A Conversation with Brad Armacost

•October 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As we approach the closing weekend of C.S. LEWIS ON STAGE, company member Brad Armacost reflects on his experience of bring a literary icon to life on the Provision stage.

C.S. Lewis On Stage

Brad Armacost as C.S. Lewis

For many, C.S. Lewis made an impression on them as a young reader. What was your first introduction or first memory of the work of C.S. Lewis?
I suppose my first introduction to CS Lewis was the through the world of Narnia and our Encyclopedia Britannica. When I shared my delight in reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with my father he sent me off immediately to learn more about this fascinating man who was equally at home writing for adults, children, academics, philosophers and theologians. I remember my father being delighted that I took an interest in Lewis’ work, as he considered him “one of us.” I never never really knew what he meant by that. Maybe it was that Lewis was Irish or that his writings on Christianity were quite in line with my father’s own views. I choose to think it was because my father recognized Lewis’ appeal to the common man. That universal voice rings as clearly today as it did fifty years ago.

Do you have a favorite work by C.S. Lewis?
A Grief Observed is probably not an obvious choice as a Lewis favorite, but the generosity of spirit is evident even as he kicks and screams and yells at God in his grief. As he expresses doubt he shows us our doubts and anguishes are part of our growth as human beings. It helps us understand that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”

Why do you think C.S. Lewis is such a compelling figure?
His writing is full of grace, humor and heart. His generosity of spirit. That he shared with the world the things he knew and loved in such a delightful fashion.

How does it feel to return to a role you’ve played before?
Its been about seven years and I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser (wishful thinking). I’ve seen my son grow into a fine young man headed off to school in Boston this fall (our only child). I’ve had the honor of playing CS Lewis in SHADOWLANDS here at Provision. Coming back to this role is like slipping on a comfortable, well worn pair of shoes. It’s our job to polish them and walk with you through this gentleman’s world on this particular night. It’s a glorious journey and one I’m honored to be taking with Tim and all of the folks at Provision.

C.S. Lewis On Stage

Brad Armacost as C.S. Lewis

Fishers of Men: An Interview with Rod Armentrout and Mark Demel

•February 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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The story of the apostles Peter and Andrew gets a modern update in the play ‘Fish Eyes’, which plays at Provision Theater from February 8th-March 31st. Rod Armentrout and Mark Demel are the two actors that have performed the play across the country for over ten years. Armentrout and Demel sat down and spoke about the energy of the play, how it has changed, and how working together has made the show what it is today.

 

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You two have been performing ‘Fish Eyes’ together since 1998. Has every performance brought something new to the work?

 

Rod- One of the things that has been fun over the last couple of years is that we haven’t been performing the show in its entirety. We usually perform pieces of it at churches or schools. So it’s really exiting to do the whole thing in one chunk of time.

 

Mark- It’s a piece we know well, so now we’re able to play with it and find new things. As an actor, one of things that’s really fun is when a play is organic. It’s sort of alive. It’s not the same every night. You might have a whole new feeling each scene. The goal is that you keep the play alive and tingling. It’s great when you find a new quality that helps with that sort of vibrancy.

 

Rod- We often walk off after doing the show and say, ‘Well, that was different’ [Laughs]. But sometimes it’s a good different. Sometimes it’s not. One time, we went to Phoenix, doing the whole play and I was on the verge of being sick. I was getting worse and worse throughout the night. That was not one of the fun organic moments. But we pulled through.

 

You guys are playing characters that are 2000 years old. How is the play relatable to modern audiences?

 

Rod- The writers [Ted Schwartz and Lee Eschelmen] wrote the play in a very current vernacular. It’s just like ordinary guys talking. There isn’t a strange sound to the language, so it makes it very approachable. Also, the stuff that people were dealing with 2000 years ago are the same things that people deal with now. Same kinds of struggles. Different context and circumstances, but still the same struggle.

 

Mark- The 2000 years between when they were walking on the planet and now…There’s a lot of ‘scrubbing’ that happens in their story. What I like about this play is that it makes you think about what happened between the lines in scripture. For example, many times in the show, Peter and Andrew travel a certain distance to go to a town. Well, you just brush over that when you read scripture, and the truth is that that trip might have been a day-and-a half walk. Just imagine what takes place during the day-and-a-half! Think of a road trip you take with your friends where you’re going to visit a place and you’re in the car together and you sleep in the car… that’s the kind of stuff that took place with them, albeit in different situations, but that’s what’s so interesting- these guys were real people! In fact, there’s a scene in the play where one of the guys- Peter- wants to quit. Now, scripture never talks about that. [Rod laughs] But it’s entirely possible that these guys got so confused that they wanted to walk away and they didn’t understand what they were capable of.

 

Rod- And I think that’s one of the things relatable to anyone in any time. Everyone knows what that feeling of frustration is. It connects to audiences everywhere.

 

Has the show surprised you in any way?

 

Rod- Audience reaction is always a surprise. Sometimes it just depends on the crowd. My experience as an actor is that audiences have their own personalities and respond according to that personality. Sometimes it’s more reserved and not as responsive, and sometimes other audiences want to have fun. That has always been a consistent thing with me. Audiences are different and change. After living with the play for such a long time you find new things. One of the ways Mark and I check with each other is by asking ‘Are we still listening to each other? Are we still finding those moments? We’re not slipping into Autopilot, are we?’ Mark’s great about that. He pushes and tries different things and hopefully I’ll respond to those differences he throws at me.

 

Mark- One of the reasons we chose to do this play again is because it’s gotten a good response from the audiences we perform for. We expect people to enjoy it when they come and see it.

 

In a phrase, or a few words, what is this play about?

 

Rod- Faith when you don’t know what’s going on. Following when you have no clue.

 

Mark- It’s about that gap between what you know and what you hope for. It’s about how some people can follow that path even when there’s a gap they have to step over, and others can’t.

 

Provision Theater is located at 1001 W. Roosevelt St. To purchase tickets, call 312-455-0066. Prices range from $10-$32. 

Provision Theater 2012-2013 Season Teaser

•July 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Provision Theater 2012-2013 Season Teaser

Provision Theater’s 2012-2013 season will engage our hearts, stimulate our minds, and touch our souls. Click on the image above to watch a teaser video for a special sneak peak!

Announcing our 2012-2013 Season!

•July 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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MAINSTAGE SUBSCRIPTION SERIES

Shaw vs Chesterton | Sept 7 – Oct 28

Based on actual debates and exchanges, George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton – two of the greatest literary minds of the 20th century – square off in what proves to be one of the most electric, humorous and relevant war of words in modern history. How do you remain good friends when you disagree on just about everything? Let these two “debaters of the century” show you. Witness actual exchanges between these great intellectual heavyweights as they battle it out over multiple topics that sound remarkably relevant today. The play also explores the complexities and deep admiration these “friendly enemies” had for each other that solidified there relationship for decades.

Starring Provision Theater Company member Brad Armacost

Adapted and arranged by Timothy Gregory

Directed by Timothy Gregory

 

The Christmas Miracle of Jonothan Toomey | Nov 23 – Dec 23

After a critically acclaimed world-premiere production last season, this beautiful, moving holiday treat is back by popular demand. When a broken-hearted boy loses the treasured wooden nativity given to him by his now deceased father, his mother goes to the local woodcarver in hopes of obtaining a replacement. Jonathan Toomey, known to the village as “Mr. Gloomy” takes the job – but refuses to promise anything by Christmas. But when Thomas decides to watch the woodcarver work, the commission takes their relationship to unexpected places; even as Christmas approaches, the real miracle is the transformation created in each of their lives.

Starring Provision Theater Company member Susan Moniz

Based on the award-winning children’s book by Susan Wojchiechowski

Written by Timothy Gregory and Michael Mahler

Directed by Timothy Gregory

 

Fish Eyes | Feb 9 – Mar 31 

A routine morning in a small fishing town. Two brothers. Fishermen who had a poor catch last night. They have no idea that they’re about to encounter a man who will change their lives forever. This stranger is different, simple, wise, vulnerable but strong. They soon learn more about him and in the process, themselves. Full of surprises, questions, confusion, pain, joy, and miracles. The story of Jesus and the disciples has fascinated us for two thousand years. Fish-Eyes is another look at how this God-man affected the world through two very human sets of eyes- Peter and Andrew. It’s humorous, identifiable, simple… and sure to move you.

Starring Provision Theater Company member Rod Armentrout

Written by Lee Eshleman and Ted Swartz

Directed by Ingrid DeSanctis

 

Spoon River Anthology | May 3 – June 16

This exciting new theatrical adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ classic poem cycle explores the accounts of a fictional small town’s triumphs and failures, and loves and losses, based on epitaphs from the town’s gravestones. Don’t miss this astonishingly stirring and emotionally satisfying offering. The dead, “sleeping on the hill” in their village cemetery, awaken to tell the truth about their lives. Tales of war, poverty, religion, and marriage among many other themes in this gossipy detail of middle America.

Starring Provision Theater Company member Lia Mortensen

Adapted and arranged by Timothy Gregory

Directed by Timothy Gregory

 

THEATER FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES

Jack and the Beanstalk | Sept 22 – Oct 27

NOTE: This production is not part of the Provision Theater subscription series

Join us for an afternoon of magic, wonder, and imagination! Provision Theater for Young Audiences is proud to present a musical rendition of one of America’s most beloved classic fairy tales. When a mysterious man convinces Jack to trade his cow–his family’s last valuable possession–in exchange for a handful of magic beans, our hero’s world is turned upside down! Will he be able to make it all the way up to the castle in the clouds, rescue the princess from the Giant’s lair, and make it back down the beanstalk safe and sound? Only time will tell…

Written by Marc Robin

Directed by Provision Theater Education Director Priscilla Hummel

Provision Theater Youth Program

•February 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The snow is gone, and the rain is here…what’s next? Maybe some sun and warm weather? I sure hope so because here at Provision Theater, we’re getting ready for the spring session of after-school classes and summer camps for kids ages 5-16! So for all you parents out there, this is a great activity for kids—whether you’re in the heart of downtownChicagoor the surrounding suburbs and are looking for activities for your children!

All classes and camps will be held on stage in Provision’s state-of-the-art theater! So, just picture this: your children getting the chance to be up on the same stage that professional actors and actresses have performed on in some of the biggest shows seen in the beautiful city of Chicago! It’s so easy to register, too! Simply click here and you will be taken directly to the spring and summer registration forms. There is a complete list of classes for different age groups on Provision Theater’s website under the Education tab. Spring Classes begin the week of March 25th and run for eight weeks.  Class days, times, age groups, and pricing can be found on the website…class descriptions are coming soon!

As far as Summer Camps go, all camps run Monday through Friday from 9am-3pm.  There will be a different theme for each week which will culminate in a dynamic showcase production for family and friends!

Week 1: “Shrek” June 18-22 (ages 5-7)

Week 2: “Annie” June 25-29 (ages 7-9)

Week 3: “Newsies” July 9-13 (ages 9-11)

Week 4: “Glee” July 16-20 (ages 12-16)

Week 5: “The Muppets” July 23-27 (ages 5-7)

Week 6: “Cinderella” July 30-Aug. 3 (ages 7-9)

Week 7: “Spelling Bee” Aug. 6-10 (ages 9-11)

Week 8: “CampRock” Aug. 13-17 (ages 7-9)

Priscilla Hummel, Director of Education, is in charge of organizing the Provision Theater Youth Program, which originally kicked off in the summer of 2010.  Hummel says that classes and camps fill up quickly, so sign up TODAY! This is such a great opportunity, but there are other great aspects that should definitely be taken advantage of, like special discounts, for example!

If you register by February 27th, you save 10% on your class or camp tuition! You can also sign up a sibling, recruit a new student or camper, or sign up for more than one class or camp and save 10%! And just when you thought it couldn’t get better than this, if you recruit 10 or more new students or campers, you could save 50% on your child’s class or camp tuition!  Keep in mind, however, that all of these discounts are limited to one per student or camper per session.

In the spring of 2011, Provision’s Education Program expanded to include Theater for Young Audiences featuring the musical production of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The Theater for Young Audiences programming continues this season with the upcoming production of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, opening Saturday, May 5th and running every Saturday at 12pm and 2pm.

“We decided to produce this one-act musical because it is a perfect show for children and family audiences: it is a beloved, classic fairy tale full of magic, wonder, and inspiration,” says Hummel. “The show is written by a well-known Chicago theatre artist, Marc Robin, who is an accomplished playwright, composer, lyricist, and director.  JACK AND THE BEANSTALK features a cast of six professional actors who will bring the story to life in a fresh new way.”

To purchase tickets or obtain more information—including details about post-show talk-backs, workshops, and “Character Picnics on the Lawn”—check out Provision’s Education Page on the website!

“We are finally launching the latest component of the Education Program which is the Educational Outreach Program,” says Hummel, “which will offer one-act productions to elementary and middle school students acrossChicagothat highlight social and educational issues that they face in their academic environment.”

An example of one of the one-act productions is CAMP SUPER FRIEND by Bethany Wallace. The show is about a young boy named Marvel—a superhero who can read and retain information at super-speed—who is nervous about going to summer camp for the first time.  The show features themes such as forming friendships, celebrating one’s unique gifts and talents, respecting other people’s differences, being a positive ally, building teamwork skills, and recognizing and reporting negative behavior.  Provision has done two performances of CAMP SUPER FRIEND so far:  one for Old St. Mary’s–which was performed at their school–and one forPolarisCharterAcademy–which we performed at Provision, a field trip experience for their students. CAMP SUPER FRIEND is just one of the outreach productions that Provision plans to offer to schools across the Chicago-land area for the 2012-2013 school year.

“My favorite part of working with children is seeing the joy in their eyes when they have a new creative experience,” says Hummel, “whether it’s an artistic breakthrough in the classroom, on stage as a performer, or taking in their first professional theatre experience as an audience member.”

So, we hope to see you this spring and summer for all the festivities!

By: Christine Petrick

The Foreigner by Larry Shue

•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Coming soon to Provision Theater is an American classic entitled, The Foreigner. The man who wrote the play seems to be an American classic in and of himself. Even though he got the chance to enjoy only a short time on this earth, his plays continue to live on through the astounding talent of the men and women involved in theater all across the United States.

Larry Shue, the original playwright, was born on July 23, 1946 and died on September 23, 1985. He was an American playwright and actor, best known for writing two very popular productions; The Nerd and The Foreigner.

Born in Louisiana, he was raised and grew up in parts of Kansas and in Illinois, as well, specifically in Chicago. He graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1968, served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and then began his career as a professional actor and playwright. The transition from the battle field to the calm inner workings of a theater had to be different than what he was used to. He worked in repertory in New York, and appeared in One Life to Live. His film appearances include the shorts A Common Confusion; Another Town; and The Land of the Blind: or The Hungry Leaves; and the feature-length Sweet Liberty.

The Nerd and The Foreigner were written and first performed while he was playwright-in-residence at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

The Nerd premiered in April 1981, and was produced successfully in London’s West End. It transferred to Broadway in 1987. It is a simple character-based comedy, in which a normal dinner party, interrupted by the house-guest from hell, escalates into insanity.

The Foreigner, on the other hand, premiered in 1983 and transferred to Off-Broadway. The central character is Charlie Baker, who, while on a vacation in a Georgia hunting lodge, pretends not to be able to understand English, so as to avoid the attentions of the other guests. His plan backfires and he soon finds himself the confidant of everyone there, especially a young boy named Ellard, who thinks he is teaching Charlie English.

“This is my first production at Provision and I am so excited, and have loved every minute of it,” actress Glory Kissel says, “I am hoping to be as honest, thorough and right on in my character analysis of Betty Meeks. I hope all of us together bring a fun-filled, strong ensemble show to Provision Theater that has a great message through humor and wisdom!”

In agreement with his fellow actor up on Provision’s stage, Colin Wasmund, who plays Own Musser says, “I always wish to succeed as an actor individually, but nothing is more important to me than coming together with everyone else in the cast/crew to show the audience an awesome time at this show!”

Although, Shue’s success was short-lived, the plays he produced lived on long after he was gone. With only two years of The Foreigner being open to the public, he died in the crash of a commuter plane in the Shenandoah Valley near Weyers Cave, Virginia, at the age of 39.

By: Christine Petrick

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•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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