a book fly like a bird and other magical acts. This show is especially exciting to us because it’s a brand new play! Though you will certainly recognize the (fractured) fairy tales that our hero, Jack, finds himself in, this adventure is an original play by veteran adaptor Jim Grote. Jim has once again partnered with director Shole Milos. Shole and Jim have helmed many Lifeline kids’ shows, including the entire Click Clack Moo series, and they’ve brought many farm team regulars back together for this one! Alan Donahue has designed a sparkly delectable set, Jana Anderson will garb the players, Tony Ingram brings the magical sound effects, and Jordan Kardasz (new to the farm team but not to Lifeline) will light up the enchanted forest. Stage manager Ellen Willet will wrangle these folks, as well as the many farm yard regulars in the cast:

Nathaniel Niemi (a former Duck) is Jack, Heather Currie (has played numerous adorable farm animals at Lifeline) is Mom, Amanda Link (a former Ewe and other animals) is Little Red Riding Hood, Derek Czaplewski (a former Farmer Brown) is Dad, and Jacquis Neal (understudy for 13 Clocks) is the Big Bad Wolf. And understudies Blake McKay, Peter J. Hegel, and Jeffrey Rubin are all new to Lifeline!

Lifeline Theatre welcomes Alex Kyger (our first-ever Development Manager!)

Alex Kyger joined Lifeline’s staff on December 12th and will be responsible for managing the development strategy of Lifeline Theatre. We are super excited to have him on the team.

Alex moved to Chicago in 2006 from the island of Bahrain, quickly becoming embedded in Chicago’s theater community as a performer, administrator, and producer. Kyger received his BFA in Theater with honors from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, serving as Development Apprentice at Redmoon Theater while pursuing his studies. Upon graduating, Kyger joined Red Tape Theatre as a member of the artistic ensemble and the company’s first Director of Community Engagement, establishing meaningful relationships with locally-owned Lakeview businesses, securing season sponsorship, and generating a blueprint for the company’s first major giving campaign. Concurrently, Kyger served as the Executive Producer of the fledgling Les Enfants Terribles (LET) company, establishing LET as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and securing the ensemble a spot in the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, where it received a Fringe NYC Excellence Award for Best Ensemble. Since April of 2011, Kyger has served as American Theater Company’s Development Associate. In his six-month tenure at ATC, Kyger cultivated increased grant support for the theater’s education and mainstage programming, launched a major giving campaign to raise funds for ATC’s Youth Ensemble, and secured sponsorships from numerous businesses in the North Center neighborhood.

Come by the office and meet Alex! (And marvel that we have managed to get one more desk into our cozy headquarters.)

Welcome to Roman Ehrlich
Lifeline welcomes Roman Ehrlich who is visiting Chicago from Germany and is volunteering at Lifeline Theatre for the winter. Roman is living in Chicago through mid-March, while working on several writing projects, including a novel that takes place, in part, in Chicago. Roman grew up in Bavaria, studied Creative Writing in Leipzig and Contemporary German Literature in Berlin, where he now lives.

At Lifeline, Roman assisted with Winter Drama Camp and participates in the Lifeline Storytelling Project, as well as assisting administrative, production, and front of house departments. We are thrilled and honored that Roman has chosen to volunteer his time at Lifeline, amid the many great organizations the city has to offer.

And we’ve asked him about castles in Bavaria, and they really do have them there.

Our block rocks!
Check our our neighborhood in the news! WGN-TV trucks were on Glenwood Avenue when we arrived last Friday morning. Evil Squirrel, our favorite comic book shop (just three doors north of Lifeline Theatre) was featured on WGN’s Around the Town!