The Road to Chicago~At the Roads’ End…

They say all good things come to an end, I am not sure who ‘they’ are or why this is true, but sadly our Road to Chicago has ended. We have been on this journey since March 3, 2012 when we received the big news that we had been granted the highly sought after rights to produce Chicago.collage of chicago So naturally it is a little bittersweet for us that we are at journeys’ end. Acting Out Theatre Co. embraced this production with ‘mucho gusto!’ We knew we had been given a gift and we wanted to be worthy of this iconic show. So all of us at AOTC went to work before last summer’s Big River was even “in the books.” Because one thing we know for sure, it takes a long time to put on a quality show. So we spent over a year researching Fosse style dance, 1920’s costumes and make-up/ hair, stage design, character research, and the list goes on. We started blogging about our adventures at the beginning of 2013 so we could share our enthusiasm and excitement with everyone. We have gotten great feedback and plan to continue blogging! Thanks for taking the time to read about us each Monday morning!

There are so many people and organizations that we feel deep gratitude toward. Thanks to all the phenomenal people in Momence that began with Mayor Porter saying yes to our ambitious vision. The assistance and excitement by all was second to none! A big component of the pre show buzz was generated by the uncanny photographic abilities of Kena Clark. cellblockWe took an unprecedented amount of promo pictures but nothing told the story better! We are forever indebted to her magnificence!  We were also fortunate such talented individuals showed up to audition! SO much talent walked in the door that we thought pretty quickly –   “okay fellows, keep your socks up” – this could be pretty amazing! I knew in my gut the possibilities were tremendous. We started dance and vocal rehearsals in early March on weekends and Kendra put the dancers though the paces! Each movement of the spectacular choreography was perfected and that paid off big time come show time! dance rehearsalAnd all the extra vocal work our Velma and Roxie did with vocal coach Shannon Woodruff to make their voices Broadway worthy – that was the final piece to make these ‘killer dillers’ quadruple threats – did they ever have the look, the character, the dance ability, but they were also able to be flawless with their vocals as well!roxie and velma white The overwhelming response from the community was that each area of the production was top notch -opening crowd from the pre-show Speakeasy to costumes to dance to vocals to makeup to the stage and on and on. This cannot be achieved without a whole lot of people sharing the same drive, passion, and vision. I have discovered that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results when coupled with passion and collaboration. We were asked time and again during the run, “where did this troupe come from and where is the next stop?” That is the ultimate compliment to this group of community members that work at their “real” jobs and live right here next to you and me in Kankakee County. I am proud to know and do community theatre with these incredible people.

Magic happens in theatre and we have all just experienced it. It defies description but we can all feel it in our hearts and soul. Thank you for being on this road with us, sharing our enthusiasm, and embracing AOTC. You have shown us outdoor theatre is a desirable entertainment option in Kankakee County!ChicagoCast01 (3) If you missed the show (or even if you didn’t) watch this quick clip! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCfFl68QeFw

Continue with us for A Night in Sleepy Hollow, It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play, and go with us ‘Beyond the Barricade’ next summer for our production of Les Misérables in the shadow of the clock tower on the grounds of the historic Shapiro Developmental Center.upcoming season

But for now – stay tuned for our next installment – Into the Hollow….

Forever Grateful, Sharon

Road to Chicago~Aiming for Cellophane

Imagine with me, if you will. You’re in a dark, cramped place. Your heart is pumping with adrenaline due to a mix of constant movement and knowledge that hundreds of people are counting on you. Your mind is racing with what to do next, when suddenly… a cell block tango chair is missing!  Time slows as you hear the clock ticking down. You know that there’s only seconds before the scene starts and without that chair, the scene, or worse yet, the show, could be potentially ruined. With all you have, you go find that chair, set it, and get out of the way, with seconds to spare!   The scene goes on without a hitch and you save the show, while no one knows of the disaster that was just prevented by you. However, by this point, you realize it’s only scene three.

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Stage managing is kind of like that.
These kinds of problems would be more of a reality if I didn’t have the amazing stage crew by my side.  Without the hard work, organization, and dedication shown from my co-stage manager Cody Gindy and our other crew members, the show would be an absolute mess and would probably last until early the next morning!

As a person who is accustomed to being on the stage, working behind stage  has been a brand new challenge. The biggest change for me was switching from captivating the audiences’ attention to aiming to be like Amos and having no one know that I am there.  Although I miss the thrill of performing for the audience, stage managing now holds a little more importance to me. I never realized the significance of chair placement or even how a clean backstage makes a happy backstage.

To be able to work on a production such as Chicago has been a true blessing. I am so proud to say that I had a part of putting this show on and can’t wait for our audience to be blown away. Although you won’t see me this time, just know that I’m there, keeping the stage safe from harm.

As Amos always says, “You can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there!” and I wouldn’t have it any other way

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Road to Chicago~ Becoming Velma

By Angela Chinn
My journey to become Velma has been fun but challenging!  When I found out that I was cast as Velma Kelly, I was ecstatic!  This has been my dream role for a very long time!  After the excitement died down, I started to panic. This is only my second musical and now I have to sing by myself in front of lots and lots of velpeople! Every time I would sing at rehearsal, even for just Sharon and Ryan, my palms would sweat and my heart would beat fast because I was so nervous!  The first few promos were very rough for me as well. I can dance in front of anyone since it is second nature to me, but singing is a very different story. I wasn’t confident and knew I had to conquer that fear to be the best Velma Kelly possible.

Long story short, I began taking vocal lessons from an amazing woman named Shannon. She taught me how to control my breathing so that my voice sounded as it should. I felt the confidence in my singing ability begin to rise week after week. She gave me the tools I needed to feel comfortable with my own voice. I started hitting my high notes without hesitation and singing without getting nervous! That’s when I decided I had my songs, dances, and lines down; now I needed to focus on developing my character.

After auditions I started watching the movie Chicago and started to study how I should portray Velma. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Catherine Zeta-Jones made one great Velma Kelly. I also watched clips of Bebe Neuwirth in the revival of the stage version of Chicago the Musical. She was great too, but I saw that they both had many differences in VELMAhow they portrayed the character. So I decided not to be Catherine’s Velma or Bebe’s Velma, but to be Angela’s Velma. I wanted to make it my own!

Shannon  helped me a lot with my character development. She would stop me in between songs and ask “how are you feeling when you’re singing this?”. It made me really start to think about each individual song and scene.  Velma goes through many different emotions throughout the show – from being cool and confident – to  angry and vengeful – to dejected and lost.  So when rehearsing I really tried to get lost in the moment and feel the way that Velma would be feeling. I began to play off the other characters and really react to what they were saying. The show is two weeks away and I feel everything is finally coming together. Having such amazing people to work with has been the greatest help of all. I’ve learned  from so many people in this process and couldn’t be more thankful. Now I know with confidence that on opening night I will be the best Velma I can possibly be.

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Road to Chicago~Feathers, Fringe, and Finery

Feathers, Fringe, and Finery: Completing the Look of Chicago~by Nancy Coghlan and Jean Roth

What started out as a simple show has evolved into something spectacular! When we began this venture we traveled to several venues to get ideas for our show. Most of the productions we saw used a very minimalistic approach for costumes and sets.

In true Acting Out fashion,we could not make this show like any other. It had to be the BEST. We spent hours researching, along with Jackie Fischer and Jan Glazar (hair and makeup gurus) to come up with just the right look and feel to match our incredible stage and street scene.

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Much of our work has involved re-sale makeovers, but we have also created many pieces from scratch. The biggest challenge for us has been creating roxie lamp shadevelma'sensembles that are easy to dance in, while still remaining true to the fashion of the 1920s. Costuming for musical theatre is always difficult, but the sassy chasses and gymnastic feats performed in our show have proved to be especially tricky. Even though costuming has put our creativity to the test, we are finally starting to see the positive effects of our work. The greatest reward for our hours of labor is seeing the characters come to life in their finery. When they feel great about their costumes, character development comes naturally.

We hope you will enjoy all of the visual aspects of this phenomenal musical! Costuming has been a challenge, but thanks to the talent and enthusiasm of the actors and everyone working behind the scenes, as well as some work with smoke and mirrors, we may just pull it off! As Billy Flynn says in Razzle Dazzle, give em’ the old hocus pocus, bead and feather ‘em. How can they see with sequins in their eyes? We hope that each sequin, feather, and bead, we will dazzle you, and make the show that much more spectacular!

Road to Chicago~Speakeasy you say?

by Stephanie Rogers – Speakeasy Coordinator

What a long and wild ride this has been with Acting Out Theatre Company!  This crazy, winding road started with Into the Woods,  led me to Sleepy Hollow, followed by Big River, and now to Chicago! I am not much of an actor.  I prefer behind the scenes work and this road has been perfect. I started work with AOTC in the beginning selling tickets on show nights and shortly after realized that once you say “YES” to AOTC you are in, maybe forever!  The idea of an outdoor theater had my support from day one.  I know that an idea this big needs people to do little jobs and I am very capable of selling tickets and rounding up willing volunteers to help me.chicago team This year my Road to Chicago took a bit of a turn when Sharon said, “Stephanie, would you be willing to be in charge of the Speakeasy? I trust you!”  Right away I said YES, followed by what is a Speakeasy? After doing some research I quickly discovered that a Speakeasy is an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages illegally and a bartender would often ask people to “speak easy” so they would not be heard.  So in essence I was asked to plan a big party each night before the show!   I can do that! I was given a vision and have run with it.

speakeasy_smmomence The streets of Momence will be turned into a roaring 1920’s Speakeasy for two hours before the show each night. I have been given the chance to work with some amazing restaurants and people in Momence. My hope is that you will feel like you are in the streets of Chicago in the 1920’s having a great evening with your friends. Music, drinks, food, friends, and the show Chicago; to me that is an equation for perfection! It has been an honor to be a small piece in this large outdoor theatre adventure and I look forward to where this road will lead me next year!

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Road to Chicago~Truly Magical Theatre

Amongst all of the hustle and bustle of organizing a theatre production, it’s easy to lose sight of the uniqueness and specialty of what Acting Out Theatre Company is working towards. Yes, we’re doing “outdoor, summer stock community theatre”, but that might be over simplifying it. My name is Cody Gindy and I’m the co-Stage Manager for Acting Out’s production of CHICAGO. Yesterday we wrapped up our big stage building weekend, so today I figured I’d take this opportunity to discuss the stage, the location, and attempt to put in to words what makes Acting Out’s productions truly magical.

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For the longest time, I would struggle to explain to people the concept of Acting Out in a sentence or less.

“It’s theatre outside, but they do it in the place where it actually happens”, I would explain with a lack of clarity that made my listeners both confused and uninterested. A solution to this problem came to me when I was explaining Acting Out to a theatre major at DePaul University.

“Oh, that’s just like found space theatre.” she responded to me confidently. After a little research I found out that her statement was pretty spot on, sort of. According to Richard Schechner, the man who coined the term for this type of theatre, “the given elements of a found space are to be explored and used, not disguised [and] the function of scenery, if it is used at all, is to understand, not disguise or transform, the space”

Although Acting Out does in fact find their spaces, because building stages, in a way, “transforms, the space”, I’ve found that Acting Out can be better described as a type of “Environmental Theatre”. This style of theatre can be defined as theatre taken “out of the confines of a theater and [that] extends the meaning of scenery, stage and space to encompass the world around people.”

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In traditional theatre, what you, as the audience, are focusing on is highly controlled. All there is to view is what’s on stage, framed by the proscenium arch. Even in traditional outdoor theatre, you may be outside on a beautiful night, but the story stops at the edge of the stage. While the presence of a stage for CHICAGO will certainly control your attention, the world in which the characters live does not simply end there. As you watch the show, you will be surrounded by authentic architecture that looks like it’s straight out of the 1920’s. The audience is essentially on the set of the show, however the set is not made of wooden flats, it’s a real place. These are buildings that you can reach out and touch, walk into, and talk to real people. This makes the entire experience both interactive and personal.

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I feel like I could talk forever about how cool this show is going to be, but that’s because it’s actually going to be awesome. Come out and see it July 26, 27, and 28 on the streets of Momence!

To read more about Environmental Theatre CLICK HERE

Or if you’re really REALLY interested, you can read a whole book about it. CLICK HERE to download the PDF.

Cody Gindy