Category Archives: Staff

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!

Autumn goings-on

THE NEW YORK FREAKIN’ TIMES calls The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! “One of the best children’s shows of the year. Case closed.” Yowza!

This adaptation by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric (from the book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith) first played at Lifeline in 2007 and has since had productions all over the nation. It is currently being performed by Atlantic Theater Company in NYC thru the end of October. Check out the article in The New York Times and another review too!

We are thrilled to welcome Joe Schermoly as Lifeline’s new Technical Director. Joe is a scenic designer who also works as a TD and we are super lucky to add him to the Lifeline team in both capacities. You can see Joe’s design work on our stage right now as the scenic and props designer (and the tech director) for The Count of Monte Cristo (now extended through November 13th). You can find out more about Joe by checking out his website.

We are also bidding a fond and sad adieu to our former tech director, Ian Zywica. Ian spent the last two years at Lifeline, tech directing our shows and also designing The Moonstone, The Last of the Dragons, and The Blue Shadow. We will miss him greatly and are hoping he will visit us often.

Ensemble member Paul Holmquist and his wife Kristina Fluty are new parents!

Gus Carlson Holmquist arrived on Monday September 12th. He is hale and hearty and beautiful.

In the midst of six shows this past weekend, Lifeline was honored to participate in Open House Chicago! It’s an event produced by the Chicago Architectural Foundation and this is the first time the Rogers Park neighborhood was on the explorer map! Shuttle buses brought people to the neighborhood and we were toured by over 200 people this past weekend (although most of them didn’t actually see the performance space because we had so many performances going on)! Our visitors were thrilled to see all our secret areas of the building and many vowed to return to see a show. It was great fun to introduce so many new people to our building.

THE 13 CLOCKS got a nice preview feature in the Sun-Times and a great review in Time Out Chicago Kids and is a visual treat. It features “mini-me” puppets and other theatrical devices that are brand new to our KidSeries. Amanda Delheimer Dimond directs for the first time at Lifeline and we are so happy and lucky to have her with us.

The 13 Clocks is a Rob Kauzlaric adaptation with both new faces and old favorites in both the cast and production teams: Scenic designer Chelsea Warren (Mr. Hatch, Mrs. Caliban, Flight of the Dodo, The Dirty Cowboy), sound designer Mikhail Fiksel (Neverwhere, Watership Down, The Last of the Dragons), props designer Katherine Greenleaf (Arnie the Doughnuti), costume designer Nathan Rohrer (assisted on Treasure Island), plus newbies Melanie Berner (puppet associate), Heather Gilbert (light designer), and Clare Roche (stage manager). The cast includes newbies Joey DeBettencourt, Mildred Marie Langford, and David Guiden, plus Lifeline returners Mike Ooi (Neverwhere, The Last of the Dragons, Zorro) and Jonathan Helvey (Zorro). Rockin’ understudies that are more than ready are: Ariel Begley, Jacquis Neal, and Morgan Maher — all new to Lifeline!

The City of Chicago has invited us to participate in its In the Works series! There will be a reading of Hunger on the Pritzker Pavillion Stage for three performances November 17-19. (Don’t worry, it’s not outside! The stage will be in it’s “indoor” configuration – audience sits on stage, actors backs are to the glassed in wall overlooking the park.) This includes a talkback with Chris Hainsworth (adapter), Rob Kauzlaric (director) and Elise Blackwell (novelist), whom they’re flying in for the weekend.

We hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Summer at Lifeline Theatre! (No longer the slow season of our year.)

The Lifeline Storytelling Project has begun! I’m a huge geek for the personal storytelling form and I’m a 17-year veteran of the solo-performance/storytelling scene. I am super-excited for this opportunity to encourage a new generation to explore this form. Fifteen Lifeline-affiliated artists are currently participating in solo writing/performing workshops with me, which began in April. And now the group has started performing every Monday at Duke’s Bar (right next door to Lifeline at 6920 N. Glenwood). We’ve had performances on June 13, 19 and 27. We’ll skip the 4th of July and resume on July 11th. And then we’re going to have a show every Monday at 7pm for a long, long time! Mark your calendars! Come buy a beer and watch some great (free!) stories.

Participating artists so far include: Diego Colón, Leah Cox, Bryan DiLoreto, Kate Donoghue, David Fink, Eduardo Garcia, Christina Hall, Tiffany Keane, Alex Kyger, Amanda Link, Charlotte Long, Darren Meyers, Joe Schermoly, Anne Sears and Jason Weinberg. Seven of these writers have been on stage one or more times at Duke’s already and the rest are hitting the stage very soon!

The next exciting thing is…

It’s a whole storytelling festival! This Festival had a long, proud history at Live Bait Theatre and when they closed their doors a couple years ago, artistic director Sharon Evans approached us about taking over hosting the event. She felt we’d be a great fit because we are also a new work theater. We thought so too! So we dipped our toes in the water last year with a small festival and this year we’ve gotten more ambitious. We’ll be producing at a total of three venues, all within a block of each other here in Rogers Park.

The Festival runs July 21-August 7. We’ll have two shows a night at 95-seat Lifeline Theatre, two shows a night at 30-seat Heartland Studio Theatre (just a few steps up Glenwood Avenue) and the final performance at the 300-seat Mayne Stage (around the corner on Morse Ave). We have three storytellers coming in from New York, one from Los Angeles and for our local acts, we have 16 of Chicago‘s finest storytellers representing the home team. (And a subset of our Lifeline Storytelling Project will do a show in this Festival too!)

Complete details on the festival are here.

The Fest is coming August 20-21 this year. This is the best Fest in the city. Seriously. Not that we’re biased or anything. 100 artists! 36 bands! Fantastic food (all from Rogers Park restaurants). Lifeline will be in the thick of it, as usual, with all our neighborhood partners that come together to make this thing happen! You can check out all the details about what’s going on where at

We have six interns this summer at Lifeline. We have an army! And that’s really good because we need one. We continue to enjoy the company (and benefit from the exertions) of Jason Weinberg and Kathleen Weiss, who have each been with us for this past season as well as this summer. Jason assists in almost every area of the theater and has worked on projects for our benefit, our archives, our day-to-day operations and our scene shop. Kathleen works specifically in the shop where she works with Ian, our TD and where she also recently assisted puppet designer Joanna Iwanicka on the masks for Watership Down.

And — new this summer — we have four more fabulous interns: Kate DonoghueMaggie HumphreyCharlotte Long,and Anna Marr. Kate and Charlotte recently participated (spectacularly) as readers in our in-house Pride and Prejudice read-thru; Maggie is spearheading a special summer Lifeline fundraising event (news here soon about our Bingo Benefit at the Glenwood on August 25!); Anna is working directly with Lea Pinsky, our Education Director, and will assist with our summer camps. All four gals are also working with every one of us on staff on different projects. Their brains, energy and can-do spirit are an enormous boon to our organization.

With the help of our wonderful interns, we are going slay through our impossible list and get everything done this summer! All of it!

Anna Marr Charlotte Long
Jason Weinberg Kathleen Weiss
Kate Donoghue Maggie Humphrey

We hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Mile of Murals

Our Education Director (and local artist) Lea Pinsky and her husband led the Mile of Murals project here in Rogers Park this past summer, a collaborative effort by 14 local artists. One of the artists, Paula Clayton (of Signature Mural & Finish) put together this video documenting their summer’s work. The Mile of Murals is a continuing project for the Rogers Park Community – find out more about it by visiting or contacting the Rogers Park Business Alliance

Welcoming New Volunteers

Lifeline welcomes our newest volunteers…

Jason Weinberg
Jason is a 2010 Columbia graduate with a B.A. in Acting. Jason is assisting Rob with the casting files, Erica with audience surveys, and tackling light storage with Cortney. He is an organizing whirlwind and we are delighted to have him with us. Jason is also a musician, playing baritone ukele and singing backup vocals in the folk/synth pop duo, Ellipses. In addition to originals, they cover Ryan Adams, Berlin, REM, Peter Schilling and other 80s favorites. Their next gig will be at Lily’s on Lincoln Avenue in December. Stay tuned!


BrittneyLove Smith
Brittney is a Columbia senior who will receive her B.F.A. in Acting in 2011. Brittney has been awarded the Woman’s Performance Scholarship and the Presidential Scholarship by Columbia College Chicago and has participated in staged readings with Regina Taylor. She was recently cast at Columbia in Dead City and will play Beatrice, Nona and others. Brittney hails from St. Petersburg, Florida and aside from her acting career, she is also a painter. At Lifeline she is assisting in numerous administrative areas and we hope to get her into the scene shop for the next painting project as well. Brittney plans to stay in Chicago after graduation. We’re glad to hear it!

Autumn update

Art in the lobby!

Lifeline is proud to feature the work of Rogers Park artist Jhenai Mootz on our lobby walls. Both the box office wall and concession stand area are now bedazzled with an exciting assortment of Jhenai’s ceramic tiles. Make sure to look for the tiles that are specially themed to Lifeline shows this season, like the current Wuthering Heights piece! Numerous pieces have already been sold through Lifeline’s box office. In addition to being a mixed-media artist, Jhenai is an actress and is understudying several roles in our upcoming production of The Moonstone.

Streetscape continues…pardon our dust. (But we’ve got ya covered!)

This is what our street looks like. Can you tell it’s going to be really pretty someday? Acorn streetlights. Wider sidewalks. Planters. It’s going to be awesome. The hard-working streetscape team has promised to keep the road open for us even during construction so you can still drop off your passengers in front of the theater. What’s tougher right now is the parking — because Glenwood is not the only street in our ‘hood that’s torn up. We recommend you come early and make use of our free parking lot at the NE corner of Ravenswood and Morse and the free shuttle that loops back and forth.

Our shuttle driver, Darren, will take good care of you. Darren’s an actor, too. (Perhaps you remember him playing the lead in Crossing California a few seasons ago!)

Our neighborhood in the news:
The YouTube video Glenwood and Morse 2010 (featuring the Glenwood Avenue Arts District, with numerous shots of Lifeline Theatre) was a winner in the Metropolitan Planning Commision’s Placemaking Chicago contest. The video aired on WGN TV on September 17th and was created by our neighbors Mary and Neil who own Duke’s Bar, right next door to us.

More murals have come to our neighborhood this past summer — and more will be arriving soon. (This one is just north of us on Glenwood between Morse and Lunt.) Rogers Park and its plan for a dozen more murals were the focus of a recent cover story in The Reader. We’ll soon be covered in art — even more than we are now!

One. Crazy. Summer.
Summer 2010 was action packed! Get a load of this schedule: Neverwhere extension ran into late July…

Which means it overlapped Lifeline’s Summer Drama Camp (which rocked)…

…which rolled right into the 14th Fillet of Solo Festival (our first year as host!) . . .

. . . which overlapped with the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. (Best. Fest. Ever.)

But now there’s a chill in the air . . .
and the box office phones are ringing. Because it’s that time. It’s time to buy tickets to Wuthering Heights. Or Click Clack Moo. Or subscribe! (And subscriptions are going like hotcakes, we’re happy to report.) It’s Fall and we’re back! Can’t wait to see ya!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director


Benefit 2010:  The Floating Market

It was crazy ambitious.  We had just a few hours to install a Floating Market into the Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center.  And due to the masterminds on our team, it appeared like magic — just like in the book!  Thanks to Alan for bringing his experience and brilliance to the uber-design of the whole event.  He and Ian and Brandon Wardell each designed areas of the Market (Trinkets and Treasures!  Experiences and Explorations!  Dreams and Destiny!)  They transformed that room —  and the costume team of Meredith Crilly, Kat Doebler and Elizabeth Klein transformed the people of the Market as well.  Performances by The Space/Movement Project, Read My Hips and Pyrotechniq seemed to be spontaneous combustions emerging from our colorful world.  Further color was added by members of Steam Punk Chicago, who integrated seamlessly.  Roving storyteller, Chris Walsh, entertained clusters of listeners throughout the evening.  Musicians Alan Goldberg, Ken Monroe, Paul Gilvary, Curt Silvers, Bill Rush and Kate Nawrocki (with her entire Afterlife band, on loan from our friends at The Strange Tree Group) surrounded us with sound.

Christopher Hainsworth wrote a short framing story for the evening, which included our fearless Neverwhere director, Paul, as emcee, quickly interrupted by a hotly pursed damsel in distress.  Bodyguard Auditions were called to protect her and the fun began.  Fights were designed by R&D Choreography (who are also choreographing Neverwhere) with performances (and swordplay) by Sarah Rose Graeber, Matt Barels, Matt Kahler, Shane Hill, David Gregory and Richard Gilbert.

And did I mention the plentiful and yummy food and booze, which Malnati’s and Stephani’s totally allowed us to rename to theme it up?   You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten fingers of glory washed down with some Ratspeaker Sludge. Oh yeah.  It was a great night.

All of us at LIfeline are sending get-well wishes to Jessica Wright, who is recovering from a car accident.  Jessica is a former Lifeline intern and current Lifeline employee.   She is also a playwright, with a recent production of her short play, Under Ground, at Curious Theatre’s RhinoFest earlier this year.  Jessica also provided a short story performed for Lifeline’s April 19th benefit.   (It was an audience favorite — which is pretty impressive given that other short stories read were by Edgar Allan Poe, Neil Gaiman and Richard Adams!)  Jessica wears many hats at Lifeline.  She was serving as assistant director and assistant stage manager for our upcoming production of Neverwhere at Lifeline as well as frequently working front of house for us.  We are sad to be without her but glad that she is on the road to recovery.  We look forward to seeing her back at Lifeline soon.

Interns that Rock!
Lifeline Theatre welcomes two new shop interns, Andrew Lehmkuhl and Kathleen Weiss.  They join Meredith Crilly (Chicago Semester, Dordt College, Iowa) and Christopher Scholtens (Columbia) as they all make considerable contributions to the ambitious undertaking that is Neverwhere.

Andrew hails from Dubuque, Iowa and is a freshman theater major at Loyola University.  Andrew comes to us thru the Loyola Job Fair where he was looking for opportunities to work in the the Chicago theater community.  He is a hard worker and we’re thrilled he found us.  Andrew is going home for the summer but is hoping to return to LIfeline in the fall and work with us between his school projects.  We hope so too!

Kathleen Weiss will be a junior theater design major at Columbia this fall.  She spent the past two years at SE Missouri State, where she was pursuing a BFA in Theatre and working as a Resident Assistant, while also working full time in a library!  She is obviously a terrific multi-tasker!  Kathleen is looking forward to living in a more urban setting.  Ian found her at Porchlight Theater where he was doing a scenic design for Into the Woods.  He was impressed with her work and brought her back to Lifeline.  We look forward to having her with us for a good long while!

All four of our interns have been instrumental in making magic for our upcoming show.  Meredith (who also led the charge in organizing our costumes for our recent benefit) is assisting Elizabeth on costumes.   Chris, Andrew and Kathleen have been assisting Ian and Alan in creating the tunnels below London and other Neverwhere magic.  And Chris is now subbing in as board operator and stage hand until Jessica returns to town after her accident.  And is those projects weren’t enough, Meredith and Chris are collaborating on a costume he will wear as the character Darsh Schneider  from the Anime/Manga Bastard! at the upcoming Anime Central convention in mid-May.  You better believe I’ll get a picture of that when it’s finished!  Just wait.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Latest News

The Blue Shadow opened on March 14th. Playwright Nambi Kelley, assisted by her nephew Xavier, created the play using folk tales from five different cultures and set the story in a Rogers Park classroom. (Nambi went to Field Elementary School just down the street!). The show also features extremely catchy music by composer Joe Plummer.

And there’s a book! In addition to writing the play, Nambi wrote The Blue Shadow in book form. It is illustrated by Chicago artist Kirk Anderson and is ADORABLE. Our opening day festivities included a book signing by Nambi and a folk dance class held upstairs by show choreographer Camille Kuthrell. A good time was had by all.

New faces! We have some very exciting artists who are brand new to Lifeline involved on this project. In addition to Nambi, Joe and Camille, director Ilesa Duncan is a first-timer at Lifeline. We also welcome cast members Ben Chang, Susaan Jamshidi, Miguel Nunez and Dawn Pryor, all in their first Lifeline show.

Cast member Mallory Nees was seen just a couple months ago as the Queen in Lifeline’s winter kids’ show, The Last of the Dragons, and costume designer Christine Pascual designed costumes for Praying for Sheetrock way back in 1997.

Welcome to Dana Horst, Lifeline’s new grantwriter…

Dana Horst recently received an M.B.A. in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati and joins us after spending part of 2009 working for the Donor’s Forum in Chicago. We are delighted to have her on our team.

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

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