Category Archives: Posts by Dorothy

Updates

Season auditions
We just had our general auditions for the year and – dang!  There is so much sparkly talent in this city. And it just kills me how many people totally rock and we don’t have a darn thing in this particular season that fits them.  Makes me want to do more plays. Except that would probably kill us. But we had our directors and writers and composers from our various shows in 09-10 there to see (the three days of) auditions and we were wowed by the people who auditioned.

More states and fresh blood in Busman!
Okay, Erica says it’s too early to post another map but I must report that we’re up to 22 states! We’ve added South Dakota and Connecticut and Rhode Island!   We’ve got 5 weeks to go so I’m hoping we add to the tally!  We’re welcoming some new folks into the cast for the extension.   Jon Stutzman, Chris Hainsworth and Jean Vanier will be joining us and we’re excited to have ’em.  Jean is a newcomer to Lifeline.  Jon was in Rikki Tikki Tavi and The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Chris was in Talking It Over and will be in Treasure Island this fall.

Our very first Property Condition Assessment
Constructed as a ComEd substation in 1933, Lifeline is built like a bomb shelter. (Our city building inspector recommends we all meet here in case of disaster.) But it’s also freakin’ old. We’re getting an expert guy over here next week to go over our building with a fine tooth comb. His report will tell us of “existing deficiencies, deferred maintenance, repair cost estimates and a reserve table of the expected useful life of building components.” I expect it to be sobering. But at least we’ll know. And it’s better to know….isn’t it?

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Busman’s Extension and more!

Woohoo!  Busman’s Honeymoon is a runaway train — extended thru July 26!
This is how many fans Dorothy L. Sayers has:   Erica posted a map in the box office and her team is coloring in all the locations we’ve had tickets purchased from — which now totals 19 states, plus Ontario — and, we’ve gone international!  Arrows off the map point to audience members traveling in from Paris, Rome and Madrid!    So seriously — we’re extended, but call ahead!  We are so totally packed — even those added Thursdays are filling up fast.  This is the fourth time Frances has adapted a Dorothy L. Sayers novel for stage at Lifeline and each one is more successful than the last.  The show is delightfully staged by Paul and features numerous Lifeline ensemble members as well (Peter, Jenifer, Phil, Jim and Rob).

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle rocked – and it’s coming back for GAAF!
Recently closing, our final KidSeries show this season was also a sold-out hit.  If you missed Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (or if you want to see it again), you have another chance!   We will perform a stripped down version of the show at Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest, right in front of Lifeline!  Showtimes at 2pm on both Saturday and Sunday August 22-23.    You can check out all the entertainment for this year, along with video from past Fests at www.GlenwoodAve.org.

Non-Equity Jeff Awards
It was a fun party on Monday night and the evening concluded at 9:50 pm, which has to be a new record.  Which meant we all had to repair to a nearby bar.  Lifeline came home with 4 awards:
  • Scenic design: Alan, Mariette in Ecstasy
  • Artistic Specialization: Geoff Coates, fight choreography, The Mark of Zorro
  • Adaptation: Katie, The Mark of Zorro
  • Sound design: Toy, The Mark of Zorro

A gazillion Jeff nominations!
Lifeline Theatre received 14 non-equity Jeff nominations this season, the most of any company.  (And y’know who came in second?  Our nearest neighbor — Theo Ubique.  Oh yeah.  The Glenwood Avenue Art District continues to take the world by storm!)  In addition to the wins mentioned above, congratulations are also due for these nominations:
  • Adapter: Rob for Dorian Gray, Christina for Mariette
  • Director: Elise for Mariette
  • Lead actress: Brenda Barrie for Mariette
  • Lead actor: James Elly for Zorro
  • Supporting actor: Paul for Dorian Gray
  • Ensemble: Mariette
  • Sound: Tim for Mariette
  • Production: Zorro and Mariette
More kudos for ensemble away from home!
In addition to the nominations they received for work at Lifeline, ensemble members Elise (actress, On the Shore of the Wide World) and Paul (director, The Robber Bridegroom)  are nominated for shows they did with our friends at Griffin Theatre!   Congrats to all!

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

News, news, and more news

Ron Hansen was here! Again!


(Elise Kauzlaric, Brenda Barrie, Ron Hansen & Christina Calvit)

Author Ron Hansen returned to Lifeline on March 14th to see the finished Mariette in Ecstasy (he’d already come on first preview weekend!) He did a book signing between the 4pm and 8pm shows and a talkback after the latter. We’ve never had such a well-attended talkback — 80+ people stayed for close to an hour and participated in a lively discussion. We found out that Ron’s sister Ginny used to be a Dominican nun and was the source for some of his atmospheric details. We found out which historical stigmatics Ron drew on as inspiration for Mariette. And we had a big ol’ discussion about the everyday questions the story raises about faith, responsibility and community. This sure is a script and production that inspires conversation, big questions and strong opinions! A good time was had by all.

Mariette is rocking the house!

Photo by Paul Metreyeon

Not only did we enjoy rave reviews and we’re selling really well, Lifeline is seeing a lot of new audience members for this show. We are seeing clergy and fans of the book who have never been here before. At the same time, we are gratified by how many of our regular audience members who are not necessarily of a spiritual bent have found the show to be riveting. Outside the theater this past weekend, a Lifeline regular told me: “I didn’t want to come tonight. I had no interest in seeing a show about a bunch of nuns — but I am so glad I did. This is one powerful piece of theater — and relevant to anyone.”

The sign has landed!
Check out our total freakin’ snazziness!

The sign we’ve yearned for lo these many years has arrived! Oh my gosh — is that a MARQUEE? And is that NEON going around the perimeter? Oh yes, it is. It most certainly is. Many thanks to Rene Camargo at DevCorp North for hooking us up with the Business Improvement Plan which paid for half the sign. Thanks to our board, staff and ensemble and ensemble emeritus for kicking in money for the other half. And thanks to Frances for tireless efforts to make this happen. And thanks to our resident genius Alan for his eye-popping design. And thanks also to sign-maker Alex Quinonez who totally rocks.

Brand new education director – and you can see her art while having a cocktail.
Welcome to Lea Pinsky who joined Lifeline as our new education director on March 1st. Aside from her skills as an arts administrator and her background in theater, she’s also a painter and a muralist. Want to see some of Lea’s art work on display? Step on over to the Morseland, go thru the front door, take a right into that cozy nook by the east-most windows and keep an eye out for Wonder Woman. Now you’re looking at the display by Lea and her husband Dustin Harris. As long as you’re there, have a seat, order a cosmo and the best mac and cheese fritters in the world and relax while you soak in the art!

More bragging about our awesome staff
We just received a $400 check from a family in Ohio who came here once to see Zorro back in June. When their cab was late, our staff entertained them. Erica took them on a tour of the building while Bob phoned for another cab and waited outside to flag it down. When these repeated efforts didn’t produce a taxi, Bob drove them back to their hotel downtown. It is not uncommon for our staff to end up taking out-of-towners to other destinations when cabs fail. So this didn’t appear in a report. No one submitted extra hours for his/her efforts. We never would have heard about this incident except for the check and letter that came later. Just one of the ways our staff goes the extra mile(s).

The big shuttle-sharing and expansion pilot project
As you may know (and if you don’t, hear me now!), we can no longer use the Trilogy lot for Lifeline parking. It’s seriously being towed now, so don’t go there! We have a new lot at the NE corner of Morse and Ravenswood (made available to us by our friends at First Commercial Bank and our local SSA). It is further away but easier to find since it’s right on Morse Avenue. We’ve still got our shuttle doing loops back and forth to the (new) lot and a couple weeks ago, we hooked up with near-neighbors and good friends BoHo Theatre and Theo Ubique and the Lifeline van is shuttling to the lot for their shows too. (And did I mention that, like Mariette, their shows have gotten RAVE reviews? Glenwood Avenue Arts District theaters ride again!) Our showtimes between the three theaters are nicely staggered on most nights so the fact that our van only has 7 seats has so far not been a big problem! Oh yeah — and guess what? Shuttle EXPANSION to KidSeries! We are shuttling for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. We’re doing a kids show for the first time and so far it’s gotten a lot of response. We’ll hope these experimental programs work out and we’re able to keep ’em going for next season!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Cheers for Mariette

Let me just give a shout out right now to the Lifeline house and box office team because ALL the bosses were out of town this past weekend and we did not get a single text. As per usual, Susan, Tonia and Deirdre had it all under control. I even got Deirdre roped into the starching and ironing of the gazillion wimples, veils and other items/words I don’t know that comprise nun habits. LOTS of starching and ironing for this show. Brani says they must look “crisp.” No such thing as a rumpled nun.

Mariette in Ecstasy opened last week to rave reviews and we are all doing happy dances over here. Chris Jones called Christina one of America’s best adapters of novels into drama. Does that rock? I am repeating that tidbit here because it embarrassed Christina so much the first time. Everyone’s talking about Elise‘s brilliant staging and the stunning technical elements (go Alan, Brani, Sarah, Tim and R&D!). And seriously, let’s face it, the acting is sublime. Hedy says Brenda is “transfixing” and “charismatic” and that everyone else is played with “exquisite individuality.” So totally true.

We are super-excited because author Ron Hansen will be coming to Lifeline March 14th and doing a book-signing between the 4pm and 8pm shows and a talkback after the latter. The evening show is already sold out because his fans are banging down the door. If you want to meet Ron, the 4pm still has tickets left and you’ll still get to intersect with him.

Speaking of meeting Ron: Elise, Christina and the cast got to meet him much earlier. Ron was in Chicago for a conference during our first preview weekend and he terrified the Lifeline team by turning up here with friends to see the show. As non-theater-folk, I don’t know that they understood the wide eyed horror that met their arrival at the box office, nor why the audience was being asked to fill out comment cards. But happily the show was already in great shape, he and his friends seemed to totally enjoy it and he’ll get to see the final product soon!

In other Lifeline news, Rob and Elise are in Charlotte, NC this weekend seeing The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. Rob’s adaptation of the book by Jon Scieszka was a mongo hit at Lifeline and is now being produced all around the country. We’re very excited for him!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Peter Brown was here!

Peter Brown Signing 1

Flight of the Dodo author-illustrator Peter Brown was our celebrity guest at Lifeline on January 18th.

Author visits are thrilling and most of us Lifeliners were just bouncing gleefully — but the adapter and the director are generally a smidge Anxious as they wonder about author response to “what we’ve done to his book.”  Pretty big changes are required to put a book on stage.  You have to do a lot of writing when you’re turning a picture book with just a few sentences into an hour-long musical. You want to think you’ve expanded in a way that builds on the author’s vision instead of — y’know — shattering it. So Rob and Paul were looking a little green about the gills.

Peter watched the 1pm show and chortled and guffawed throughout. Our spies even reported some knee-slapping. After the show Peter was pulled in several directions by autograph seekers who missed the earlier book-signing. We sold out of books — we were mobbed.

If you don’t know Peter’s work, treat yourself with a visit to his website. And if you haven’t seen Flight of the Dodo, I hope you’ll come visit us. We’ve got themes of teamwork and appreciating each other’s differences. We’ve got a flying machine and a terrifying storm. We’ve got Toy‘s psychedelic, danceable score. And we’ve got bird poop jokes. What’s not to love?

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Donald Westlake

Sad news today.  Comic crime novelist, Donald Westlake, is dead at 75.  He wrote about a gazillion novels and numerous screenplays and is considered one of the best mystery writers of our time.  Many of us at Lifeline got to meet Mr. Westlake and his wife Abby Adams in 2003 when they came to see Lifeline’s production of Trust Me On This.   It was resident scenic designer Alan Donahue‘s first time in the role of adapter and he was nervous (as our playwrights always are when the author comes to see the play).   Mr. Westlake was charming and generous, cheerfully signing the stacks of dog-eared paperbacks that some of his devotees turned up with along with the new books at our book signing, doing a cocktail reception before the show and a talkback with the audience after.  I remember us all flopping out of our seats in laughter as this brilliant and hilarious man took questions.  He confided that he’d been plenty nervous before the performance in case it was a stinker, but happily he was enthusiastic about the show.  A very warm and accessible famous person, he responded quickly and personally to emails from the various of us involved with the project and even suggested other books of his that might make good plays for us.  I’m so glad we got to do the one we did and I’m sad that if we do another he won’t be here to see it.   We were lucky and honored to get to know this fascinating man even a little bit.  Prolific as ever, he has a new book coming out in April and had plans for others in the works.  We and all of his many other fans will miss him dearly.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Closing three shows, opening two…

Good Lordypants. Closing three shows at once (Duck for Prez, Dorian Gray, Zorro at TBC) is totally like moving. You know that part of the move where everything you own is in chaos at your feet and you can’t find anything because you started to pack all organized but in the end everything was thrown into boxes you despairingly labeled “miscellaneous?” That’s where we’re at right now.

Meantime, Snowflake Tim and Flight of the Dodo are racing to the finish. Our experiment of running two kids shows over the holidays in tandem is about to launch. As the tech team sprints out of the basement with lumber and hangs lights from the grid, our intrepid production manager, Cortney Hurley, tells me that if any part of this enterprise takes longer than expected, the whole thing comes apart at the seams! It adds a nice thrill to the process.

Snowflake Tim rehearsals are a total ball. Diego Colon stars as Snowflake Tim and has a real gift for the improvisational audience interaction that is central to this play. Diego was a caballero/soldier in Zorro for the past 6 months and was also the alternate Duck in Duck for President. (Yes, that show was so darn popular we had to have two casts to cover the gazillion performances.) The remaining two Snowflake cast members are: Ezekiel Sulkes (who recently starred as “the Dirty Cowboy” in Lifeline’s adaptation of the book by the same name. One of Zeke’s several characters in Snowflake Tim is a Ninja who’s afraid to take a bath. Zeke points out that he is now two-for-two at Lifeline in playing characters who are stinky because they haven’t bathed and expects that our young audiences will remember him as the guy who smells bad. He’s also hilarious. Sarah Beckette is the third and last Snowflake Tim cast member. She is new to Lifeline. I saw her at a general audition a year ago and was totally smitten and have been trying to figure out when we could bring her in ever since. We are thrilled to have bagged her for this show.

So I’m totally jealous that Paul Holmquist apparently knows how to run a digital camera. Or else he has minions to shoot it for him. One way or another, he has a picture of the Flight of the Dodo flying machine with his blog entry. My blog entries want pictures too. I will either be learning to run a digital camera or finding a minion before my next post.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Welcome!

Look at us!  We’re getting all bloggy!  Can you even believe it?   Welcome — and thank you for visiting our blog.  As I type, I’m humming along with the Duck for President curtain call reprise that’s floating up from the stage below.   I hear the school buses idling out front and hope we can get this group of kids out before the buses pull up to drop off the next load.  (I’m glad Erica‘s downstairs to traffic cop the whole circus.  She used to be a cheerleader, so she’s able to rally the armies of children and get them to do whatever she wants.)  In the office next door — okay, it’s not next door, we’re basically all piled in a room together — but in her own little corner, our education director, Frances, is huddled with one of our teaching artists strategizing about about classroom activities at a neighborhood elementary school, while Angelo is between us, in his little corner, on the phone about our upcoming benefit.  Just outside the office in the rehearsal room, the strange wrestling sounds I keep hearing have turned out to be our tech director, Ian, who is constructing a giant flying machine.  Yes, it’s true.  There will be a giant flying machine featured in our next kids’ show, The Flight of the Dodo.  That may have been top secret.  But this is the place to get the top secret poop.  Oops.  More secrets.  There’s poop in the show too.

Dang, it’s been a busy fall.  In addition to the gazillion Duck for President performances, The Picture of Dorian Gray was a boffo hit that extended.   Plus we moved last summer’s hit, The Mark of Zorro, to Theatre Building Chicago on Belmont Avenue for a fall run there.  And don’t get me started with the birthday parties and special events and off-school workshop days.   But finally we wind down for a brief spell.   Our next MainStage show, Mariette in Ecstasy, doesn’t open until February.  Dorian closed on Sunday — sold out thru the very last show.  Zorro will close this coming Sunday (after 93 performances) and then we’ll bust it up and drag all the salvageable pieces back to Lifeline. Ah, it will be good to be home under one roof rather than scattered all across town.

So welcome to our blog!  I hope you will visit us often and we will keep you up to date on our backstage antics, dilemmas and general hilarity.  Right now, I have to go to my Snowflake Tim rehearsal.  Oh criminy.  That reminds me.  Flight of the Dodo is NOT our next kids’ show.  It’s Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure.  That’s a title we came up with a few years ago when we decided we needed a non-denominational holiday kids show.  And who would think that plan would have worked out?  But Christina took that title written on a cocktail napkin and wrote the play and it is GREAT, cuz she’s a genius.  It’s funny, heartwarming, lots of audience participation.  So we bring it back every couple years over the holidays.   So — Snowflake Tim will open first and then Dodo a week later and then they’ll be in rep.  Yes, in rep.  Back-to-back shows right after each other on our little stage with different sets and different casts and not much time in between…  What the heck.  Who made this schedule?  Does no one proofread the calendar?  What were we thinking? I mean — What a bold new experiment!  And with the team we’ve got over here and the production teams on these shows, I have high hopes we’ll be able to work miracles, as usual.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it works out for us . . .

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director