Why Theatre Matters To Us: Chad Wise

Ghostlight is sharing our personal stories of why theatre is so important to us and, in turn, to others. We hope you'll feel inspired to support the arts now and forever more.

Chad Wise, Managing Director, Ensemble Member

Chad Wise (center) as Chet in Ghostlight's 2016 production of "Krampus!"

Chad Wise (center) as Chet in Ghostlight's 2016 production of "Krampus!"

"After being big fish in a little pond in high school, I got to college and didn't know what to do. My parents insisted I have a 'fall back on' degree so I chose to be an education major, with theatre as a focus. But because of the education requirements, I couldn't go deep into the theatre classes I really wanted to take. So while I performed a lot, I didn't really have much of a path or the opportunity to discover a path. Then came In The Flesh.

"For Christmas my sophomore year I was gifted my choice of tickets to a show playing in Chicago. Being a Central Illinois boy and not knowing what I was doing, I poked through the newspaper (this was 1992 after all). There was the traditional fare, musicals, Shepard, etc. But nothing reached out and grabbed me. Until I saw Clive Barker's name. I had discovered the movie Night Breed the previous year and was enamored. So I chose a production of In The Flesh at the Organic Theater (back when they were on Clark Street).

"Up until this show I admittedly hadn't seen or experienced much theatre. The usual high school stuff (Grease, Little Shop of Horrors) mixed in with some edgier stuff by a great drama teacher (The Diviners, Breaking the Code) and then a year and a half worth of college theatre. But nothing had really jumped out at me yet. This show did. Set in a prison with a supernatural undercurrent, the palpable fear and anxiety I felt in the small studio theater was a far cry from singing along to Greased Lightning. And it affected me deeply. More than anything, it showed me that theatre had the capacity to trigger strong emotions in people beyond the usual joy and sadness and empathy. That a small space could be a help rather than a hindrance. And that the only way to truly do a genre justice is to embrace it completely.

"That show informed most of my choices from then on. It led me into directing and producing. When it came time to start a theatre company it inspired our mission. And to this day, giving people a new and different experience in the dark is the guiding force behind what I do. An app on your phone will never truly affect you like an actor staring straight at you from a few feet away. This is why I do theatre. Life is about experiencing new experiences. Theatre lets me do that for a room full of people every time the lights dim."