Monday, December 20, 2010

All Jerry Herman, all the time

It seems to be Jerry Herman week! Our own Hello, Dolly! of course, opens on Boxing Day (that's December 26) but you can learn more about this wonderful composer and lyricist in the comfort of your home, with two television specials.

First, on Christmas Day at 5 p.m., see Words and Music by Jerry Herman (link opens with music) on WTTW Channel 11. This new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Amber Edwards takes you backstage through insightful on-camera interviews, behind-the-scenes rehearsal sessions, rare photographs, and never-before-seen archival footage of original Broadway performances.

Next, watch the award ceremony for the Kennedy Center Honors on CBS at 8 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday December 28 (unless of course, you’re watching Hello, Dolly! at Light Opera Works!) when Mr. Herman will be honored along with Merle Haggard, Paul McCartney, Oprah, and Bill T. Jones.

Read about Mr. Herman's road to the musical theater stratosphere in Mike Kotze's terrific article (scroll down to "More about the show") about this composer of Mack and Mabel, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet Reeny

Our fall 2010 intern is Reeny Hofrichter, master of accents, deviser of stories, and savior of the unavoidable busy work of a theatrical office (stored in the file we call “Intern Exploitation”.)

Reeny’s an actor (hence the accents, and trust me, she really can do pretty much any accent you throw at her), but likes just “being in the theater world.” Her ambition is on stage, but while she works towards that she says she “wants to do something artistic with my time. It’s so great to be in Chicago for theater, and there’s so much to do here. I want to learn all the different parts that make a theater work.”

We were all impressed with Reeny’s very comprehensive resume (listen up, job seekers, this woman knows how to write a resume that makes you sit up and read), full of intriguing insights like her ability to do accents, and a stint as a “story deviser,” which involves um,

What does it involve, again?

“It’s an aspect of ‘physical theater’,” says Reeny. “Theater involves language, emotion, and movement. Story devising is coming up with ways to move in a theatrical idiom—coming up with ensemble ideas and then getting the story across through movement.”

Still in the wings as an actor, Reeny regrettably does not know any famous people whom we could stalk, um, that is we mean, whose autograph she could get for us, but “My cousin’s ex-roommate dated Megan from Rock of Love just before she started dating Brett Michaels.” (If that means anything to you, you watch too much reality tv.)

She can also wiggle her ears.

Monday, November 1, 2010

She sings, she writes, what *can't* she do?

Turns out our "Yeomen" star Alicia Berneche is quite a poet as well. Alicia was a winner of the City of Evanston's recent poetry competition. Original poems by five Evanston residents were installed in concrete on the sidewalk ramp in front of the Evanston Public Library in downtown Evanston.

Alicia played leading lady Elsie in last June's The Yeomen of the Guard, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance in 2009, as well as Marian in The Music Man and Phyllis in Iolanthe, both in 2008.

Here's Alicia's poem "The Poetic Foot"

Your feet scan these words
And feel the vibration of meaning
through their soles.
Poetry is motion
And the rhythm of bodies
That pound their stories
Into the earth.

You can see the inscription of her words at the Evanston Public Library at Church and Orrington in downtown Evanston

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sandwich Wednesday

Sandwich Wednesday is a longstanding tradition in the Light Opera Works administrative offices. Its origins (sometime last summer) are lost in the mists of time, but basically it involves food, as do all good traditions.

Fortunately for Sandwich Wednesday, we have a fantastic sandwich shop right across the street (in fact, a couple of them, but this one is also a sponsor, so they get the mention!) Rollin' to Go (on Noyes across the street from the L station) has great sandwiches, as well as personal-sized pizzas, made fresh while you wait, a couple of different soups or chilis every day, and the best potato soup in Chicago, but only from November to March.

If you came to one of this summer's Musical Theater Summer Workshop performances, you probably ate one of the delicious cookies that owner Tim Camastro donated for our weekly "bake sales" that help support the Workshop's scholarship program.

Next time you're dropping in on us at Noyes Center, drop in on Rollin' To Go, too, or have a sandwich at one of our other delicious restaurant sponsors, like Prairie Moon, Lulu's, Trattoria DOC, Whole Foods, Dixie Kitchen, or the Globe Cafe, all in Evanston.

Even if it isn't Wednesday!

And thanks Business Manager Mike Kotze, Box Office Manager Christopher Riley and Production Manager Paige Keedy for joining the Sandwich Wednesday silliness!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: "Carousel" rehearsals

Katie Beeks, Stage Manager and Rose Streit, Production Intern (Assistant Stage Manager).

Jeremy Trager as Jigger (on box) and Cooper David Grodin as Billy rehearse "Blow High, Blow Low" for the upcoming Light Opera Works production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel.

Ensemble members Chris Carter and Bobby Johnson (foreground) with Christian Ketter(ensemble and Enoch Snow, Jr.)

See the show, opening August 14!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The kids are "OK!"

Counselor Dyan Flores is having a great summer teaching at the Musical Theater Summer Workshop. Each week, 40 kids memorize and then perform an entire Broadway Junior musical, choreography and all. Here’s Dyan's take on it:
The Light Opera Works Musical Theater Summer Workshop is a great program for both staff and students. The six staff members get exposed to five different musicals! And the campers learn all about different styles of musicals, some history, and lots of theater techniques, as well as learning to work as an ensemble. The campers who do more than one week learn even more!

Oklahoma! has grown on me. Before, I thought the musical was too light-hearted. Now I've discovered that it has serious themes while still having a pleasant, delightful score. And if Curly were a person in real life, I'd marry him!

The forty kids this week are real pros. They are managing to show off their acting, singing, and dancing skills despite the heat! They have had some challenging songs and dances thrown at them and they are handling it like pros! We're having a great time and it's going to be a wonderful show!
The kids were “OK” Saturday the 10th of July, at our Second Stage, 1420 Maple Street in Evanston (at The McGaw Children’s Center). There's a show every Saturday in July starting at 4 and running about half an hour—absolutely free. Afterwards, enjoy the bake sale provided to us by our friends at Rollin’ to Go and Whole Foods Evanston and drop into Prairie Moon, just one block over, for dinner.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Would You Ask Your Fairy Godmother For?

We asked the kids in our Musical Theater Summer Workshop production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella what their Fairy Godmother should bring them.

Tina: Win 1st Place in a book contest
Shannon: Unlimited super powers
Delaney: A horse and stable
Kaitlin: Power to travel into books & change them
Sophia: A time machine
Kyle: Million dollars, house w/ pool, hot tub, trampoline, and R.V.
Lauren: Infinite fat pigs, wishes, and money
Anja: For the whole world to be peaceful
Liz: Peace, love, happiness, & power of invisibility
Natalia: Million dollars and a mansion
Raina: Everything I’ve ever wanted
Elizabeth: Make summer longer
Mabel: A hug from Jack White
Lillian: Place for all homeless animals & people
Kayla: To see my grandmother again
Mae: More wishes
Olivia: Have a bunch of different personalities
Brooke: Invisibility, be super-fast, and shape-shift
Caroline: To get a dollar every step I take
Mia: To never have a cavity
Lola: A store where people can adopt dogs
Olivia: $1,000,000
Lauren: To time travel and have world peace
Meredith: Flying, invisibility, & super-fast powers
Lanie: Ability to control weather & an iPod Touch
Christina: To live in a mansion w/ a dog, a horse, and a google dollars.
Kate: Nintendo DS-I
Lily: To live w/ my family in Iselburo, Maine
Hannah: My very own pasta factory
Lucy: World peace
Emma: No school
Sarah: $1,000,000 every day & to never die
Katie Jane: Fly & have other super powers
Liana: Get the oil out of the Gulf & save the animals
Isabelle: iPod, laptop, iPad, desktop, & iPhone
Maya: Google dollars & nice homes for all pets
Cameron: A dog

I like the girl who wants "peace, love, happiness and the power of invisibility." (An awful lot of these kids want to be invisible. Just exactly what are they planning?) Which is your favorite?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meet our Summer Workshop counselors

We're gearing up for another summer of the Musical Theater Summer Workshop, our 10th! Program manager Anya Plotkin is back with a great team of counselors. They'll start planning and training next week, and then on with the show on the 21st.

Counselor Will Allan's favorite things to do (besides theater) are play baseball, read, go to the movies, and play with his stellar rock band. He could not be more pumped to be a part of this year's workshop. In addition to his excitement about teaching, Will has an impressive theatrical background. His recent acting credits include A Separate Peace at Steppenwolf Theatre, The History Boys at TimeLine Theatre, The Hundred Dresses at Chicago Children's Theatre, and The Good Soul of Szechuan at Strawdog Theatre. Look for him this summer in Strawdog Theatre's remount of Red Noses. As an actor, he can't think of a more fun and awesome way to spend the summer than teaching kids and performing.

Dyan Flores was born and raised in the Chicago area, then moved out to study theater at New York University. While in New York, Dyan studied musical theater at Musical Theatre Works, the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing Workshop, and NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. She also studied improv and sketch comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and The PIT. Since returning to Chicago, Dyan has acted and performed comedy at various theaters around the city. This summer she will be a contestant in Impress These Apes starting June 7th at ComedySportz.

Briana Bower will be a senior in theater at Northwestern University this fall. During her time at Northwestern, she has performed in several musicals, including A New Brain, The Wizard of Oz, and Side Show and has also enjoyed teaching at Haven Middle School , helping with their most recent fall musical Fiddler on the Roof. She hopes to pursue a career in theater for young audiences after graduation, and is thrilled to be teaching alongside and working with the Light Opera Works team this summer!

There are still spaces for kids ages 8 to 15 for Cinderella (June 21-26), The Pirates of Penzance (July 12-17) and Once Upon a Mattress (July 26-31). Check out the website or call Monday through Friday 10-5 for info, 847-869-6300.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- annual staff retreat

Well, almost wordless. Special thanks to Hilton Garden Inn of Evanston for the generous donation of the conference room, wireless, and a very delicious breakfast!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Do I Do love to meet a Fantastick musical theater legend

The legendary playwright Tom Jones receives our annual award from critic and singer Paul Thompson of Broadway

There are many connections between Light Opera Works and the collaborators who gave the world The Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. The most obvious ones spring from their works’ central place in the American musical theater canon, but there is an interesting personal link as well.

Light Opera Works inaugurated its Second Stage in 1998 with a production of The Fantasticks. "When the company was choosing the first show to present on the Second Stage, we determined that it just had to be The Fantasticks says Light Opera Works' General Manager, Bridget McDonough. "It is a show that everybody loves, was the perfect scale for the small space, and had great music and a great story – Light Opera Works' calling card."

Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller has an even stronger connection, having toured Japan with the authors in a highly successful production of The Fantasticks, with Tom Jones as the Old Actor, and Harvey Schmidt himself at the piano. And in 2006, when Light Opera Works presented 110 in the Shade on the mainstage at Cahn Auditorium, Rudy's friendship with the authors made for a wonderful preproduction collaboration, enabling Light Opera Works to present the show with newly revised musical numbers by the authors.

On March 21, at our annual spring Gala, we were proud to present our Artistic Excellence Award to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. And though Mr. Schmidt's health did not allow him to travel to Chicago, we were privileged to host Mr. Jones and his wife, choreographer Susan Watson.

Using Mr. Jones' appearance and The Fantasticks as a theme, the 2010 Gala was styled “A Fantastick Celebration.” Guests who purchased VIP tickets mingled with Tom Jones at a private Champagne Reception hosted by Robert Douglas Sphatt and James Schneider of Chicago, prior to the main event.

The ever-charming Mike Kotze, Light Opera Works’ business manager, acted as the evening’s master of ceremonies and Paul Giddings led the live auction bidding. Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller introduced the musical program “The Leading Ladies of Light Opera Works” with performers Alicia Berneche, Natalie Ford, and Mary Robin Roth, with Linda Slein on piano. During the musical program the singers performed songs highlighting the upcoming 2010 season and concluded with the entire room joining in a verse of “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks.

We look forward to continued exploration of the Jones and Schmidt canon this fall when Rudy Hogenmiller directs Light Opera Works favorites Larry Adams and Catherine Lord in I Do!, I Do! at the Light Opera Works Second Stage with company music director Roger Bingaman joined by Linda Slein on the duo pianos.

Flowers were provided by Carl Davenport of Davenport Designs and photography by Jennifer Schuman of Horizon Photography. Other sponsors included Binny’s Beverage Depot, Susan Kozak Charitable Fund, On Track Fulfillment, Viking Printing and Marcus Promotions, Inc., and the Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Evanston Chamber Legislative Breakfast

On February 5 Grants Manager Alexandra (Xan) Nelson attended the Evanston Chamber of Commerce Annual Regional Legislative Outlook Breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. The event allows Chamber members and guests to listen to and meet with Evanston's county, state and federal legislative team.

This year in addition to frequent panelists Julie Hamos (IL 18th House, pictured, © 2010 Genie Lemieux-Jordan), Larry Suffredin (Cook County Commissioner), and Jan Schakowsky (IL 9th US House of Representatives), Senator Dick Durbin was in attendance. (Probably thrilled to be here instead of Washington, which was getting about 50 inches of snow that day!) Following a panel discussion on federal health care legislation now about to emerge from the U.S. Congress, attendees got the inside scoop on what to expect this year in Springfield and Washington, D.C. and a wrap up of the results of the Illinois primary election.

Mr. Durbin also related his rather chilling first-person account of the initial meeting, in 2008, between congressional leadership and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, regarding the impending financial crisis. These sorts of intimate glimpses into the workings of the government make the legislative breakfast one of the most popular on the Chamber's calendar. (The food's pretty good, too.)

Xan (pictured, far right) attended breakout sessions with Larry Suffredin and Julie Hamos. The session with Mr. Suffredin was also attended by Evanston fourth ward alderman Mark Tendam, with discussions on the difficulties the budget crisis has forced on Evanston residents and not-for-profit organizations. In the session with Representative Hamos, Xan was able to engage Ms. Hamos in a discussion about how the State can help local not-for-profits given the current state of the budget. Light Opera Works volunteer Dana Pearl (center) facilitated the Hamos session.

© 2010 Genie Lemieux-Jordan

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meet Lauren

Next time you call the box office at Light Opera Works you might hear a new voice. This one belongs to Lauren Robertson, our winter 2010 intern. Light Opera Works hires as many as 8 interns each year, in the office and in production. Like many of them Lauren is an actress who is also interested in the administrative side of theater.

A senior at DePaul (public relations/advertising major, theatre studies minor) , Lauren is also finishing up the conservatory program at Second City, and is currently performing there Monday nights at 8pm in the ETC Theatre.

She’s also worked as an administrative intern at the Goodman Theatre, and in a casting office, where she learned a lot about the business side of acting. Lauren says, “It was disillusioning at first, because I thought it was all about looks, and not about talent. But after a while I really learned that to be a successful actor, especially a commercial actor, you can’t take this to heart. There are a lot of talented people out there, and you have to have luck, connections, and the right look. And that’s okay.”

One piece of luck came after taking a commercial acting class. One of the clinicians for the course was casting agency owner Shirley Hamilton (that's Lauren in the link, top row), who asked Lauren if she could represent her. Through the agency, Lauren has worked in commercials, a “scary film that I won’t tell you the name of,” and in the film Public Enemies, where apparently it was difficult to take one’s eyes off star Johnny Depp, who is just as good looking in person as on the screen.

Five years from now, Lauren just wants to be working in theater. “I like being an actor, but I also love working behind the scenes. I want to be in a big city, and so far Chicago has been great.”

We’ll see how she feels after her first trip to New York, coming up in a couple of weeks. But until we lose her to the bright lights of the big city, say hi if you happen to catch her on the phone.

If you or someone you know is interested in an internship at Light Opera Works, visit our website.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Theater Trek-The Next Generation

Light Opera Works was proud to play host to a group of high school students at our recent preview performance of The Pirates of Penzance. Music teacher Jim Yarborough brought the cast of Naperville North’s production of the show (to be presented February 23-28). As Jim told us,

"It’s important to me to have the opportunity for students to be exposed to quality music and quality performances, and to work alongside professional performing artists. We've toured to both coasts and abroad, rather extensively for a public school music program, and we’ve been able to work in great venues and with great composers and conductors."

Here are some of the comments from the students about Light Opera Works’ The Pirates of Penzance:

Seeing the show a second time helped me see all of the hard work these actors and crew members and musicians have put into this. It was hilarious! I appreciated the music and the stage placement even more than before. However, even though other students may not have the chance to see the final performance, it always helps to see an example of what to aspire to. How music is played or how a character is portrayed (I seriously did not mean to make that rhyme!), it makes a great difference to have a visual of where to start. I thought it was nothing but beneficial for us to see such a talented group of people show us how it's done! I hope that the Light Opera Works will continue to do this for future high school thespians.
-Katie, cellist (who also came back and watched an actual performance)
(Katie also wondered why the orchestra members left precipitously right after the performance instead of hanging around to answer questions. We had to douse this enthusiastic young musician with a dose of cold water—the musicians are paid up to the last note; if we keep them around we have to pay them overtime! Sorry Katie, hope this doesn’t disillision you too much!)
I really enjoyed this performance of Pirates of Penzance. Seeing it performed really started my learning in the right direction. It helped me find exactly what I need to do with my character. Thank you so much for inviting us, and I hope we can come see another magnificent performance sometime soon.
-Peter, “Pirate King”

Thank you all so very much for allowing us to witness something so spectacular. I studied everything very carefully, and the show really put into perspective what I need to do to prepare for our production. The cast was phenomenal, everyone really clicked with their character, the voices were amazing, and I could definitely tell that everyone worked hard on their roles. All in all, the show is a complete success and really enjoyable!-
-Devontae, “Frederic”

It was a really great experience to see the final rehearsal of Pirates. It gave me a much better idea of what exactly we should be doing when we put on our production and it gave me a good feel of what the show should be like. I was able to watch my character and take note of what the actress from Light Opera Works did that I liked and didn't like. Seeing the rehearsal was extremely helpful for me in fully understanding where to go now, how to develop my character, and how to work with the rest of the people and things on stage.
-Rabeya, “Isabel”

Thank you, Light Opera Works, for letting the NNHS cast to come view your final dress rehearsal of Pirates of Penzance. Not only was the production extremely well done and entertaining, but it helped me start to develop different ideas of how to portray my specific character (Edith). I think what makes this show a success is the comedic timing and emphasis at the correct moments, especially when it comes to the supporting roles, such as Edith and other chorus members. Through seeing your show, I see where all the characters fit in within the spectrum of eacb scene, and the various directions a character can be taken!
-Melanie, “Edith”

If you have a high school group who would like to see an upcoming show, contact box office manager Christopher Riley during box office hours, (weekdays 10-5), 847-869-6300.