theatre

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Maria Burnham

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.

Maria Burnham, Marketing Director, Ensemble Member

Maria Burnham, back row left, in Ghostlight's You've Got READ on You: A  Shaun of The Dead  Live Reading.

Maria Burnham, back row left, in Ghostlight's You've Got READ on You: A Shaun of The Dead Live Reading.

"'So THAT's where you get it from.'

"It was a warm summer night. We were at a restaurant on the beach with my aunt's family and some friends. My mom and her sister were reminiscing about a film my mom had been in that had been playing on TV all week and...'Wait. Dad, did Thea Anna just say mom was in a film?'

"'No,' answered my dad. 'Your mother was a folk dancer that traveled the world, but I don't think she ever acted.'

"But it turned out that, in fact, my mother had been a film actress in her native Greece and in neighboring Italy — an occurrence that began as an extension of her dancing. When we finally heard the whole story that night, my dad looked at me recognition dawning on him and said, ''So THAT's where you get it from.'

"Theatre and acting had been a part of my life in some way since elementary school, becoming more so once I went to a performing arts magnet school in high school and then studied theatre (and English AND journalism) in college. My attraction to the arts was always a sense of bafflement to my working-class family that excelled in technical skills and mathematics, but had never seen a play until I came along. And now, here was the answer. I had inherited this thing with the arts.

"The revelation that acting was a hereditary trait, that there was this entire history of myself that I didn't know was unsettling. What else didn't I know about the past that made me? But it was also comforting. Theatre connects me to my family history in a way that old photos do not. That I could literally be the same person that my mother had been by taking on a role, that we both understood what it meant to create new people and new worlds, that acting had led my mother to be in Athens when my father was in Athens resulting in my actual existence? Well, now, that's something that, say, engineering could never give me."

http://www.ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Holly Robison

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.

Holly Robison, Co-Artistic Director, Ensemble Member

Holly Robison, second from left, at a production meeting for Ghostlight's 2016 festival of new works, "Six Authors in Search of a Character."

Holly Robison, second from left, at a production meeting for Ghostlight's 2016 festival of new works, "Six Authors in Search of a Character."

"When I was in the second grade, I played a bunny who choked on a cookie.  I remember that I prepared. We didn't have to memorize our lines, but I was the only kid who did. While it seemed all that was expected was to step forward and read our lines, I thought about how to create the moment, how to choke on the cookie — how to bite the cookie like a rabbit would, the timing of the bite, when to say my line, when to start coughing, etc. I was a painfully shy kid and usually went out of my way to avoid attention  — to avoid talking to people at all, really  — but, man, was I into creating that character. All that scary stuff went away because I had to be a bunny, and I had a cookie to choke on, darn it. I loved it. (OK, full disclosure: repeated teacher-sanctioned cookie consumption may have contributed to my 8-year old joy. But really, that is still part of the joy — those silly, fun, crazy things you get to do and learn as actor. ) 

"Even though it was many, many years before I fully realized and embraced that part of myself, I know now that this was probably the first sign that I was a 'theatre person' at my core. It's my first memory of a love for performance, for crating a character, for telling a story."

http://www.ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Jaclyn Jensen & Mike Wozniak

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.

Jaclyn Jensen, Audience Development Coordinator, Ensemble Member
Mike Wozniak,
Visual Design Specialist, Ensemble Member  

Jaclyn Jensen and Mike Wozniak at the Ghostlight Launch Party in 2016.

Jaclyn Jensen and Mike Wozniak at the Ghostlight Launch Party in 2016.

"Our first date started with Mike in the audience for one of Jackie's shows. Sure, sure, there was dinner and drinks and a romantic rooftop patio, too. But it started in a theatre. That 'theatre' may have been the upstairs of a punk rock bar, but for that show, it was the perfect theatre.

"Our relationship continued with Mike seeing Jackie's shows and being her biggest fan. But seeing shows together became something that really brought us closer together. Being able to connect after sharing these experiences, seeing how shows affect each other, seeing where our perspectives align or not... we learn more about each other.

"A few years ago we took a leap and actually wrote a play together  — neither of us are playwrights. But we created something together and it was a highlight in our relationship. And we are looking forward to future projects!

"Whether on stage, back stage, or in the audience, theatre gives you an opportunity to really connect."

http://ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Miona Lee

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.

Miona Lee, Literary Manager, Ensemble Member

Miona Lee, center, in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Six Characters in Search of an Author."

Miona Lee, center, in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Six Characters in Search of an Author."

"I’ve always struggled with allowing people to know the real me. Call it social anxiety, call it trust issues stemming from childhood, whatever. That fact is, I’m not comfortable around people and don’t share much of myself with others.

"I could tell you a cute story of how when I was in fifth grade I played a Marilyn Monroe version of Mrs. Claus complete with feather boa and caught the theater bug. But really, I found performing was the perfect escape from myself. I found slipping into someone else’s skin liberating. I didn’t have to bare my soul to others.

"Through the years I’ve played my fair share of Queens, fairies, villains, misguided actresses, sisters, wives, girlfriends and the occasional warrior. Each time, I burrowed into these characters to find out what it is they might be hiding from others. Sharing these flawed characters to an audience has allowed me to open up more in my own life. It’s OK that I’m flawed, there are people out there that will accept me no matter what.

"For me, theater is much more than telling important stories that remind us we’re all connected. It’s my way of slowly learning to accept myself and trust that others will do the same. "

http://ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Michael Wagman

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.

Michael Wagman, Co-Artistic Director, Ensemble Member

Michael Wagman, center, in Ghostlight's 2016 production of "Krampus!"

Michael Wagman, center, in Ghostlight's 2016 production of "Krampus!"

"All throughout my childhood I was the shy kid in the corner. I just assumed most people didn’t care what I thought or how I felt. In the broad scheme of grade school life I simply didn’t matter. My greatest joys came when I was by myself. Reading a book, watching a movie or working on a project. The greatest validation I found was from the joy I got doing these often lonely activities. Getting into my early and mid-teens I began a string of artistic endeavors. First it was tap dancing, then poetry, then short story writing, songwriting and oil painting (my parents’ favorite). All the while from seventh to ninth grade I also played on the golf team, but the validation I got from these activities never gave me a sense of community. I still didn’t fit in. I enjoyed the activities but rarely did I feel a close bond with the people.

"Then in eighth grade, on a total whim, I auditioned for and got cast in my school’s middle school/high school production of Pippin. After that I acted in the middle school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I had a great time doing both and according to parents, teachers and students alike I seemed to be pretty good at it.

"In ninth grade my golf game hit a slump and I was demoted to caddy duty until my game picked back up. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of all my teammates, I loved playing the game and was frustrated beyond measure that outlet was being taken away from me. Then one day at morning assembly Mrs. Haulmark, the theatre director, announced that someone had dropped out of the production of Dracula and they needed a replacement. She said if anyone was interested they should speak to her.

"The stars seemed to have aligned. I’d had fun doing theatre the previous year and I’d liked Mrs. Haulmark and all the actors and techies. As an eighth-grader in Pippin I’d gotten to work with freshman and seniors alike, and our ages had never seemed to matter. We were all treated with respect as long as we did our part to make the production the best we could. And most importantly I had fun.  Instead of doing my art behind closed doors there was something freeing and intimate about sharing my interpretation of a character in front of people onstage. 

"All my life I’d been hiding from people, assuming what I thought and felt didn’t matter. In theatre I could be onstage and what I thought and felt could be the only thing that mattered. If I did it well, what I thought and felt could keep an audience at the edge of their seats. I could feel important."

https://www.ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Keith Gatchel

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.

Keith Gatchel, Technical Director, Ensemble Member

Keith Gatchel working the booth for Ghostlight's 2017 production of Gingerbread Grindhouse.

Keith Gatchel working the booth for Ghostlight's 2017 production of Gingerbread Grindhouse.

"'What is it that you do?' my childhood friend asked me a few months into Freshman year of high school. My dad had moved my brother and me to a new, separate school, and this was one of the few chances we had to hang out anymore.

"Everyone had asked me that since the year started, to see what I was going to do to make friends. I had not put much thought into this. I wasn't an introverted child, but I liked my alone time.

"People suggested theatre to me, because I've always had an active imagination. But, it always seemed like it was (I thought) too girly and that I would (I thought) get made fun of.

"But on TV I always liked shots of the control booth, and they were always punching buttons. So, one day, I showed up to my high school scene shop after school, around 3:20 p.m. A little after 4 p.m., I left. The next day, the same. After a few more times, I stopped showing up – all that set- building was hard work.

"The fall play came and went. My dad and I saw it and walked out at intermission. High school theatre, on average, tends not to impress. But, still, they all seemed to be having a lot of fun. Where else do you get to dress up, be silly, and fulfill an elective. But, it seemed too late to go back. They'd remember me quitting. Everyone had already made their friends and wouldn't take any more (I thought).

"Christmas break came and went.

"I don't remember why I was in the cafeteria several hours after school, but one of the guys from the scene shop and I started making small talk. He suggested that I come help with the show, moving sets. It was all I needed to get back in.

"I spent that weekend, then weekday evenings, in tech rehearsal and then the following weekend working the show. I felt accepted there, even though I didn't know anyone.

"That weekend ended last, but I wanted more.

"The next day I showed up back to the scene shop, and, as I'm sure you can predict: I skipped out after an hour. The next day, the same. By the next day, the scene shop teacher finally called me out: 'Keith, if you're going to do something, do it.'

"I thought to myself at that moment, 'What if this is the thing I don't quit? What if I just kept doing this until I can't anymore?'

"That moment will be 20 years ago in January. I haven't quit yet.

"I've asked myself often since if the only reason I've stayed in theatre is because of my dumb, stubborn, self. That's partially true. But, theatre distracts you while you socialize. It gives you a project two of you can work together on while you get to know each other. You forget your weird awkward self and relax, with a community that's made for putting yourself out there. You build friendships while you build a show.

"Three and half years later, I was off to college, ready to start on my BFA in technical theatre. I didn't worry about making friends at that point. I just waited for classes to start."

http://ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why Theatre Matters To Us: Jean E. Burr

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.

Jean E. Burr, Casting Coordinator, Ensemble Member

Jean E. Burr (right) as Clara the rag doll in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Nutcracker Nightmare."

Jean E. Burr (right) as Clara the rag doll in Ghostlight's 2017 production of "Nutcracker Nightmare."

"When I was 2 years old, I wanted to be a lion. I would roar at the lions when we went to the zoo (I’m sure they loved that), I would read and re-read my Zoobooks issue all about African cats, I’d play with my lion figurines, developing stories that I can only compare to Young & the Restless: Simba Edition.

"I did all of this, not only because I was a weird kid, but because I watched Disney’s The Lion King. I saw it in theatres… nine times. I listened to the soundtrack constantly and knew that my calling in life was to become a true, African wild cat.

"As I grew up, I realized my dream could never be a reality. I could never turn into a lion a la Animorphs and sing Elton John songs as I slept on a giant kopje with my lion friends.

"Or so I thought.

"When I entered pre-school, I was well over my desire to actually become a lion, but I quickly fell into pretend games with other children. We played Sailor Moon (I was always Sailor Jupiter, thankyouverymuch), Aladdin (I settled for the role of Rajah- not quite a lion, but close enough), Thumbelina (titular role, duh), or our own adventure games on the playground. My imagination ran wild.

"Our pre-school put on the show Peter Pan. I remember being pulled aside after school and offered the role of Wendy. Being the brat that I am, I accepted but told my mom I really wanted to play Tinkerbell. She talked some sense into me and I grew more and more excited. We probably only rehearsed a few days, but it felt like a month-long rehearsal process with clear actions, beats, scene-work, relationships, drama, complete with a show-crush on our Peter Pan.

"The performance was, in my memory, the most magical thing in the world. I felt so happy to be performing in front of my family and peers, and so proud when all of my scenes were well-received. I remember 'walking the plank' before Peter saved me, and thinking to myself, 'I LOVE this.' Afterwards, I received praise and hugs, and I felt like a giant, glowing ball of happiness in a blue nightgown costume. From lions to playground to Peter Pan, I found what I wanted to do. My brother had his sports, and I had theatre. And it would be a giant part of my life from that moment and for the next 22+ years.

"Theatre gave me purpose. It gave me empathy. It helped me form bonds and friendships from pre-school to adulthood. It helped me find my way to my home, Chicago. It gave me hope when I was lost in my late teens and early twenties. It helped me find a partner. It helped me find my place. Without theatre, I would be lost. With it, I can be anything, even a lion."

https://www.ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

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."

http://ghostlightensemble.com/get-funding-fundraiser

Why theatre matters to us

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Hello friends of Ghostlight,

As we approach the end of 2017 and the end of our fundraising drive, we wanted to share with you our personal stories of why theatre is so important to us and in turn to others. We know this is the time of year you are bombarded with requests from very worthy organizations and some of them are literally making life or death differences in people's lives.

Supporting the arts is more nebulous, we know. You look at Ghostlight and you think, "They put on theatre. That's nice." And we do that, yes. But theatre can sometimes ALSO make a life or death difference in a person's life. It empowers young people, gives them purpose, gives them friends, makes them realize there are others like them and they are not alone.

It has done that for all of us here at Ghostlight and for countless other theatre kids around this world. It may be doing it right now for someone you know and love, someone you don't realize is struggling to understand why they are here on this planet at this time and place.

That is why you should support the arts and why we hope you will support Ghostlight, as we make a place for future generations of artist to tell the stories that matter to them and to help them find their purpose, their home.

— The Ensemble

Meet the director of our Season 1 Holiday show

Reading is nice, but sometimes it's better to hear things directly from the directors mouth.

So we've put together a little teaser of Nutcracker Nightmare — part of Gingerbread Grindhouse that goes up this December at the Greenhouse Theater Center — and what your support means to this show.

October is off to a strong start

Scott Ray Merchant as Shaun in  You've Got READ on You: A  Shaun of The Dead  Live Reading , held Oct. 17, 2017, at Celtic Crown.

Scott Ray Merchant as Shaun in You've Got READ on You: A Shaun of The Dead Live Reading, held Oct. 17, 2017, at Celtic Crown.

We're less than a month into our fundraiser and we've already hit 10 percent of our goal thanks to you!

October also saw a successful Potbelly Fundraiser and a fun and financially beneficial night in our Live Reading series — thanks to everyone who also came out to eat and drink with us at those events! And October isn't done yet!

This early funding is important to us as we are putting together the production team now for our spring show, An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, and rehearsals are about to begin for our holiday show, Gingerbread Grindhouse. The early funding will help us to pay our production teams and cover the cost of rehearsal spaces and set/costume/props materials.

Thank you so much for your continuing support of Ghostlight. If you've already donated, are thinking about donating or just enjoy reading this blog for fun, you can continue supporting us by spreading word of who we are, what we do and of this fundraiser. Word of mouth works better than any other kind of marketing. YOU are our secret weapon.

Snuggle up with some cookies, cocoa and killer dolls this holiday season

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Over here at Ghostlight Central, we're gearing up for Gingerbread Grindhouse with auditions scheduled for next week, a production team already on board and a line of Nutcrackers out the door. If you like a little horror with your holidays, this is the show for you.

In a nod to the lurid, violent films popular in the 1930s through 1970s, Gingerbread Grindhouse will feature a series of live “trailers” for grindhouse-style plays yet to be, before continuing on to the feature production, Nutcracker Nightmare – a holiday tale of children, the toys they love and the toys that try to kill everyone they love.

By donating to the G.E.T. Funding online fundraiser you have the opportunity to GET involved (see our last update and also the $100 donation level), or maybe you just want to know more about the production itself while chatting with the director, playwrights and actors. For just $25 you can get a pair of tickets to the show, join cast members and the director for cookies and cocoa beforehand and find out about the holiday magic that brings murderous dolls to life. 

Learn more about Gingerbreak Grindhouse on the production show page.