Illinois Theatre Association
Table of Contents
Emotion in Mime
The Importance of Making Connections
Why ITA?
Are You Experienced?
Community Theatre Festival, "Fire on the Prairie" - Save the Date! October 24-26, 2014
Busting the Myth of the Worthless Degree
The Why's and How's of Being an Arts Advocate
Ninety Seconds of Fame
ITA's Statewide Professional Auditions 2/8-2/9
Please Visit ITA's Corporate Sponsors:



January 4, 2014


January 9-11, 2014 

Illinois High School Theatre Festival
Explore the Extraordinary

February 8-9, 2014 

Annual Statewide Non-Equity Professional Auditions  


March 15, 2014

Domain 3: Incorporating Technology into Our Classrooms and Theatres


October 24-26, 2014

Illinois Community Theatre Festival 

Fire on the Prairie

Stay Tuned for Info




January 9, 2014

USITT Presents
Resume Writing Webinar

January 22-23, 2014

Intelligent Lighting Creations
Lighting Technology Trade Show
Arlington Heights  

February 24, 26, and 28, 2014 

USITT Presents
AutoCAD Webinar  



Submit an Event!  



The Penjuin Project, a theatre program for children with disabilities,





January 17-18 at 7:30pm and January 19 at 2:00pm

Eastlight Theatre
East Community High School
2200 E. Washington
East Peoria, IL

Tickets: $10/adults, $5/students

Want your performance to be featured here? 
Be sure to list your performance on the ITA Performance Calendar! 

Illinois Theatre Association

The ITA is a network of dedicated theatre artists and educators advocating quality theatre throughout Illinois.  Please join us!

123 Mill Pond Dr.
Glendale Heights, IL  60139
312-265-5922 (office)
800-898-6897 (toll free)
312-265-6101 (fax)


The Illinois Theatre 
Association is partially 
supported by a grant from 
the Illinois Arts Council, 
a state agency.  
eFOLLOWSPOT  top   December, 2013 






 Have a Great Festival! 


A special THANK YOU to this year's Festival Planning Committee, led by IHSTF Executive Director Demetrios Pappageorge (Downers Grove North HS).


To receive updates about IHSTF 2014, stay connected via FacebookTwitter, and the IHSTF website. 

Emotion in Mime

Ioana Ligdas, ITA Creative Drama Division Representative 


Emotion or State of Being.  Middle school students LOVE studying this part of themselves.  Acting imitates life.  We explore emotion/state of being through many different activities in many different units, but I notice how important this is as I work through a "mime" unit with my 7th/8th grade students. 


I use many different activities to explore emotion/state of being with my middle school students in this unit.  A fantastic activity that I have found to be a useful tool is "Emotions Orchestra."  I have many different mime character pictures posted around the room (open space gallery) depicting a variety of emotions or states of being.  Before we begin, the students brainstorm at their tables the difference between emotion (feelings/ change) and state of being (personality/ more permanent).  After that, we brainstorm different emotion words/states of being words on the SMART board.  I make sure that everyone is clear on the difference.  Then, each group is given an emotion/state of being card.  They have to go as a group to the open space gallery and find what matches.  They post their word near the picture with sticky tack (already provided on the picture).  After that, I have the students discuss the details of their picture (non-verbal communication, body language, facial expression, make-up) and how it fits their emotion/state of being.  We discuss.  Then, they have 2-3 minutes to create an "emotion orchestra."  Every student has to take on a different sound/movement and then perform them together.  We take turns and hear every group (play fear, play confused, play jealous, etc.). 


The students love this so much that they want to perform them 2-3 times for the class.  This activity can be used for a variety of units, but it works very well with mime.  After they present with sound, we "mute" the pieces and they just present their NVC (non-verbal communication).  FUN!



The Importance of Making Connections 

with Your Fellow Drama People

Cyndi Bringer, ITA Theatre for Young Audiences Division Representative


If you are like most drama educators, you are your own department. There usually is no one "in house" to go to as a sounding board.  It is a very lonely existence.  The ITA has been a life line for all of us singletons.  Finding people who not only understand what you are going through, but have actually lived in your shoes, is a life altering experience.  There are people out there who can support you in several ways: finding TYA scripts (Reading material on your own is not the same as having someone recommend a script that he or she has already directed), solving production problems, sharing curriculum, lending materials (costumes, props, set pieces, or books, just to name a few), and even lending a hand in person at times.  Don't go it alone.  Find a fellow drama educator (or director of a TYA theatre) and ask for help.  Offer help.  Together we can make magic happen! 



Why ITA?

Jonathan Meier, ITA Secondary School Theatre Division Representative


What do you get when you combine an actor with a banker?  The answer is a grateful ITA member.  I thought I would take this opportunity, on this my inaugural article for the Followspot, to tell you a bit about the journey that has led me into the classroom, and how instrumental the ITA has been in my development as a teacher and a director. 


Though my undergraduate degree was in Speech and Theatre Education, I never intended to be a teacher.  It seemed liked the smart choice to get the teaching degree, but I did that mostly to placate my parents.  I moved to Chicago to pursue a career as an actor.  Three years later, I received my MFA and was on my way to being a typical broke actor.  A temporary office job at a bank led me to an eighteen year career in financial services.  After much soul searching and many conversations with my family, I decided to make the leap, leaving the banking world for the high school classroom.  I was hired, I thought, to be the second drama teacher at Mundelein High School.  As luck and circumstances would have it, I ended up being the sole drama teacher, teaching all the theatre classes and directing all of the plays.  To say I was overwhelmed those first years would be a vast understatement.  It had been over twenty years since I had taken my education classes in college.  I had been out of theatre for over ten years.  Oh, and did I mention that the only play I had ever directed was a one-act in college?  How did I survive those first few years?  Three words - Illinois Theatre Association. 


IHSTF During that fateful first year, I attended the ITA Fall Convention in Springfield.  I walked into a room full of complete strangers, having been a theatre teacher for a grand total of two months.  I must have had that "please help me" look in my eyes, because I could not have received a warmer welcome.  The workshops, the conversations, the networking - they were all a lifeline for a drowning teacher.  When I attended my first Theatrefest a few months later, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  I honesty do not think I would have made it through that first year without the knowledge and friendships I cultivated within the ITA.  I am now in my tenth year at Mundelein High School.  Many of those nice people who took pity on me at that first convention have now become trusted friends and colleagues.  I have had the chance to co-chair a convention, and now, to serve on the Board of Directors.  Whenever I attend an ITA event, I always look around the room for that person with that look in their eye, to make sure their welcome to the ITA is as warm and welcoming as mine was.


A good persuasive article has a call to action, so here is mine.  If you are new to the ITA or perhaps someone who is member but not particularly active, I implore you to get involved.  If you are a non-member who has come across this newsletter, please consider joining.  It will be the best money you spend this year. The Illinois Theatre Association is a wonderful, dynamic and important organization.  It is also only as strong as its membership.  The ITA has changed my life.  Maybe it can do the same for you.


Are You Experienced?

Richard Gannon, ITA Community Theatre Division Representative


No, this article is not about Jimi Hendrix, nor is it about "Purple Haze", though I'm sure with the all of the holidays of late, each and every one of us surely would like to kiss the sky!


No, it's about our audiences and the "experience" phenomenon.  Wetend to be so very focused on our productions and our production standards---which is certainly a good thing---that at times we fail to remember that our audiences often seek more than just a performance of a show.  They are seeking an experience!  For many of our audience members, that means combining dinner with a wonderful comedy.  Or it's a date night.  Or it's a matinee shared with a very good friend!   No matter how our audience defines that experience, we must make sure that we recognize its importance and that we cater to it.


This is all about audience development and retention.  And building an audience comes just about as close to kissing the sky as you'd want to get!


Some ideas to consider:

  • Greet your patrons at each and every performance.  Wear a name tag identifying yourself as a representative of your organization.  Start remembering names of your season subscribers and welcome them by name.
  • Make sure your season ticket holders are always at the front of the line.  As you announce that you are opening the house, thank your season ticket holders.  If you have general admission seating, consider giving them the opportunity to enter the house first.  People recognize that as good customer service, and your senior adult season ticket holders will appreciate it.  Remember, many of those seniors prefer the first row!
  • Sometimes spending a little money goes a LONG way.  Running a show on a Valentine's Day weekend?  Present your patrons with a rose.and a BIG thank-you!
  • A bowl of candy goes a long way.  Offer candy to your patrons as they leave your performance, and again, thank them for attending your production.  After all, last impressions do tend to...well, LAST!   Be sure you have a no-sugar choice.
  • Every once in a while, hold a post-performance "talk back," allowing your audiences to meet the cast and discuss the show they just saw.  Keep them involved and they'll be there for you.
Season subscriber no-show?  MAKE THAT CALL OR SEND THAT E-MAIL!  If your policy permits, ask them when they'd like to reschedule.  Tell them you value their patronage.  You never want season ticket holders to feel that their patronage is taken for granted.  Show that you care and they'll reciprocate! 




  Fire on the Prairie Logo 

Theatre Degrees Lead to Careers.  

Busting the Myth of the Worthless Degree.

Marty Lynch, ITA University/College Theatre Division Representative


A number of students graduated from colleges and universities around the nation this month, and we want to congratulate all of them.  As we wish them well in their new careers, we also start hearing the annual question from high school students considering higher education: What can I do with a theatre degree?


This is not an uncommon question.  Often I see students struggle with the fact that they want to major in theatre, but believe they won't get their parents' approval.  The idea is that a theatre degree does not lead to a job.  Once upon a time, college seniors would be openly recruited and placed into jobs immediately after graduation.  In those days, theatre majors had to go out and find work themselves.  Nowadays, everyone has to find a job once they graduate.


The age-old belief that a theatre degree won't lead to a job was turned on its heel last summer when USA Today reported that arts majors landed more jobs than tech majors.  Of course, that has plenty to do with the fact that anyone who can make it through a theatre program has a number of marketable skills as pointed out by Brian Sibley in his blog the Change Agent.  It basically comes down to this: whether you major in theatre or simply take theatre courses to learn skills every career needs, it's the education that gets you a job.

We hear about the economy, jobs, and unemployment every day.  Even in good times, we hear about the jobless rate.  What doesn't get mentioned is that college graduates have significantly lower unemployment rates.  The Department of Labor reports that national unemployment rate is 7.0%, but the unemployment for those with a Bachelor's degree is 3.4%.  Getting an education while earning a degree is the best thing you can do to safeguard against this, the next, and every economic downturn.  Theatre degrees are no exception.


So what can you do with a Theatre degree?  You can do whatever you want to do.


The Why's and How's of Being an Arts Advocate

Abra Chusid, ITA Director of Advocacy  


This summer, I was approached by members of the Illinois Theatre Association's Executive Board to see if I was interested in becoming the Director of Advocacy.  As a second year high school theatre teacher, my time is a valuable commodity, and I've been exercising my ability to say, "No, thank you," politely turning down extra commitments as I focus on building my curricula (a word I never quite understood in college and grad school) and program at school. Yet somehow, this opportunity was different.  Of course I'd been an active member of the ITA in the past and planned to become more involved in the high school division, but as the word "Advocacy" rolled around in my mind, I felt that this opportunity was too important to pass up because I am an advocate. I often find myself wondering how I can be a better advocate and how I can inspire those around me.


This query traveled with me to Bethesda, MD, where I attended the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) conference this summer.  Advocacy was this year's conference theme, and conference materials and speakers constantly reminded us to "Act Now!"  I attended a day-long pre-conference all about Advocacy, where I was reminded that even the simplest actions on my part can make waves.  The first step is reminding yourself to "Act Now!" and speak up, rather than waiting to follow someone else's lead.  Here are the first steps you can take: First, sign up for the Americans for the Arts newsletters, and take two minutes to let your representatives know that you support arts and arts education.  Next, explore and utilize AATE's Advocacy Tool Kit, a sample plan for advocating for theatre education that can also be transferred to other avenues of advocacy.


As artists, we know the power of theatre; afterall, it brought us to where we are today. We know that students involved in the arts have higher attendance rates, are less likely to drop out, and are more likely to attend college than their non-arts peers.  We know that a good play can change a life or even an entire community.  And we know that theatre, and the rest of the arts, are cultural landmarks that define who we are as individuals and a society.


As we begin to look toward 2014 and the new beginnings that come with the new year, I encourage you to consider the ways in which you are, and can be, an advocate.  Here are some questions to guide your thinking:


  • When is the last time you spoke up for a belief or cause?
  • What issue(s) need support in your community?
  • What can you, as an artist, articulate and observe differently than others due to your theatrical training and experience?
  • How might taking action impact you, your work, and those around you?
  • Think toward the future: what can you do today that will make a difference tomorrow?  What can you do this year that will make a difference next year?  What can you do in the next five years that will make a difference in ten years? 

Regardless of the questions asked, the most important step in becoming an arts advocate is to act now and speak up before it's too late.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and advocate!


Ninety Seconds of Fame

Shelby Patterson, ITA Member


"The mock audition was such an exciting experience!  I learned valuable advice and I feel much more confident for future auditions.  I'm so happy that I got to participate in such a great learning experience." - Troy Stickel


Acting is for the fearless.  It takes a certain kind of person to get on stage, night after night, in front of an audience; to get a script and within a matter of weeks, turn those words on a page into real-life magic; to breathe life into a character and become someone other than you.  While acting is for those brave, fearless souls, there is one thing that can intimidate any actor: the menacing...audition.


On December 2, 2013, Rend Lake College hosted one of the ITA's Mock Audition Clinics.  As a first-year theatre student, I will admit that I was a bit scared, yet excited, about this opportunity - and I wasn't alone.  None of my fellow actors and classmates were quite sure what to expect.  After going through this clinic, I am extremely grateful we got to experience it!


Your audition is the most critical part of the journey that is theatre. You have less than five minutes to make an impression.  There are many people who are after the same dream you are; you need to be on top of your game.  You can have all the talent in the world, but if your audition doesn't go well, then it's on to the next person.


The clinic, co-facilitated by Aimee-Lynn Newlan (ITA Executive Director) and Allan Kimball (ITA College/University Theatre Board Representative), opened with a group exercise about acceptance which was nice because it broke the ice and gave an intimate feeling to the experience.  That was well-received by my fellow students; feeling comfortable in a situation automatically makes it more enjoyable and the ability to learn was then the main focus instead of focusing on nerves. By the end of the clinic, we were rewarded with knowledge about making the most of your audition.  Your entrance is equally as important as your ninety seconds in the spotlight.  The entire time you are in front of casting directors, you are auditioning.  They might be evaluating your acting or your personality.  The audition process is on-going.  At the end of the clinic, we were given the chance to present our mock auditions, and I can attest to feeling more confident about that after being equipped with the information I learned that afternoon.

Aimee-Lynn Newlan shares insights about the ITA's 2014 Statewide Professional Auditions on 2/8/14 and 2/9/14.


Personally, I enjoyed the headshot and resume portion of the clinic the best.  As an actor, these are both very critical to getting roles.While it may not seem like that big of a deal - after all, it is really only a photograph and list of your previous roles - after going through the exercise, I realized just how important they truly are.  We were asked to think of a character for a show that we wanted to cast. Then, we were allowed ten minutes to look through hundreds of headshots and resumes before casting our character.  A sloppy resume or mediocre photo can literally cost you a role since many casting directors don't have an unlimited amount of time when it comes to casting roles.           


This audition clinic was a very unique experience for everyone involved.  It was refreshing to have a chance to learn about the world of theatre beyond college level.  Some of us may not go on to be involved with theatre in the future, but some of us will.  Theatre becomes a part of you when you're pretending to be someone else. You don't decide to do theatre because you're bad at math or uninterested in science.  You do theatre because it becomes a way of life.  

The next Mock Audition Clinic is on 1/4/14 at Elmhurst College. Please click here for more information.  




February 8-9, 2014 


250 slots filled... only 50 left!  

Actors - deadline for submissions is in two weeks!  

Casting Reps - registration is now available on-line.