Category Archives: Posts by Dorothy

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 is all over the freakin’ NATION!!

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.

In other Ensemble news, our own Patrick Blashill is playing James Tyrone in Eclipse Theatre’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night beginning November 1st. Check him out:

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.

And last but not least, our Managing Director, Allison Cain, will be appearing in The Factory Theatre’s Toast of the Town, running Novemeber 2nd through December 15th.  Break legs, one and all!

Dorothy Milne

Artistic Director

Duck for President COOKIES (and other awesome new stuff)!

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!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Lifeline Has New And Improved Faux Bricks

…(and much less train!)

Many thanks to Joe Schermoly and Ben Dawson who led the window improvement project in the theater!

“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!

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

(Almost) Naked Man Found In Lifeline’s Basement

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!

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.

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

Thank you!

Wow! Lifeline’s benefit last night (“An Austen Soiree”) was a ball! (Seriously, we were in a ballroom!) Plus we raised a bunch of dough. THANK YOU to the cast of Pride and Prejudice and all our artist friends who suited up in regency wear to create the ambience. Thank you to Aly Renee Amidei for her time, talent and patience in outfitting the team (she’s our hero!) Thank you to all our friends who came, who donated and who bought raffle tickets. Thank you to our friend Kimberly Bares from RPBA, to our Education Director Lea Pinsky and to New Field teacher Patty Beyer for the best most heartfelt speeches ever. We are lucky indeed to know you all.