Category Archives: General Thoughts

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


Time for an introduction! I’m Tiffany Keane, one of the newest interns here at Lifeline, and the assistant director/dramaturg of Wuthering Heights. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing inside scoop on the rehearsal process and interesting historical research that I’ve come across about the world of the play. It’s been a very exciting time here at Lifeline with such a great upcoming season!

I go to school at Columbia College of Chicago where I major in Theatre (directing concentration) with a minor in literature. I had seen a few Lifeline shows like Treasure Island and The Mark of Zorro, so when I came across Lifeline Theatre at the internship fair, I had already been in love with Lifeline’s mission and wanted to be a part of the magic. I met briefly with Allison Cain, Lifeline’s managing director, and from there I was immediately embraced by the ensemble.

Since May I’ve been interning with Lifeline, and it has been an extraordinary experience. It’s been so inspiring working with people who give 110% of themselves to storytelling. Everyone is so open and collaborative here, and they’ve made sure to make my internship a fun learning experience. I’ve done numerous jobs around the theatre, all hands-on. I’ve worked in the box office, I’ve proposed benefit venues at board meetings, I’ve organized costumes, I’ve learned about grant writing, and my most recent venture is helping out at Lifeline’s Summer Drama Camp… so I’ve been keeping busy. It’s a running joke around Lifeline that I’ve got my hands in every pot (which is really funny now that I think about it because I do occasionally water the flowers outside as well). Nevertheless, has definitely been an all-round experience for me and I am eternally grateful.That being said, I am ecstatic to be working on dramaturgy and assistant directing for Wuthering Heights. This classic piece of literature is a very haunting story and I feel incredibly lucky to have the honor to be apart of this piece of art. To sum it all up- excitement!

There is so much more to come, so please keep checking this blog- there are many goodies in store!

Tiffany Keane


Welcome to new ensemble members, Hainsworth and Walsh!

We are joyful and proud to announce our newest ensemble members: Chris Hainsworth and Christopher Walsh. You’ve seen them both a number of times at Lifeline (most recently Treasure Island and Neverwhere!

Chris Hainsworth as Isreal Hands in Treasure Island

Christopher Walsh as Mr. Vandemar in Neverwhere

Fun fact: Chris Hainsworth is engaged to ensemble member Katie McLean and they will marry in August. Congrats to Katie and Chris! A Lifeline wedding!

Katie and Chris in Neverwhere

Neverwhere is dust and rubble

It always breaks our heart a little when we have to rip apart a show we loved. Ian and Barney took a day to destroy what it had taken them weeks to build. If you pass by Lifeline in the next couple days, you’ll see a dumpster in our driveway being filled with the unsalvageable scenic elements, chopped up into little bits.

The Neverwhere set, before strike.

Barney and Ian, mid-strike.

We are hurrying to clear the way for Fillet of Solo, next up at Lifeline. And, yow! Right on its heels is Season 2010-11: Wuthering Heights began rehearsal this week. Click, Clack, Moo is cast. Mr. Hatch auditions next week while we also have workshop rehearsals for a project in development across town. We have so much going on we are bursting out of our building! This is how crowded we are: below is a recent rehearsal for Fillet of Solo….in our basement laundry room!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Jeff nominations & the Streetscape

Glenwood Avenue Arts District dominates the Non-Equity Jeff nominations!

Not only did Lifeline Theatre receive 13 Jeff nominations this year (the most of any company), but near-neighbors BoHo and Theo Ubique received 11 apiece, making us the three companies who received the most nods. BoHo and Theo Ubique are both on Glenwood Avenue, just a block north of us. This is the 4th year in a row that Rogers Park companies have dominated the Non-Equity Jeff nominations. Once again, our block rocks.

Congrats to Lifeline Theatre’s nominees and to the teams of all three shows:

Busman’s Honeymoon (4 nominations)

  • Production (whole team!)
  • Adaptation (Frances Limoncelli)
  • Supporting Actor (Phil Timberlake)
  • Artistic Specialization (Elise Kauzlaric, dialects)

Treasure Island (6 nominations)

  • Fights (Geoff Coates)
  • Scenic Design (Alan Donahue)
  • Light Design (Kevin Gawley)
  • Sound Design (Andrew Hansen)
  • Original Incidental Music (Andrew Hansen)
  • Costume Design (Branimira Ivanova)

Mrs. Caliban (3 nominations)

  • Adaptation (Frances Limoncelli)
  • Sound Design (Joshua Horvath)
  • Actress in a Leading Role (Brenda Barrie)

Neighborhood news… the streetscape has started!

Fasten your seat belts. And plan to arrive early. Though the streets don’t close during this process, we do temporarily lose parking on the stretch that’s being worked on (currently the west side of Glenwood, north of Morse). Street parking is even more competitive as a result. Remember our free shuttle and the designated parking lot at Ravenswood and Morse!

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

Lifeline needs your help

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Enter the Floating Market…

Lifeline is seeking volunteers to work at our 2010 Annual Benefit: Neil Gaiman’s Floating Market on April 19, 2010 the Chicago Cultural Center. We are recreating the Floating Market as conceived by Neil Gaiman is his bestselling book, Neverwhere. There will be food, drink, belly dancers, fire dancers, a wheel of destiny, fortune tellers, and musicians playing found instruments.

We are looking for technical people to help with set-up and break-down and performers to work the event.

Technical: Set up will run from 1:30–6:30pm and will encompass load in and set up of the market. Break down will run from 10:00–11:30pm and will encompass break down and load out at the Cultural Center. All set-up and break-down volunteers will be able to attend the Benefit free of charge.

Performers: Performers will be required from 5:30–10:00pm. You must dress up as a character from the Neverwhere world (e.g. Rat Speakers, Velvets, Sewer Folk, Salvation Army Restoration fops, Junk Yard warriors, etc) and work an assigned area (silent auction tables, entertainment areas, roaming) in character and interact with patrons. We will provide guidelines but you will be responsible for creating your own costume. Performers will be given one complimentary ticket to Lifeline’s production of Neverwhere.

There will be a mandatory meeting for all volunteers on Sunday, April 18th at 3:00 PM.

All inquiries about this opportunity should be sent to Please indicate how you would like to help out. First come, first served. Spots are limited.

Welcome, Meredith!

Welcome to Meredith Crilly of Chicago Semester

Lifeline welcomes new intern Meredith Crilly, who will be with us full-time until early May.  Meredith hails from Knoxville, Tennessee and is a junior Theatre and Art double-major at Dordt College in Iowa.  She comes to us through the Chicago Semester program which places students from rural colleges in semester-long internships in Chicago, providing a supported urban experience and exposure to the career of their choice.

Meredith is pursuing a career in costume design and will be assisting Christine Pascual on The Blue Shadow and Elizabeth Wislar on Neverwhere.  She is also working in our box office and on numerous other Lifeline projects.  In fact, when you’re next at Lifeline you’ll see evidence of Meredith’s activities — she has realized our long-ago plan to refurbish the lobby!   Last week Erica handed Meredith the bag of fabric that we’ve been holding onto for the past three years and Meredith whipped out a box office curtain and re-upholstered the long bench cushion right by our entranceway.  Snazzy!

Doro’s creative process

Several folks have asked me for text copies of a short piece I performed at the recent City Lit 30th Anniversary Benefit (some of it originally written/performed for The Callback, a radio show podcast out of Strawdog Theatre back in 2007).   I am perplexed.   I have no idea if a performance piece will work as an essay…   But I am glad to share it:

What’s my deadline?

When I sit down to write… I need a little treat.   I need a little reward for sitting down to write.   I also need to set up the scene: a real writer would be sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee.  Or a scotch.   Yes, a real writer would have a scotch.  But I don’t like scotch.   I’ll have a glass of wine.  Yeah… this looks good now.

I bet I could write if I wasn’t hungry.   I should make a little snack and then I’ll be able to focus.  Except who could write in the middle of this mess?   I’m not going to be able to concentrate until I clean the apartment.

I know a lot of artists who are self-starters.   Artists who produce work even though no one is making them do it.   My dad was that kind of artist.  He was a painter.   He’d come home from a long day at work, eat dinner and then sigh, “Well, I guess I better go paint.”   Like someone was making him — but no one was!   He was painting because he wanted to.  Or even when he didn’t want to, something inside him was making him do it.

When I was a kid, whenever we had guests over my mom would whisper “Keep an eye on your father,” because sometimes he would disappear.  He would run down to the basement for an extra chair for a guest and wouldn’t come back.   He had passed his workstation where that landscape was not turning out as he hoped.   And it’s not that he’d reject the party — he’d forget it was up there.   He had no reason to be in the basement but to fix the sky.

I get that.   I understand sudden inspiration and the pull just taking you from wherever you are.   But in truth — I don’t have inspirations or pulls – unless the press release has gone out and I’ll have to return ticket money if I don’t finish the project.   But my Dad could say, “I guess I better go paint.”  And then be able to do it!  No deadline!   I so admire artists that have that thing in them that drives them and makes them create.   I don’t have that thing.

One of the many features that is wonderful about theater is the deadlines.   If you’re acting or directing or writing or designing for a show, then it’s going to happen.   If you’re ready or not, if it’s good or not — that train will be leaving the station.   You can only explore and experiment and start over and delay decisions for so long and then you just have to do something — because the audience is coming.   I love that about theater.   With any creative project, you can always make it better. But  better is the enemy of done.

For years I wanted to write but I could never finish anything. I’d barely even start.   I’d write a page or so and it would suck so I’d stop.   But the first time I committed to creating a show and it was put on a theater’s calendar… then the fear of producing Crap was replaced by the greater fear of showing up empty handed… of being in breach of contract… and then I had no trouble producing work.

The only thing that makes me finish a show is having a gun held to my head.  Otherwise I just keep making it better.

Yes, I’d love to create a little something for your show… What’s my deadline?

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

December updates

Arrr! G’bye mateys!
The Treasure Island/Dooby Dooby Moo set is gone.   It is in little bitty pieces in the big dumpster in our driveway — except for the 800 pound telephone poles (ship masts) which have been wrestled into storage by the mighty Ian (heroically assisted by Barney Chin, Travis Zywica and our intern Chris Scholtens.   It is always strange to see the theater swept clean, but soon it will be filled with new adventures.

Expanded floorspace in our shop!
Ian has redesigned the shop layout and Barney has used our brand new welder to create off-the-floor hanging storage racks for all our lumber.  The acreage this has created downstairs is incredible!  We can now stretch out and paint an entire stage drop instead of a section at a time! And there’s still room to build — and we look so clean!  Go team!

Restructured and reorganized costume storage!
Erica and intern Meghan Earhart are slaying their way thru costume storage in a reorganization effort that makes me mist up every time I walk by.  We had put up plastic shelving for shoe storage but the gals nearly got buried in a shoe avalanche when the cheap pieces of… plastic… broke!  We have decided to reconsider shoe storage.   Ian and Barney came up out of the basement and consulted on the project and we’ll soon have permanent shoe storage, as sturdy as those new lumber racks downstairs.

Spanish lessons!
Lea, Erica, Dorothy and Meghan have been taking Spanish lessons once a week with box office associate/former caballero/sometime pirate/former LL shuttle driver Eduardo Garcia.  Our first test is this coming Tuesday.  When we’re a little better, Allison is going to join our little class as well (because she’s already ahead of us on the basics).   Soon we’ll have bilingual customer service!  Well, not soon perhaps. But eventually.  That is the dream!

Intern news
We are sad to say goodbye to Meghan who came to us thru the Chicago Semester program.   She has been of invaluable assistance for the term she spent with us.   She was costume crew and blood maker for Treasure Island.  She worked box office, participated in our education program and was instrumental in the accomplishment of countless projects.  We will miss her!  Our shop intern stays with us for now.  Chris Scholtens comes to us from Triton College (where Ian also teaches).  He is assisting with set construction and shop reorganizing with Ian, as well as working with Erica on box office and facilities projects.   We are glad we get to keep Chris thru the spring!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director