Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ensemble Member of The Year 2016




Every year I am grateful for the hard work and contributions of our talented and dedicated ensemble.  While the work is rewarding, it’s not easy.  It involves early mornings, ever changing schedules, and the constant challenge of starting conversations around sensitive topics with audiences that include as many points of view as there are students.
Every year, our ensemble members vote to name one of their peers the ensemble member of the year.  Here are the credentials we ask everyone to consider when casting their vote: 

“This person has gone above and beyond the call of duty throughout the season, and is well-rounded in all areas of IT’s programming as an actor, moderator, improviser, facilitator, educator, and writer.  The ensemble member of the year has a positive attitude both on stage and off, and is looked upon as a leader within the company.  This person shows remarkable commitment to IT, having volunteered his/her time on numerous occasions, and is consistently reliable and professional.  The ensemble member of the year truly understands IT’s mission, and strives to incorporate “IT skills” into his/her life.” 

The votes are in and the winner is… Sean Sullivan!


Here’s a sampling of what Sean’s fellow ensemble members had to say about him:

“He's really shown that he cares about the work and the students.”

“He is always on time, prepared and has a great work ethic. Just showing up and doing the show is not enough for him, he is constantly thinking of ways to make our shows better for the audiences.”

“… has been a strong team member and improviser throughout all of this year.”
 
Sean joined Imagination Theater in 2013 and immediately embraced all aspects of the work.  He is an advocate for our mission, an exemplary facilitator, and an engaging performer.

I’ve been fortunate enough to observe him in classroom settings and witness the way he expertly fosters an environment for success and mutual respect.  It’s not enough for Sean to facilitate a discussion about effective communication and empathy, he models it at all times.

Sean has been vital in executing our mission onstage.  More importantly, he embodies it offstage.  In many of our shows we talk about being an active bystander.  Sean is never a passive bystander to injustice; he calls it out and offers support.  Being an active bystander is part of who he is.  Audiences sense that authenticity when he encourages them to take a stand.

He’s an enormous asset to each of the numerous ensembles with which he performs.  We are thrilled that he shares his talents and passion with us, and we are excited to celebrate him as this year’s Ensemble Member of the Year.
Congratulations Sean, and thank you for everything you do!
As always, you can learn more about Imagination Theater’s ensemble and programming at www.imaginationtheater.org.
-Jeremy Schaefer, Artistic Director


Monday, February 22, 2016

The Audience Speaks



When you practice participatory theater, there is no greater joy than an enthusiastic audience of spect-actors.

This afternoon we experienced the thrill of performing Show Some Respect in front of an incredibly brave and open group of high schoolers.


During a discussion about slurs, one student was honest enough to admit that he uses "those words every day."  After that confession, he listened — genuinely listened — while his peers opened up about how those words make them feel.  Together the audience distinguished between a label and a slur and committed to standing up against future use of slurs in their school community.  Students from different backgrounds made themselves vulnerable and then learned though experience how an honest exchange can promote understanding and positive change.

Following a scene about a particularly hurtful prank, another student announced that this situation actually played out at his old school, causing long lasting humiliation and pain for the girl who was pranked.  He was eager to take the stage to demonstrate how such a joke can be shut down before it ever hurts another person.

Whenever a student volunteer left the stage, they were welcomed back into the audience with unsolicited applause.

It was really beautiful to watch such meaningful conversations emerge from our scenes.  After the show, multiple students thanked us for the play's message.  While we certainly appreciate their gratitude, the message was already in the room.  Our performance simply created a space for these students to share it with each other.

As always, you can learn more about our programs at www.imaginationtheater.org.

— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director





Monday, November 23, 2015

Thank You To Our Ensemble Members!



A decade ago, when I began my journey with Imagination Theater, one of the things that most impressed me about this company was its seemingly limitless flexibility.  Then and now, our actors and teaching artists regularly adjust content on the fly to fit the needs of our audiences.

This season, our ensemble has really upped their flexibility game!  In a short period of time we've created multiple original programs for high school empowerment days, two completely customized versions of our No Secrets program, new pieces about kids and dads, healthy decision making, corporate workshops, diversity trainings, and more!  Our actors and facilitators have been learning, perfecting, and performing new scripts and navigating new content on a regular basis since the top of August.

I've been fortunate enough to attend a few of these customized performances and witness how ensemble members expertly lead audiences through these brand new experiences.  Facilitators intuitively know when they need to linger on a concept and when they can move to the next scene.  Audiences have been enthusiastic and our feedback has been unanimously positive.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am definitely thankful for our team of artists and their incredible dedication to our mission.  Whether the material they're working with is seasons old or completely fresh, their craft is always exemplary.  I am so impressed by and grateful for each and every one of them.

As always, you can learn more about our programming at www.imaginationtheater.org.

— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director


Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Fast Pace of the 2015/16 Season



It seems like every year I respond to the arrival of fall weather by commenting that it came so quickly.  This year, however, fall feels like it's arrived particularly early.

Imagination Theater has had an incredibly busy and wonderful start to our 2015/16 season.  We're extending our mission of interactive, social issues theater into brand new horizons. 

Here are just a few highlights from the past couple of months:

We welcomed four new and incredibly talented actors into our ensemble.

We trained new facilitators and got them up in front of audiences.

We've continued to expand our children's sexual abuse prevention program, No Secrets, into communities outside of Chicago.  Every new school to experience the program has responded with enthusiasm and gratitude.  We've even customized brand new versions of the script for district wide programming!

We showcased Ease the Tease at Premier Showcase and Centre East Showcase 2015.  After both performances schools were eager to share an assembly with their students.

We booked an extremely busy performance schedule in September, October, and November.  We've also started reserving dates for our holiday program, Show Some Respect: Holiday Edition, this coming December.

Finally, we are about to embark on our first international workshop: a corporate training in London!

With everything happing at Imagination Theater the past couple of months, it's no wonder that autumn's arrival felt like it came early.  Our 2015/16 season is moving forward at an awesome pace and we look forward to every second of it!

As always, you can learn more about Imagination Theater at www.imaginationtheater.org.

— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director





Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Rehearsals



Imagination Theater is grateful to welcome some superb new talent into our ensemble this season!

It's been absolutely wonderful to experience a whole new perspective of our programming during this year's summer rehearsals.  Familiar scenes spark new and meaningful discussions, while our opening games have a fresh burst of energy.

This year's new ensemble members bring more to the work than their acting talents.  They have a genuine compassion for young audiences and a desire to use their theatrical skills to make a positive impact.  After rehearsing this past month, I have no doubt that they will leave an awesome footprint on our 2015/16 season!



As always, you can learn more about Imagination Theater and our programming at www.imaginationtheater.org.  

— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ensemble Member of The Year: 2015!



Imagination Theater’s ensemble is an incredibly dedicated group of actors, facilitators, and teaching artists with huge hearts and tremendous talent.  It takes stelar individuals to make a beyond stellar ensemble!

Every year, our ensemble members vote to name one of their peers the ensemble member of the year.  Here are the credentials we ask everyone to consider when casting their vote:

“This person has gone above and beyond the call of duty throughout the season, and is well-rounded in all areas of IT’s programming as an actor, moderator, improviser, facilitator, educator, and writer.  The ensemble member of the year has a positive attitude both on stage and off, and is looked upon as a leader within the company.  This person shows remarkable commitment to IT, having volunteered his/her time on numerous occasions, and is consistently reliable and professional.  The ensemble member of the year truly understands IT’s mission, and strives to incorporate “IT skills” into his/her life.” 

The votes are in and the winner is… Dimokratia Michalopoulos (for the second time)!


Here’s a sampling of what Dimokratia’s fellow ensemble members had to say about her:

“She has a warm sense of humor during shows and on car rides.” 

“She has a great balance of focus while still having fun and being supportive and engaging."

“I've never heard anything but positivity from her about what we do when we're doing it.”

Dimokratia started with Imagination Theater as an actor and she still continues in that role after taking on facilitation responsibilities as well.  This season she trained to facilitate our Children’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Program, No Secrets.  By taking on the title of No Secrets facilitator, she has been instrumental in allowing that program to extend beyond the city limits in accordance with Erin’s Law.

I have been fortunate enough to watch her facilitate and act in a number of shows this past season.  Regardless what role she’s playing, her commitment to our social issues mission is a gift to our audiences.  Younger audiences gravitate to her warm energy and overflowing positivity.  Older audiences easily relate to her and feel comfortable asking her questions or accepting her invitations to join the actors on stage.

In addition to our social issues shows, Dimokratia volunteered at our annual benefit and participated in the pilot program for a corporate workshop on the east coast.  I was fortunate enough to tour with her for that corporate workshop and witness the way she carries her onstage positivity into every aspect of touring from navigating airports to finding a good meal in a new city.  

She’s an omnipresent force within our company, and it’s a privilege to celebrate her this year (yet again) as your Ensemble Member of The Year!  

Congratulations Demi, and thank you for everything you do!

As always, you can learn more about Imagination Theater’s ensemble and programming at www.imaginationtheater.org.


— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wrapping Up Auditions


The talent in Chicago’s theater community is astounding!  After four rounds of auditions, Imagination Theater saw nearly 60 actors interpret our interactive scenes and improvise positive resolutions to realistic conflicts.  

It was really fantastic to witness new takes on familiar characters and to see fresh blood in some of our most popular scenes.  Every group of auditioning actors evoked both laughter and conversation from their peers.

We are so grateful to be a part of such a phenomenally talented theater community!

In the next couple of weeks we’ll be introducing the newest members of the Imagination Theater ensemble!  

We’re looking forward to a fantastic ensemble and another great season of social issues theater!

As always, you can learn more about Imagination Theater at www.imaginationtheater.org.


— Jeremy Schaefer, Associate Artistic Director