Whether you have been going to the theater to see comedies, dramas and musicals for years or theater-going is a brand new adventure, you have probably realized the wonderful shared experience created with your fellow audience members. Much like gathering together for a sporting event or seeing a movie, the theater allows us to laugh or cry, cheer or scorn as a new story unfolds.
What theater offers that is different than other entertainment is the live story. Tonight this performance with all its human flaws will only be seen once because from performance to performance there are slight variations, but the biggest reason is you – the audience – changes from night to night.
What you and your fellow audience members bring into theater with you (did you have a good or bad day? are you in the mood to laugh? are you going through a tough time right now?) collectively shapes your response to the story onstage. There is nothing like the anticipation of sitting in the audience before the lights dim. The excitement and hushed voices around you as you wait for the show to begin. It can be electric. And with the right show, the night can truly be an amazing shared moment.
At Fox Valley Rep we plan a subscription season of five shows that were each chosen especially for the Fox Valley. These plays and musicals will each take you on a wonderful journey from a modern day murder mystery (The Art of Murder) to the 1950s for a final concert by teen idols (Forever Plaid) then to a 1960s bachelorette musical (Why Do Fools Fall in Love?) and onto an evening at a Manhattan Penthouse in the 1930s that celebrates the great music of Cole Porter (Let’s Misbehave), and finally to a heart-warming family holiday show (Making God Laugh).
Five nights to share with family, friends and new acquaintances as you look across the aisle and see young and old all smiling and ready to participate together in the joy of theater. We hope you consider subscribing to this exciting season now.
-John Gawlik, FVR Artistic Director
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Madeline Hotham.
Madeline Hotham is an 8 year old 2nd grader from Batavia. She showed an interest in performance at a very young age, often acting out scenes from her favorite fairy tales. “She took ‘pretend play’ to another level”, explains Mom.
Madeline’s Mom also recalls how Madeline’s interest in musical theater was sparked. “Madeline’s older brother was involved in a school musical so she would sit in on rehearsals while I helped out. She absorbed everything that was going on during rehearsal like a sponge. She came home from rehearsals knowing many of the songs and the lines from the show! It was then that I knew that I needed to find something for a child her age.” Madeline’s family found Fox Valley Repertory.
Madeline started her journey at FVR two and a half years ago, taking her first class, The Sound of Music Tots Performance class at the age of 5. Her Pre-K teacher at the time shared that Madeline had taken it upon herself to teach the class songs from her theater class, such as DO-RE-MI, during break times!
Madeline went on to take two more musical theater performance classes; The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz, gaining more confidence with each class. One year after her first class, she auditioned for the Kids’ Advanced Musical Annie Jr. and was cast as Molly, the littlest orphan, one of her favorite roles to-date. Later that year she was cast as Gladys in the Youth Play, Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Madeline then had the unique opportunity to reprise her role as Molly in the FVR Youth Ensemble Production of Annie Jr. Although the role was the same, the Youth Ensemble Production provided new challenges for Madeline. The youngest cast member, Madeline had to learn difficult choreography while working with older, more experienced students. Despite the challenge of the role, Madeline loved the experience and was sad to see it end, even asking her Mom if there was any possibility that she could do just one more performance with the same cast! After Annie, Madeline went on to play Chip in the Kids’ Advanced Musical Beauty and the Beast Jr.
This summer Madeline was cast in the Kids’ Advanced Musical The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy, her dream role! She is so grateful for the opportunities and experiences that FVR has given her and can’t wait to get back on the FVR stage! In a recent school writing piece describing her, Madeline exclaimed “I live on stage!” According to Nicholas Davis, Madeline’s elementary music teacher, “Madeline was born to be on stage. Her ability and talents far exceed her young age. In my 10 years of teaching I have not encountered someone so young with her singing talent. I won’t be surprised to see her on Broadway some day.”
Madeline is especially thankful to have Tracy Whiteside as a teacher and mentor. In addition to her training at FVR, Madeline works with Dawn Harkins, a private vocal instructor and acting coach, who remarked, “Madeline is a joy to work with! She is intuitive beyond her years and boldly acts on her instincts. Madeline is bright and very quick to learn anything that comes her way. She is a firecracker – the spark that lights up the stage!”.
Madeline’s first grade teacher, Marsha Stierwalt, adds, “Madeline is a beautiful girl both inside and out! She is a pleasure to work with because she puts her heart into all that she does.”
Besides singing and acting, Madeline also studies piano and Jazz dance. Madeline hopes to have a career in the Performing Arts when she grows up and it looks like she has gotten a good head-start on fulfilling that dream!
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Kaitlyn Crowell!
Kaitlyn is 8 ½ years old, in 3rd grade at St. Peter Elementary School in Geneva, and a natural entertainer. Her teacher at St. Peter’s, Mrs. Barbara Drury, commented, “Kaitlyn is a dynamic young lady. She brings joy and life into any room!” She has a big, strong voice and adores making people laugh. The stage encouraged her to use these skills—a perfect fit!
Her first role was in an FVR showcase in fall of 2010, where she débuted as Ursula the evil sea witch from The Little Mermaid. The chance to use her big voice thrilled her, and she savored playing such a satisfyingly horrible villain. She eagerly participated in two more showcases, Wicked and The Wizard of Oz.
Kaitlyn quickly flourished. Her FVR academy instructor, Tracy Whiteside, noted, “Kaitlyn is always full of energy and smiles. I love that she embraces character roles, and is absolutely fearless on stage—a rare quality at her age. Kaitlyn has grown so much as an actor over the years with us. She works hard and the results show. I am looking forward to working with her again and again, and seeing where her talent takes her!”
Last summer, she auditioned for her first advanced production, Annie. She played the roles of the Usherette, an Orphan and New Yorker, and Bundles McCloskey the Laundry Man (her favorite, because she got to wear a moustache). After Annie, Kaitlyn encouraged her older sister, Anna, to join, too, and they both auditioned for Alice in Wonderland. They loved rehearsing and performing together, and they can’t wait to share the stage again. Meanwhile, Kaitlyn moved on to Seussical Jr., playing a Bird Girl (pictured above).
Recently, the FVR production of Beauty and the Beast cast her in her favorite role to date: the big, loud villain, Gaston. She fills the boisterous part with gusto, even donning chest hair and learning to fake a punch. Kaitlyn balances the manly-man role with a quick change into a girly-girl Napkin dancer for the big number, “Be Our Guest.” She hopes that this prominent, involved role will prepare her for future shows and even greater opportunities.
Kaitlyn’s experience with FVR has encouraged her growth as a performer. With her newfound skills and confidence, she enthusiastically pursues singing. Her vocal instructor, Kyle Donahue, remarked, “Kaitlyn is a great voice student! She comes to lessons ready to work with a positive attitude. She has a powerful voice and continues to use proper vocal techniques and musical knowledge to grow as a singer. Her bright personality and excitement for the performing arts are very promising in such a young student!”
Alongside swimming and horseback riding, Kaitlyn hopes to take dance lessons to become an even better performer. She plans to audition for the FVR academy summer production of The Wizard of Oz in June.
Fox Valley Rep recently welcomed to their team Cassius Wright as their new production manager. After a wild and successful history of operating over 1200 live performances, festivals, and events, Cassius eagerly looks forward to working alongside his new cohorts here in St. Charles. As a get-to-know-you for the start of his job with FVR, he answered a few questions about theater and the company.
Q. Welcome, Cassius! Certainly this isn’t your first experience in theater, so tell us, how long have you worked in theatre?
A. You’re in luck! I’ve been working in production for well over a decade and have held every technical position to be found backstage–from all aspects of design, to mopping the deck, and everything in between. I truly enjoy learning on a daily basis, and there is no better environment than live performance to be presented with new and interesting technologies, problems to find creative solutions to, and opportunities to be artistic and impact an audience on an emotional level. I find it to be the most rewarding pursuit available to me, and I honestly feel lucky that I look forward to work every day.
Q. Naturally, we know that Fox Valley Rep is a fantastic company full of talented people (right?), but what drew you to Fox Valley Rep?
A. Fox Valley Rep has a growing reputation as a go-to company for high-caliber productions, so for me, artistic integrity was a major factor. Of course, joining a company during a period of sensational growth and development is fantastic as well, because it allows me to put my efforts towards a common goal with the rest of the management team. Such an opportunity rarely presents itself during such a period of growth, and I knew when the job became available I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t apply! I’ve been rewarded by a real feeling of support from both my equals and the team I supervise, but most importantly, I feel total support from my superiors. This isn’t a company that sits around and wastes time, or has any sort of problem articulating exactly where your piece of the puzzle fits into the total picture, and for that, I’m endlessly grateful. This can be an incredibly detailed and difficult job, but it’s absolutely worth it because everybody with FVR has made me feel like an immediate member of our crazy little family. Special thanks to John and Colleen for maintaining the work environment that they do–it fosters working your hardest, and it fosters being your best.
Q. We often get asked by our patrons, “So, what does a production manager do?” So tell us, Cassius, what is the production manager’s role in preparing a show?
A. What doesn’t a Production Manager do? I organize and arrange design meetings, and serve to keep the lines of communication open between the various artists’ whose visions you see enacted on stage, and the individuals actually building the sets, hanging the lights, and sewing the costumes. I interface with both talent and patrons at the theater itself to make sure that all is going smoothly, and everybody fits into the production in the most efficient and comfortable way possible. I find and hire amazingly talented stage managers, props masters, and technical staff to keep the season running at its usual vigorous pace. I also keep an eye on all budgets for all shows to ensure that Fox Valley Rep can continue providing the same artistic and meaningful productions that keep our season subscribers growing, and coming back for more. Oh, and payroll. Everybody needs to get paid, too!
Q. Which upcoming production are you most looking forward to working on?
A. The Woman In Black is one of my favorite stories of all-time. Haunting, surreal, terrifying, and unsettling, and also one of the very first shows I designed with any level of real success while I was training to become a lighting designer in school. Nostalgia plays a small role in that choice, I suppose. That being said, I think Sirens is such an interesting script and has such an engaging storyline, and knowing what I know about the various design elements, I can’t help but be excited about the final product. I think it will really “wow” our audiences on all levels, which is, of course, why I’m here!
Q. The performing arts can be some powerful stuff. How has the arts impacted your life?
A. Powerful doesn’t even begin to touch it for me. I met my wife, the love of my life, doing theater. I met her doing a production of the musical Pippin, and when the show closed, I moved literally across the entire United States to be with her, 10 days later. No joke. I met all of my closest friends (or is that accomplices?) in theaters. Every single job I’ve ever had that I loved was in a theater or a concert hall. I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe Performing Arts. Watching an elderly gentleman put his arm around his wife during the previews of Some Enchanted Evening, remembering how they fell in love, really brought all that back for me, and made me reconnect with a moment in my life I cherish. Performing Arts has given me so much in my life, so I can’t help but endeavor to bring what I’ve found through it to others. That’s what makes Fox Valley Rep so special–they really make you remember the best parts of your life.
Q. Aside from theater, do you have any other hidden talents, super powers, or crazy hobbies we should know about?
A. I was originally a musician, specializing in saxophone and vocal performance. I play about 12 instruments, mostly woodwinds. Of late, I’ve been focusing on playing the blues on electric guitar. I’m synesthetic, which means that certain sounds and musical pitches correspond to colors for me. Strange as that may sound, for a lighting designer it’s an amazing blessing, although I’ve been known to disagree with a director over the color of a musical number simply because they want it a different color than I see it!
For a hobby, I enjoy meeting people and learning about them, in person, online, or otherwise. I believe Colleen refers to me as “chatty.” Spending a few minutes in the lobby during intermission and learning about our patrons is always nice. I try to find a new person I’ve never met before every day so I can discover what makes them special. I look forward to meeting more of the Fox Valley community that has been so supportive of the Performing Arts. I bet we’ll have a lot in common!
FVR Fans, we need YOUR help!
Our first season as Fox Valley Rep is coming to a close, and what a great year it has been. Our refocused vision (creating engaging theater that inspires you to laugh, reflect and reconnect to moments in your life) has been the catalyst to our 2011 season.
So, we are asking you to REFLECT for a moment. Answer these two questions for a chance to win 2 tickets to a show of your choice in the 2012 season! See below for contest rules and how-to-blog info.
1. What has been the most memorable show/experience/memory for YOU this season?
2. How FVR has impacted your life or the arts community around you in the Fox Valley?
Lets take a stroll down memory lane by outlining all of our accomplishments this year. Did we miss something? Let us know!
Ready, set, blog!!
–4-Show Subscription Series–
- Leaving Iowa: the comedy about family vacations
- Always, Patsy Cline: a tribute to the singer’s friendship with a true fan
- Around the World in 80 Days: the classic adventure comedy
- They’re Playing Our Song: based on the real love story of Hamlisch & Sager
–4 Holiday Productions–
- Letters Home: a Memorial Day Remembrance with Fox Valley Concert Band
- The Woman in Black: the spine-chilling tale based on the novel by Susan Hill
- It’s a Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play
- The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue
–4 Youth Ensemble Performances–
- Seussical Jr.
- Little Shop of Horrors
- All Shook Up
- Broadway’s Best Showcase & Fundraiser
Plus numerous FVR Academy classes, showcases, and public appearances
–6 Live Music Events–
- The Pin-Ups
- American English Beatles Tribute
- Heartache Tonight Eagles Tribute
- Denny Diamond Neil Diamond Tribute
- Score by Score: The Best of Rodgers & Hammerstein
- Letters Home: a Memorial Day Remembrance with Fox Valley Concert Band
–4 National Comedy Touring Acts–
- The Second City: Best Of
- The Swordsmen
- Flanagan’s Wake
- The Second City: LOL Tour
–1 Amazing Summer Theater Fest–
- Collider New Play Project: three playwrights unveiled their debut scripts to the Fox Valley
- Bad Dates: a woman’s quest for love & the perfect pair of shoes
- Around the World in 80 Days: Classic Adventure Comedy
- All in just 3 weekends!
–Fundraising Ventures — raising donations for the following:
- Lazarus House
- Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice
- H.E.L.P. – Homes for Endangered and Lost Pets
- North Aurora’s Mothers Club
- St. Charles East Jazz Choir
- St. Charles Rotary Clubs – Polio Eradication Campaign
- Anderson Animal Shelter
- Northern IL Food Bank
- VSA — the International Organization on Arts and Disability
- Fox Valley Wildlife Center
- Fox Valley Troop Support
- Wounded Warriors
Equaling over 250 performances in just one year and helping fundraiser over $10,000 for fellow nonprofits in the area. Also our most successful year EVER with a record amount of donors and subscribers!
So, please tell us – what has meant the most to YOU this year?
Contest rules: Blog postings must be received by 9:00 p.m. on 12/16/11. Winner will be selected at random in a drawing. Fox Valley Rep agents are ineligible. Must be 18 years of age or older. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email (provided on blog account info) on or after 12/16/11. Blog set-up questions can be sent to email@example.com. Limit one entry per blog account.
How to Blog: On www.foxvalleyrep.org/blog, click on the orange box “Read More” underneath the It’s a Wonderful Year Contest posting. Under the blog listing, click on “You must be logged in.” Create a username and email address. An email will be sent to you to confirm. After you log in to the blog and update profile, simply click on the “Fox Valley Rep Blog” link at the top of the page. Then, blog away! Good luck. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.