Illinois Theatre Association
In This Edition...
ITA Announcements
ITA Events and ITA Member Events
Job Postings & Audition Announcements
Featured Performance
About the ITA
ITA Links
Welcome Letter
ITA Keynote Address
Just Give the Job to a Drama Teacher if You Want it Done
Conservatory or Liberal Arts? A Student's Dilemma
Graduate Credit Course Information
Tactic Explore
ITA Member Spotlight - Sara Corkery

2015 Illinois High School Theatre Festival: Ignite the Passion Within


Registration for schools and exhibitors is now available on-line.



January 8-10, 2015

Illinois High School Theatre Festival

Ignite the Passion Within

U of I Urbana-Champaign


February 7-8, 2015

ITA's Annual Professional State-Wide Non-Equity Auditions


March 8, 2015

ITA's Annual Creative Drama and Theatre for Young Audiences Conference


ITA Member Events


December 6 - Microphone Troubleshooting 101 and LED Lighting in Theatre, Lincolnshire


March 7 - Theatrical Stage Rigging, Frankfort 


Submit an Event!  



Community High School seeks an Assistant Director for plays and the spring musical.

Click here to visit the ITA's Job Board for details.




Vero Voice School of Performing Arts (St. Charles) announces auditions for young actors ages 7-18 for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.


Click here to visit the ITa's Audition Board for details.



McHenry High School


November 13 - 15

Thursday-Saturday at 7pm

Saturday at 2pm

Region 2

Community Children's Theatre of Peoria Park District
Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr.

November 13 - 16
Thursday-Saturday at 7pm
Saturday-Sunday at 1:30pm
Region 4
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)
312-265-6101 (fax)
Please Visit ITA's Corporate Sponsors:

Associate Corporate Sponsor:


The Illinois Theatre 
Association is partially 
supported by a grant from 
the Illinois Arts Council, 
a state agency.  
eFOLLOWSPOT  top   October, 2014 

Welcome Letter, October 2014

By Dinah Barthelmess, ITA President


Welcome to a new year for the Illinois Theatre Association!  I am honored and privileged to be taking the helm of the organization that has been giving to me for over a decade.  During my two-year tenure as your President, I aspire to guide our talented Board of Directors to increase the vitality of the ITA to better meet the needs of you, our membership, the dedicated theatre professionals of Illinois. 


It was very meaningful to gather with you at our Fall convention on September 13.  Throughout the day, we considered the pursuit of excellence in our field in a variety of ways.  The quote shared by keynote speaker Henry Godinez, Resident Artistic Associate of Goodman Theatre, now hangs on the wall near my desk:


Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible. 


- Ronnie Oldham


As the ITA community continues to grow, I ask you to consider what you can give to the association committed to serving our profession?  What is it that you care about most?  What risks are you willing to take?  What are the dreams you have for our association, and how can you contribute to making them a reality?  In a non-profit organization such as ours, we rely on the dedication of those who step up to make a difference.  I invite you to step us this year.  Volunteer for an event, reach out to a professional and bring them into our community, invite our membership to your shows, share your news on Facebook, and submit your articles to our online newsletter, the e-Followspot! 


Together we make our organization the best it can be.  Step up to do your part to make it excellent!


The dates of events for the coming year were published in the convention program, but let's make sure you have them marked on your calendars. Please see the ITA Events box to your left.


I look forward to working with you all!  If you have questions, concerns or ideas at any time, don't hesitate to get in touch. 


All best,


Dinah Barthelmess

ITA President


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Illinois Theatre Association Keynote Address, 

September 13, 2014

By Henry Godinez, Resident Artistic Associate of the Goodman Theatre



I'm no Einstein, but I have learned in my lifetime that things are relative.  When I was asked to deliver a keynote speech to this impressive gathering, the members of the Illinois Theatre Association, first I was deeply honored, and then I thought: what the heck could I possibly have to say to all of you that might be remotely meaningful, especially given this event's over-arching theme of "Excellence"? 


Maybe it's what some consider the inherent humility of my Latino culture, but who the heck am I to tell you about excellence? Especially considering the makeup of ITA's membership, and the diversity of geographic locations and disciplines it represents?  After all, there are plenty of people right here in Chicago, too often critics, that don't agree with what I think is excellent.  In the arts, excellence can be a hard thing to measure, as aesthetics can be a matter of taste or perspective or cultural background.


I believe the official title of this event is, "Step Up and Stand Out: Exploring Excellence with the ITA," AND I believe all of you were invited to submit a video, prompted by the question: "What does excellence in the theatre mean to me?"  I did not accept the invitation to submit a video, but when I thought about that prompt, it was somewhat of a relief because I realized it meant I didn't have to define "excellence in the theatre," just talk about what it means to me.  Thank goodness! 


But the official title of this event is, "Step Up and Stand Out: Exploring Excellence with the ITA," right?  So I thought I should probably throw that into the mix of whatever meaningful thoughts I was hoping to share with all of you today.  They may seem like two different things, "What does excellence in the theatre mean to me" and "Step Up and Stand Out: Exploring Excellence with the ITA," and yet I believe they are actually vitally connected.  As an undergraduate, I was required to take several semesters of philosophy and one of the things that stuck with me the most was the notion of "the one and the many," or "the universal and the particular."


Just as the strength and success of our society depends on the efforts of each individual AND the community together, so likewise, I believe the health and strength of theatre in Illinois depends upon the efforts of each of us as individuals AND as a collective, all of us striving for excellence in our own individual theatres, schools and communities, even as we commit to communicating and collaborating together in order to insure excellence in our field across the state of Illinois.  

What I so appreciate about ITA is the diversity of its scope and its membership, from creative drama and community theatre, to large university and professional theatre, from the Stage Coach Players in DeKalb to the Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf right here in Chicago.  


If you know anything about me, you know that I firmly believe diversity is a good thing.  That's something I learned from another scientist named Darwin, and something that has been at the center of my own professional work for the last twenty years.  Be it cultural or aesthetic, diversity is good.  It's like the multigrain of the arts: tasty and good for you.  If there were only one species on this planet, life would not only be terribly boring, but actually doomed to fail.  The same I think is true of our theatrical ecosystem.  The more perspectives we have, the better view of the world.  The better view of the world, the better our chances of appreciating our similarities as human beings, rather than living in fear of our differences.  


But diversity also invites comparison, and that can be a tricky thing, especially when it comes to excellence in the arts.  The centuries old art of Japanese No Theatre can seem tedious and boring to some, and the highest art to others.  Excellence can be relative, from productions like Bill W. and Dr. Bob at Stage Coach Players (which I have not had the pleasure of seeing) to Spanish director Calixto Bieito's surreal production of Camino Real here at Goodman Theatre (which I did have the pleasure of seeing).  So if excellence is relative, who am I to tell the community of DeKalb whether Bill W. and Dr. Bob is any less excellent than a world class director's production of Camino Real at Goodman Theatre, when right here in Chicago there was much debate over Claxito's controversial production of Tennessee Williams' dreamlike play?  


That is not to say that excellence has no standard, but I do think it is relative.  There are no doubt definite universal elements or standards that determine excellence, but that gets trickier in the arts.  Think of all the Modern and Contemporary Art that people scratch their heads over.  So what is it that makes a production, a director, a teacher, a student, a performance on stage good, and what is it that makes it great? What makes our work excellent?  Now I suppose this is where my definition of "what excellence in the theatre means to me" comes in.  Excellence in the theatre to me begins with the element of passion, that intention, that need, that spurs all of us to create theatre in the first place.  Excellence to me has to do with the integrity of that impulse.  If it genuinely comes from the need and desire to move an audience, then the most important basic element of excellence is there.  Excellence in the theatre does not come from self-glorification: as the great acting teacher Sanford Meisner would tell his students, "It isn't about you it's about the other fellow."  Excellence is defined and determined by awards, or fame or money.  If people in the audience at DeKalb's Stage Coach Players were move and entertained, if their lives were enriched, then excellence, in some relative way, was likely part of the creative experience.  


I know it seems funny to quote a businessman when talking about the arts, but the self-made businessman and profound thinker Ronnie Oldham said, "Excellence is the Result of Caring more than others think is Wise, Risking more than others think is Safe, Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and Expecting more than others think is Possible."   I don't think any of us would be in this room if at some point we didn't dream more than others thought was practical...probably especially our parents.


Excellence in the theatre is relative because I don't necessarily believe that it's a quantifiable thing.  That there is a scale somewhere that says, "Excellence exists from here up."  To me Excellence exists in the Effort.  Notice that Mr. Oldham's definition of Excellence never mentions "talent" or even success or any measurable standard, and he's a businessman.  It all has to do with effort, with need, with the drive to go beyond what others think is enough.


Now to be sure, the reality of manifesting excellence does benefit from skill, and training, and experience, and that ever mysterious, relative term, "talent."  But none of these make any difference if we as individuals stop "Caring," stop "Risking," stop "Dreaming."  It's hard, to be sure, especially in the long run.  The harsh reality of life, of family, of the material nature of the world in which we live, challenges the very ideals that Mr. Oldham says result in excellence.  In the theatre, we rarely have the financial rewards that some of our colleagues have in film and television, or the security and financial incentives that generally exist in the corporate world or even civil service.  And that's why we in the theatre Expect more than others think is possible, especially of ourselves.


Excellence is not an accident, and it's rarely a result of talent alone.  Excellence comes from expecting more than others think is possible because you're willing to work harder than hard to make something happen that you care deeply about.  That's why the purity and integrity of that initial impulse to affect an audience is so important.  Money may motivate some to achieve excellence, but generally not in the theatre, not in the arts.  And what's crazy is that we work as hard as we can, striving for excellence to create something that is so brief, - "the two hours passage of our stage."  Yet the impact it has can last forever.


We deal in temporality, in an event that lives briefly in time and space once and never exactly the same again.  That's a magical, albeit scary thing, something that in a way speaks to an element of risk that we all, whether we know it or not, thrive on and embrace.  Like the moth to the flame, we are drawn to theatre knowing that it's risky.  But there is something truly magical that happens in the theatre, the "stuff that dreams are made of."  It has to do with an exchange of ideas and emotions between what those on stage and those sitting in the audience.  It has to do with celebrating the funny things, the scary things, the ugly and beautiful things that we as human beings share.  There is even a literal exchange of breath as the very same air is inhaled and exhaled by audience and performer alike.  I often tell my students that acting is actually like respiration, that we take in the energy of our partners AND the audience, and send energy out again.  And when you think about it, respiration is what keeps all of us alive, what makes it possible for all of us to grow and flourish.  


Theatre does that; whether it be on stage or in the classroom, whether you are the director, star of the show or the follow spot operator; whether you are a teacher, administrator, fundraiser or student, we all deal in the enrichment of humanity.  I know that sounds lofty and idealistic, but I believe that's exactly what drives us to do our very best, to be better than good, to be excellent.  I don't see how you could strive for excellence without ideals. 


Last weekend's tragedies here in the Chicago Theatre community, where we lost two bright souls to unimaginable accidents within hours of each other, reminded all of us that life is short, especially when you know that life has meaning, meaning beyond survival, financial security and material satisfaction.  Because what we do is meaningful, what we do makes a difference, what we do changes lives.  The challenge is to remember that, to remember to dream, to risk, to care, to expect more of ourselves, always.  And that's hard to do.


Years ago I was playing Don Quixote at the Oak ParkFestival Theatre in Dale Calandra's adaptation of Cervantes' classic novel.  It was late in the run, on a hot muggy night, and the mosquitos and constant drone of airplanes were making it less than a magical evening.  After the show we took up donations as we did every night, for Season of Concern, the Chicago Theatre communities' fundraising efforts that supports those living with HIV and AIDS, and as I was wandering through the crowd collecting bills and coins in my dilapidated and sweaty helmet, a young teenage boy ran up to me and threw his arms around my waist and hugged me so tightly it kind of freaked me out.  Just as I was getting a little concerned he might never let go, he looked up and I saw his eyes were filled with tears, and then I could clearly see that he was mentally challenged.  His mother quickly came up and as she pulled him back, she apologized, explaining that he'd seen the show several times because he loved it so much, that it meant so much to him.  Needless to say the tears popped right out of my eyes, too.  At first I couldn't imagine why Don Quixote meant that much to that boy, but as I drove home I think I cried again as I realized, duh, a story of a man everyone thinks is crazy because he sees beauty and love where others see only ugliness and hate.  A dreamer.  It remains one of the most, if not the most meaningful moment of my theatrical career.  It reminded me of why I do what I do.  And it is still what spurs me to do what I do the very best that I can.  And I'm willing to bet, and I'm not a betting man, that each one of you do what you do in the theatre because you know that that possibility exists for you, the possibility to affect even one person in that way.


To me, excellence in the theatre begins with the dream of moving someone, especially some that special, in a profound way.  It means accepting the need to cut no corners, to work extra hard, to continue to learn and enrich myself as a theatre artist and professional because I want every tool, every advantage available to move another human soul the way that young man was moved.  I feel blessed to have been gifted (or cursed depending on your point of view sometimes) with the drive to affect humanity by doing what Hamlet said it was our job to do, hold the proverbial mirror up to nature.  To make the world even just a little bit better place.  Now while I am self-admittedly, idealistic, I am also human and know that it is very difficult to be inspired in that way, day in and day out, just as I was feeling that night years ago in the mosquito plagued mugginess of Austin Gardens in Oak Park.  

Over the course of our careers, in between those experiences that wake us up with reminders of just how powerful and transformative our work can be, we seek comfort and inspiration from one of the inherent blessings at the core of our field, the collaborative nature of the theatre.  


And so I finally come to the "collective" aspect of this gathering, the "Step Up and Stand Out: Exploring Excellence with the ITA" part.  I know that one of the questions on the mind of your new ITA President is "how does this organization fit into the pursuit of excellence" of its members?  Dinah's question brings to mind a very famous quote, for me one of the most brilliant things ever spoken by any leader, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."  I'm a firm believer in the fact that the more you give the more you get, that there is strength in numbers, that diversity of experiences, backgrounds and perspectives are enriching.  


Each one of you is a vital part of the theatrical ecosystem of our state.  And even as you strive and struggle for excellence in your own way in your own place, your efforts, your challenges, may well be an inspiration to a colleague half way across the state of Illinois who is struggling to reconnect with what brought them to this profession in the first place.  Your strength may be your neighbor's weakness, and vice versa.  Sometimes we feel like we're the only ones facing certain issues or challenges, and realizing that we're not alone is winning half the battle.  That's why service organizations like the ITA are so important: because they give us perspective, and support and validation.  They inspire and challenge us; they give us a sense of pride in being part of a broader, like-minded effort.  It is fundamental to what we do in theatre, collaborate and share.  Those of you that teach know how much you learn from your students.  Giving isreceiving.  As the great Cesar Chavez said, "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community..."


I know that we are all impossibly busy, often on the verge of being overwhelmed with our own work and families, and keeping up is all that seems possible sometimes.  So it's not easy to see how participating in a professional service organization like ITA can really strengthen and support your own endeavors.  How does your own pursuit of excellence connect with those of a large organization that represents so many areas, both geographical and artistic? That question can be true whether you're at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago or at Stage Coach Players in DeKalb, they're just different perspectives.  I am basically an anti-social person and would be happiest spending my free time alone in the woods, but whenever I go to a Theatre Communication Group national conference, or an Illinois Arts Council meeting, I come back inspired and recharged.  I feel great pride in being part of a broader effort with people I admire and respect.  I hope that you will leave here today feeling that way, too.  


I was one of the lucky people in our field to have had a great mentor; his name was Michael Maggio, the Associate Artistic Director of Goodman Theatre before his passing in the year 2000.  Michael mentored me as an actor, director and educator, opening virtually every significant door of my career.  I have subsequently felt it my duty to do the same for others whenever I can.  I believe mentorship is one of the great ways to strengthen our field, and I believe it is inseparable from my own personal pursuit of excellence.  I believe that it is for each of us to push the door open just a little wider so that those that come behind us can push it even wider.  And that's why extending your efforts toward excellence into an organization like ITA, why "Stepping Up and Standing Out" is so important.  I believe that is the intersection of your own pursuit of excellence and those of others.  That's what we do in the theatre; we collaborate, in every area in every way.  It is through collaboration and exchange that our dreams are realized and risk taking is challenged, and we raise our own standard of excellence even as we care about others.  Michael Jordan, who knew a little something about excellence, both as an individual and as a team player said, "To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don't isolate."   


So I don't have to be Einstein to know that what excellence in the theatre means to me, is stepping up and standing out by exploring excellence with my peers, like being here today.


In closing, I will say that it seems like just yesterday that I was a young actor working on the stage of the old Goodman Theatre for the first time.  I was in awe of the excellence around me, in my director Michael Maggio, in my fellow cast members like Mike Nussbaum, and in the determination of every single person in the cast and crew to create the most beautiful production that we as individuals and as a company could possibly create.  As a young actor just trying to get started, I would never have imagined that I would one day be an Artistic Associate here, much less giving a keynote speech to my colleagues from throughout the state.  


I have been very blessed to have the career in the professional theatre that I have had.  In all honesty, I do not think that I am an excellent director, or actor or teacher, but I think what has helped sustain my thirty year career is my desire, my need to Care, to Risk, to Dream and to Expect more.  I am prone to not always be Wise, or Safe, or Lord knows, Practical, but I have never doubted that almost anything is possible.  And I certainly never want to settle for what most might think is good enough.


It has been an honor to share my thoughts and views with you here today, I only hope that these comments have made some sense, and that they will spur conversations about the excellence that we can achieve as individuals, and even more so as a collective, as a community of theatre professionals. Dinah shared a quote with me which is displayed on a poster in her classroom; they are the words of one of my personal hero's, Mahatma Ghandi, that I feel epitomize the notion of Stepping Up and Standing Out as we strive for excellence, as one and as many, to ensure a bright future for theatre in Illinois: 


"Be the change you want to see in the world." 




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Just Give the Job to the Drama Teacher 

If You Want it Done

By Cyndi Bringer, ITA Theatre for Young Audiences Division Representative


Who needs a year to plan a conference?  For that matter, who needs six months?  We now know that given a task to put on the Illinois Theatre Association's 4th Annual Middle School Conference, a group of a dozen theatre artists and educators can perform miracles in six short weeks!  Yes, it was spearheaded by me, but I did what I know: direct; I found the best person for each job and put them to work.  You all know that casting is 95% of the job, right?  I aligned myself with a million dollar cast!  Under Aimee-Lynn Newlan's guidance, I started gathering information about people's interest via a Google Form.  We looked into possible dates and locations.  Those interested went to their feeder schools to see if they would host, and Dinah Barthelmess secured New Trier High School as our facility.  Nina Lynn was our contact over there, and she reserved us four rooms in which to hold our workshops, as well as invited us to a back stage tour, a performance of Tartuffe, and a Q & A session with their cast and crew!  Next it was on to getting the word out!


Through e-blasts on Facebook and the ITA's newsletters, we were able to lock in nine middle schools: 

  • Cooper Middle School
  • Daniel Wright Junior High School
  • Holmes Middle School
  • Lincoln Junior High School 
  • London Middle School
  • Old Orchard Junior High School
  • Wauconda Middle School
  • Westfield Middle School
  • Wilmette Junior High School

Over 75 students attended the conference and participated in a variety of workshops presented by wonderfully generous artists and educators:

"Acting from the Inside Out" presented by Aimee-Lynn Newlan; "Costumes and Props, The Magic of Duct Tape" presented by Mary Solof; "Group Storytelling" presented by Susan Antman; "Hand Art" presented by Cyndi Bringer; "How to Write your own Personal Monologue" presented by Angie Abramite; "Masks Characterization" presented by Elisabeth Westphal; "The Most Important Character" presented by Susan Rothchild; and "Slipping on Banana Peels!" presented by Melinda Russo. 


Here is the best lesson that came out of this: "Beware of the person sitting next to you at the ITA Convention."  I reached out to everyone I knew to bring their students and to become presenters, but as you all know, fall is a busy time for theatre directors.  They all have a show in production!  So as I tried to pull names out of my head, I remembered sitting next to Susan Antman on the convention bus two years ago.  I e-mailed her and lo and behold, she presented for us!  So beware!  That person next to you may just ask you to get involved with the Illinois Theatre Association somewhere down the road.  Be brave!  Don't say "no."  You may find out you really can do things that you never thought you could (like chair an ITA conference)! 


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Conservatory or Liberal Arts? A Student's Dilemma

By Jonathan Meier, ITA Secondary Theatre Division Representative


It happens at least once a year, sometimes more.  It is often at an Open House or a Parent-Teacher Conference.  A set of parents will walk into my room, forced smiles on their faces.  "Mr. Meier," they will hesitantly say, "we really appreciate all you do, and our child just loves you to death."  I know the "but" is coming.  "But..., our son/daughter just informed us that he/she wants to be a theatre major in college."  The color has now drained out of their faces.  Sound familiar, theatre teachers?  I then do as all of us do.  I sit them down and calmly explain that everything will be alright.  I acknowledge that their child has indeed selected a very difficult path.  I then assure them that the skills and experiences they will be acquiring while majoring in theatre will set them up to be highly successful in whatever field of endeavor they end up working (because we all know it probably won't be theatre).  And then we start to discuss which college to choose.


As high school teachers, we are often called on to proffer advice to both students and parents alike about the best college route when pursing theatre and the performing arts at the collegiate level.  There are a myriad of factors that need to be considered, things that all students have to factor in when choosing a college - cost, size, location and reputation just to name a few.  But when I am counseling a family about a theatre education, I always tell them the first decision that needs to be made is whether a conservatory or a liberal arts education will suit the student best. Before proceeding, perhaps some definitions are in order.


The conservatory education can be described as placing a higher emphasis on practical performance training and experience, rather than academics.  It is typically singularly focused (acting, scene design, dramaturgy, theatre management).  The conservatory student will generally take fewer general education classes, and their elective choices are limited.  The typical degree from these programs is a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts).  An example of this type of institution is The Theatre School at DePaul U

niversityStudents in liberal arts universities are given the opportunity tostudy a broad range of subjects.  They have much more flexibility in their course of study.  This can sometimes be referred to as a "typical college experience."  The usual degree from these programs is a BA (Bachelor of Arts).  An example of this type of school is Northwestern University.


There is no shortage of opinions about the relative merits of each type of program.  I have talked with both high school and college educators who are quite passionate about this subject.  I am fortunate in that I have personally had both experiences.  My undergraduate degree was from a liberal arts school and my MFA is from a conservatory.  So which is better?  Of course, there is no answer to that question.  It depends on the student.  I purposefully used DePaul and Northwestern as my examples.  Both are considered top-flight schools, yet they offer a varied college experience.  If a student has an extremely clear focus on what they want to do with their future, the conservatory experience may be right for them.  If the student is not as sure, or is looking for a more worldly or varied experience, the liberal arts school would be right for them.  Some schools offer both types of programs.  The University of Minnesota comes to mind.  


It is a very personal choice, and one that I don't envy any 17 or 18 year old having to make.  As educators, the best thing we can do is to guide our students to ask themselves the right questions. A few years ago, I had this subject go from theory to reality, as my own daughter came to her mom and me to let us know she wanted to be a theatre major.  Parents throughout the Mundelein area chuckled to themselves as I got a taste of my own medicine.  Ultimately, she chose a conservatory.  That was the right decision for her.  The decision your students make will have to be best for them and their families.


Graduate Credit Course Information 

By Cyndee Brown, ITA Member, University/College Theatre Division


ITA members have a new opportunity to earn graduate credit FOR FREE through Illinois State University.  Pre-register online this Fall for the Spring 2015 semester of Theatre 493.01 (Workshop in Theatre as an Interscholastic Activity in the Secondary Schools) before coming to the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.  That is the only way credit can be received.


Two graduate credit hours for this course (which is repeatable) are generated by attending workshops and performances during the Festival.  Students will be required to attend a meeting during the Festival to check course requirements, deadlines, and expectations.  Writing reflective and critical analysis papers following the Festival is also required.  The activities should not interfere with the teacher's responsibilities to students during the festival.  All work for the course is due March 1, 2015.  


For more information please contact: 

Cyndee Brown

School of Theatre and Dance - 5700

Illinois State University

Normal, IL   61790

Phone: 309-438-5692



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Tactic Explore

By Ioana Ligdas, ITA Creative Drama Division Representative




I wanted to share a great activity that builds around understanding and further developing "tactics."  This was used specifically for a monologue unit.


We choose a character - a want - and then 3 tactics to get what they want.  This is just for an example (the students also do this exact explore with a partner with their own idea).  


The 3 tactics are labeled on the smart board in order with space underneath to write.  I (or you could have a student) improv and make sure I cover acting out the 3 tactics in my improv.   The performer can also add an intro and ending unrelated to the tactics, but the tactic explore should definitely be in the improv.  

While I (or a student) am doing the improv, I have assigned 2 "runners" per tactic.  The goal is to "run" to the table group assigned to listen to my tactic being performed.  They gather information on how I performed that tactic.  What things did we talk about?  What actions did I do?  What lines did I say?  Did I add any sound effects?  What information did I deliver in my improv of that tactic that gave it more depth?


Then, the "runners" come up to the smart board and enter the info under the tactic they were assigned to.  


Tactic explore is a great tool to have everyone engaged in learning this concept and to really flesh it out as tactics can be hard to understand or break down.  Also, it makes sure that everyone is paying attention as they need to "report" to the "runners."  It gives the students power and control over the exploration.  


The students then do this with a partner.  Instead of fleshing out the 3 tactics on the smart board, they use a long sheet of paper and chart it out.  


We then talk about how we will write this down to be our monologue.  


This makes actually writing the monologue very specific and easy for them!


Voila - the power of improv.  


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ITA Member Spotlight: Sara Corkery

Submitted by Judy Klingner, ITA Second Vice President


What is your name?

Sara Corkery, Artistic Director and Producer, Saint Genesius Productions


Describe your education/training in theatre.

BA Speech, Communication & Theatre, Albion College

Masters program in Acting at DePaul University Theatre School


Please tell us about Saint Genesius Productions.

Maggie Kelly (BS in Speech, Theatre Major from Northwestern, Illinois high school theater instructor and director) and I originally founded Saint Genesius Productions to fill a void in the theater experiences that were available for our own children.  We were astounded when the local high school announced open casting for four parts for small kids in its upcoming musical-and about a hundred children showed up to audition.  This illustrated the obvious need for a neighborhood drama program for young kids.


We initially taught a few acting and improv workshops through our village's park and recreation department.  However, it soon became apparent that the kids longed to be in a "real play" rather than the short showcase performances for parents we offered at the end of each course.


At the time, our four kids were attending Catholic schools, where almost all after-school activities were centered around sports.  Mrs. Kelly and I thought we might develop a successful program through our local administrators if we could demonstrate that we'd expand the appeal of attending a Catholic school by broadening the available arts programming.  We designed the model for an intermural drama club/production company that would be open to any student in grades 4-8 who was currently enrolled in a Catholic grade school in Dupage County.  We approached three local diocesan principals with our business plan, and they heartily offered support for us to proceed. 


From the start, we wanted to give our students a professional experience-in a real theater with a real sound system, and real scenery and lighting, instead of the awful acoustics and sightlines that are generally available in a school gym.  We hoped to encourage a disciplined and dedicated approach to the rehearsal and performance process, balanced with a generous serving of fun. 


Putting on productions from scratch seems overwhelming.  What is your process?

Saint Genesius Productions owes an enormous debt to Spotlight Youth Theater (formerly CYT). It was through their example that we were able to develop a viable business model, including solutions for financing, workable rehearsal schedules, and ways to cultivate the passion and loyalty of our students and their parents.  


We are very fortunate in that we are able to work through schools in the Joliet Diocese.  Three schools in Lombard and one in Villa Park have been especially helpful: St. Pius X assists with some of our administrative needs, Sacred Heart School provides rehearsal and storage space, St. Alexander has hosted several special events, and Montini Catholic High School grants us access to its auditorium for two productions each year.  The reasonable fees the schools charge (and the hard work of our many volunteers) enables us to spend our resources on the top-notch production values that really set our shows apart. 


Over the past four years, we have developed an amazing network of adult and student volunteers throughout the community.  Although our primary staff is unpaid, we are able to offer small stipends to our music director, our pit musicians, and some of our other specialists (for example, we brought in a fight designer to choreograph an onstage altercation for one production).  The productions are entirely funded through our very reasonable student registration fees, our ticket sales, occasional donations, and a few small fund-raising efforts.


What is special about working with this population of students?
Our students are in fourth through eighth grade - truly the formative years.  This means that the drama club experience can make a deep and lasting impression they will carry with them always.  We try to place equal emphasis on high production values and socialization/community.  The result is incredible.  Unplugged from their electronic gadgets, the students happily work together in four-hour blocks of time to creatively solve problems, face-to-face.  In this non-competitive, supportive environment, our kids develop an amazing understanding of the value of working hard toward a collaborative goal.  The process fosters a growth in self-confidence and empathy that will benefit them in every area as they move toward adulthood.


Please share details about a theatre project/production with which you are currently involved.

We are currently readying The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for performances on December 13 and 14.  In April, we're doing the full, non-Jr. version of Annie


What is the biggest challenge you face related to your work in the theatre?

It is a huge challenge to accommodate all the kids who want to participate.  In order to maximize the whole experience-both the social enrichment and bonding offstage and the quality of the onstage production-we must limit the size of our casts to about 45 kids.  It's very painful to have to cut young actors after they've built up the courage to go through the audition process.  But we do try to find places on the production team in tech and backstage for those who really want to join in.


Of what theatrical accomplishment are you most proud?

Looking back on four years and six completed productions, I'm really proud of the way we are able to draw so much of the community together to accomplish our theatrical goals.  Pooling the skills and talents of the students, parents, teachers, tech experts, musicians, choir directors, theater professionals, and public and parochial school personnel makes for a potent theatrical force. In addition to the schools mentioned above, I especially want to thank Willowbrook High School for the generosity of its outstanding faculty and students.


What is the best thing about your job?

It is a distinct pleasure to witness the direct impact Saint Genesius Productions can have on people's lives.  The power of theatre is simply astonishing.  It's a hugely transformative experience for some of these kids-and their parents.


What do you enjoy most about being an ITA member?

The electronic newsletter is great.  I love reading about all the theatrical events happening across the state.


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