Unnecessary Farce: Behind the Laughs with St. Charles’ very own Ann Keen


Fox Valley Rep continues their 2015 theater series with Paul Slade Smith’s frantically funny eight-door farce, Unnecessary Farce. The award-winning stage comedy is directed by Ronan Marra with performances taking place at the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage from March 26 – May 24, 2015.

Unnecessary Farce combines all the elements of classic farce with a contemporary American plot. In a motel room, an embezzling mayor is supposed to meet with his female accountant, while in the room next-door, two undercover cops wait to catch the meeting on videotape. But there’s some confusion as to who’s in which room, who’s being videotaped, who’s taken the money, who’s hired a hit man, and why the accountant keeps taking off her clothes. Pants fall down, doors slam, identities get mistaken, and the laughs definitely flow.

Ann Keen of St. Charles plays the mayor’s wife, Mary Meekly, and shares an inside look on this laugh-a-minute comedy.

Ann Keen of St. Charles (Mary Meekly) with Jim Heatherly of Bloomingdale (Mayor Meekly). Trademan Photography

Ann Keen of St. Charles (Mary Meekly) with Jim Heatherly of Bloomingdale (Mayor Meekly). Trademan Photography

How long have you lived in St. Charles, and what inspired you to audition for this Fox Valley Rep production?

I have lived in St. Charles for four years and in the area for almost six years. After having seen multiple productions here, I developed a love for the space. I also know the playwright, Paul Slade Smith, along with some of the original cast members of this show — so I knew it was going to be amazing.

Tell us a little bit about your character, Mary Meekly.

Oh – Mary, Mary, Mary, She is a power lady. She likes being the mayor’s wife. That is where she feels she can get the most work done. She loves dressing and acting the part of the dutiful wife but behind the scenes… she is no Jackie Kennedy. She definitely wears the pants in the relationship, even though they may be pink, pretty pants.

Unnecessary Farce is known being two hours of non-stop laughter. What makes this production so funny?

The silliness and the fast pace. If you had time to think about all the jokes, you would stop and say “that is so ridiculous!” But you can’t – because you’re too busy laughing at the next bit of silliness. If is just great fun and the audience is in on it.

Bringing a comedy to life is sometimes harder than performing a drama. Do you think this is true with Unnecessary Farce?

I think it is different. If is like the difference between a sprint and a cross country run – a comedy is definitely the sprint. It is harder in the sense that if you play for comedy, you are sunk. It has to be truthful and you KNOW it is funny and cannot laugh. And you have to keep it moving. So I do feel like it is a sprint to the end. You cannot think you have to invest, be honest and keep it rolling. But the payoff is terrific.

Why do you think Fox Valley Rep fans should come see this show?

This show is not only written funny, but the chemistry of the cast is terrific. Everyone is well cast and the show has kept people laughing from beginning to end. I can honestly say that I am still laughing back stage at my talented cast mates – and I have heard them say these lines since March. People will just have a really good time and see some really talented actors work their comedic magic.


Unnecessary Farce runs March 26 through May 24, 2015. Show times are: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm, and Sundays @ 2pm. For tickets, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/UnnecessaryFarce or call 630-584-6342.

Headshot - Ann Keen - Brightened VersionAbout Ann Keen: While this is Ann’s first show at Fox Valley Rep, she has been seen in the area such as Steel Beam Theatre’s Rabbit Hole as Izzy. Ann is the founding managing director of Polarity Ensemble Theatre and also does Voiceover work in the Chicago area. Ann moved to St. Charles four years ago with her husband John. They own the Geneva Spice House and have two boys, Alex and Ian.

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Spotlight on Madysen Simanonis of Legally Blonde Jr: What it’s like to play Elle Woods!


Director and Choreographer Jacque Lueken of Fox Valley Repertory and the Youth Ensemble present Legally Blonde Jr. to the Fox Valley Area. Under the musical direction of Jeffrey Poindexter, the FVR Youth Ensemble brings this upbeat musical, based on the popular movie, to the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage December 6-21, 2014 (4051 East Main Street, St. St. Charles).

In Legally Blonde Jr, Harvard’s beloved blonde Elle Woods, played by Madysen Simanonis of Winfield, takes the stage by glittery-pink storm in this fabulously fun musical! When Elle’s high school boyfriend dumps her and heads to Harvard, claiming she’s not “serious” enough, Elle takes matters into her own hands, crafting a showy song-and-dance personal essay and charming her way into law school. As she tackles stereotypes, snobbery, and scandal in pursuit of her dreams, Elle finds that books and looks aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, law may be her natural calling after all as she quickly begins outsmarting her peers.

Mady Simanonis Headshot10202014_edFourteen year old Madysen Simanonis has been doing musical theatre for seven years and has been in over 20 productions, including last season’s Rudolph musical with Broadway in Chicago. She has been in several Fox Valley Repertory productions throughout the year, has been a student of Fox Valley Rep’s Performing Arts Academy, and enjoys volleyball, speech team and drama club at West Chicago Community High School when offstage.

“I see myself in Elle in many ways. Elle is a leader. She believes in herself, is confident in who she is, and LOVES pink! Not only do I also love pink, but I would like to believe that I’m a leader and that I am just as confident as Elle is,” says Simanonis.

Legally Blonde Jr. is based on the popular movie and this musical production offers original upbeat music in the show.

“I think people coming to the show will love the songs. They are so fun, catchy, and uplifting,” adds Simanonis. “Everyone’s going to leave the theater singing. And not only that, there are multiple positive messages conveyed in the show. I think the most prominent one would be to always be yourself. Elle is herself, even when everyone around her is telling her that it is the wrong way to be. She shows them all that being true to yourself is really the only way to be.”

The cast members include: Bartlett: Madeline McCue and Celina Di Ciaula; Batavia: Sophie Chahmirzadi and Anna Laurich; Geneva: Jenna Kaba and Megan McVey; North Aurora: Audrey Webb; South Elgin: Ivanna Kurywczak; St. Charles: Lilliana Andujar; West Chicago: Jessica Vandermey, Madeline Brown, Nicolas Sole, Cooper Chavez; Winfield: Madysen Simanonis, Hagan Maurer and Joey Prette.

“The cast in this show is so amazing!!!,” exclaims Madysen. “I have been in lots of shows with actors of different experience levels, some just starting, and others with tons of experience. Everyone in this cast is so talented and not one person doesn’t play their role well.”

Legally Blonde Jr. will be presented on Saturdays, December 6, 13, and 20 at 10:30am; and Sundays, December 14 and 21 at 7:00pm on the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Pheasant Run Resort Box Office at 630-584-6342 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com. This program is sponsored by Delnor Express Care, Kane County Chronicle, and is partially supported by the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation and Illinois Arts Council.

Legally Blonde Jr. features music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe, and book by Heather Hach. It is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon.

The Fox Valley Repertory Youth Ensemble is an exclusive audition-only program for the best and brightest young talent. Students are responsible for memorizing lines, music and choreography, and learning the craft of theater through the process of preparing for live performances.

For performance information on Legally Blonde Jr. and upcoming youth opportunities, visit www.foxvalleyrepacademy.org. For tickets, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/LegallyBlonde or call the Box Office at 630-584-6342. Pheasant Run Resort is located at 4051 E. Main Street, St. Charles, IL.

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Christmas on Broadway Director reflects on his own holiday memories


The hustle and bustle of Christmas brings so many memories to life each year. While we rush around preparing for the holiday by sending cards to loved ones, shopping for gifts, and hanging off ladders decorating our frozen houses with small lights, it’s also a time to remind us about sharing, kindness and believing. This holiday musical revue is a delightful combination of fun, laughter, sentimentality, and the friendly reminder to believe in the child-like magic of Christmas dreams.


The Children's Chorus performs "Christmas Alphabet."

The Children’s Chorus performs “Christmas Alphabet.”

When you come to Fox Valley Rep to experience “Christmas on Broadway,” I hope you take the journey with us; a group of young performers in New York City whose Broadway theatre tour takes an unexpected twist, forcing them to put on a show! My family’s Christmas traditions have similar roots, as my wonderful Grandmother required the grandchildren to put on a performance every Christmas Day. We prepared, laughed, shared, and complained, but each song, dance, scripture-reading, and ridiculous parody brought us closer together. Years later, my Grandmother’s memory lives on as I cheer on my own children to perform and share their gifts. I imagine she felt a similar joy and pride in the young families that gathered together to celebrate the holiday, and I can’t help but appreciate those memories so much more.

The Cast of "Christmas on Broadway."

The Cast of “Christmas on Broadway.”

We hope this show brings those rich Christmas memories back to you and your loved ones. This talented cast and amazing production staff have worked together to bring you the best of holiday cheer, and as you leave the theatre we hope you have an extra skip in your step as you enjoy the beautiful holiday season.

Merry Christmas,

Kyle Donahue, “Christmas on Broadway” Director

Kyle Donahue (Director/Choreographer) has directed, choreographed and performed around the world on regional theatre, theme park, and cruise ship stages. Favorite directing and choreographing credits include The SecretGarden, 42nd Street, Legally Blonde, Dames atSea, and Annie. He has studied dance in NYC at Alvin Ailey, Broadway DanceCenter, and with Broadway veteran Billy Kersey Kupiak. In the Chicagoland area, Kyle has been seen on stage at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook and New American Theatre, and has danced professionally with the Without Shoes Modern Dance Company. He is an accomplished vocal teacher and coach, teaches dance and serves as the Performing Arts Manager at the Fox Valley Park District. He is thrilled to be directing at Fox Valley Repertory again. Kyle holds a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from Rockford College. www.KyleAndJulie.com

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Aladdin Jr. Cast Helping to Grant Wishes with Make-A-Wish® Illinois!


Director and choreographer Kyle Donahue of Fox Valley Repertory and the Youth Ensemble are proud to bring Disney’s Aladdin Jr. to the Fox Valley Area.  Under the musical direction of Debra Stombres, the FVR Youth Ensemble brings this all-time Disney classic of magic, splendor and true love to life on the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage August 1-10, 2014.


And as part of Fox Valley Rep’s “FVR Give$ Back” program, the cast of Disney’s Aladdin Jr. partnered with Make-A-Wish® Illinois to help grant the wishes of children in Illinois.  A portion of the proceeds from Disney’s Aladdin Jr. ticket sales collected on July 14th went to the foundation for a total of $142.50.


Ashley Nichele, the Development Manager of Community Events at Make-A-Wish® Illinois said, “We were extremely excited about the opportunity to work with Fox Valley Rep.  Through their efforts, we will be able we will be able to provide hope, strength and joy to event more children with life-threatening medical conditions.”


photo8In addition to the money raised, local Make-A-Wish® families were given complementary tickets to see the show on August 2nd. Two special guests, Olivia C. and her friend Claire (pictured to the left), received a special Behind-The-Scenes tour with Fox Valley Rep Managing Director Colleen Tovar and Costume Designer Kimberly G. Morris after the performance. They had a blast trying on costumes and talking about Claire’s ambitions of becoming a Costume Designer.


The cast members include: Batavia: Sophie Chahmirzadi; Elburn: Isabella Caballero and Amanda Eckstrom; Geneva: Diego Cardenas, Cassie Ernst, Jenna Kaba and Katie O’Brien; Hanover Park: Haley Troyan; Lombard: Maura Mueller; Montgomery: Lexii Gravis; St. Charles: Lilliana Andujar, Kristen Bennett, Christine Chlapeka, Emily Johnson, Kira Nutter, Marie Nunn, Mitchell Strickland, Daniella Taylor, Caeli Wu; Sugar Grove: Taylor Moss.


Disney’s Aladdin Jr. is playing on Fridays, August 1 and 8 at 7:00pm; Saturdays, August 2 and 9 at 10:30am; and Sunday, August 10 at 2:00pm on the Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage.  Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Pheasant Run Resort Box Office at 630-584-6342 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.  This program is sponsored by Delnor Express Care, Kane County Chronicle, and is partially supported by the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation and Illinois Arts Council.


The Fox Valley Repertory Youth Ensemble is an exclusive audition-only program for the best and brightest young talent.  Students are responsible for memorizing lines, music and choreography, and learning the craft of theater through the process of preparing for live performances.


For performance information on Disney’s Aladdin Jr. and upcoming youth opportunities, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/education or call 630-364-0550.

Posted in: Aladdin Jr. 2014

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It’s ‘A Whole New World’ for Lilliana Andujar’s Debut as Jasmine


Lilli thoughtful croppedI am extremely thrilled to be playing Jasmine in the Fox Valleys production of Aladdin Jr. This is the very first theatre show I’ve ever done. I have performed in dance before, these performances include 5 recitals, 4 competitions, and one performance at Great America, however I have never actually done theatre.

This is a wonderful experience and I am so blessed to be able to enjoy it with all of the amazing friends I met through the cast. Going into the show, I wasn’t sure how it was all going to go, I wasn’t sure if anybody would like me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to live up to the expectations. Though, going through the step- by- step process in rehearsals has really shown me a lot and I feel as if I have grown in my knowledge of theatre. I have also gained quite a few new friends along the way and I’m so grateful for that. They have really shown me a lot and have helped me if I ever was confused on something or if I simply needed help. Receiving directions from the directors has also helped me gain more knowledge. Seeing as I have never acted before, the directions they have given me and the way they’ve shown me how to act has really given me a solid idea on how to present myself on the stage when speaking dialogue and the way I present my movements.

This has really been a great learning experience for me and I know I am going to continue with theatre. I am most comfortable on stage and when I perform. Through the show I have really grown a true passion for theatre. If my friend hadn’t given me the confidence to audition, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.

Lilli sideways look

I am 14 years old and I will be attending East High School this upcoming year. I know for sure that I will be doing the drama club and any shows they have going on at the school and I’m thrilled to be a part of this wonderful art of theatre.   Aladdin Jr. Blog by Lilliana Andujar.

For more info on Aladdin, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/Aladdin

Photos by Sarah O’Donnell

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