GREENROOM IMPROV: Surviving and thriving in a global pandemic

By: Miriam Naponelli

The performing arts is an industry that many have called “recession-proof”, after surviving and frankly thriving in The Great Depression and numerous recessions. However, nothing could have prepared industry professionals for 2020. 

GreenRoom Improv had high hopes for 2020, their 20th anniversary as an improv comedy troupe. Kicking off the year with highly attended monthly shows and already booking several gigs months in advance. However, all of that was put on the back burner during the week of March 9th. COVID-19 hit the US with a bang and what many thought would be a two-week hiatus turned into the cancellation of all in-person shows for the foreseeable future. 

Something that sets GreenRoom Improv apart from other troupes is their aim to take the world off the shoulders of their audience and bring them some joy for an hour and a half. However, with no in-person shows, that was not happening…Until April 6th, 2020 when they launched their first of several zoom shows which they aired on Facebook. 

Were they the first to try out “Live Streaming” improv? No… but what set them apart from the rest was their dedication and drive to bring laughter to people in a time that was otherwise dark. It was this dedication that led them to secure a residency at Raue Center for the Arts AND develop a brand new format that could go virtual if need be. 

GreenRoom began its residency with Raue Center in October 2020 with a capacity of 50 people and unlimited livestream tickets. Their first show back in 7 months was a sell-out. However, things took a turn in November with the virus forcing GreenRoom to go completely virtual. Since the new format was already being broadcast to the masses via livestream, this adjustment was seamless. 

And so it continued that way for the next few months until they were given to go-ahead to proceed with live performances with capacity limits. The road has not been easy that led GreenRoom Improv to a 3-year residency with Raue Center due to the global pandemic, but it has been something that the troupe is extremely thankful for. After all, if an improv troupe can’t improvise and thrive in adapting to their surroundings, then they probably aren’t worth the money. 

Come celebrate 20 years with GreenRoom Improv at Raue Center for the Arts!

(From Left to Right) - Backrow: Miriam Naponelli, Christian Zierke, Paul Gunsul, Matthew Aldis, Jess Smith. Front Row: Kerry Cox, David Hunter, Sam Barbaro.

About GreenRoom Improv:

GreenRoom Improv is an ensemble-based theatre company that specializes in improvisation. GreenRoom was founded by a group of Judson University (Elgin, IL) students in 1999 as a result of the cancellation of the school’s Theatre program.

GreenRoom plays multiple bookings throughout the year with its unique blend of clean, high-energy, multi-faceted 100% improvised comedy. The GreenRoom improvisers have performed nationally for a wide range of audiences and events.

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.


SANTA RUN RETURNS TO CRYSTAL LAKE

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (CBS) — “Ho, ho, ho,” turned into, “No, no, no,” for a charity Santa race in the northwest suburbs thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

But a year later, Santas by the hundred are set to hit the streets once again. CBS 2’s Jim Williams had a look at the preps needed to make it happen.

Upon first glance, you might think Mike Splitt was in the apparel business, or that he’s outfitting department store Santas. Nope; stacking box after box at his office, Splitt is preparing for one of Crystal Lake’s biggest events of the year.

“It’s a sea of red out here,” in downtown Crystal Lake, he said.

The McHenry County Santa Run for Kids returns in person this year on the first Sunday of December. Splitt is the race director.

“It’s a fun event. You wear the beard, wear the costume basically, all for a good cause,” he said.

The Santa Run raises money for several charities.

“We provide programs for girls from 3rd to 8th grade. It’s a running foreword that helps empower girls,” said Michelle Stien, project manager for the non-profit Girls on the Run,

Michael Neumannn said tells us his organization, Turning Point, will able to provide more help for victims of domestic violence thanks to the race.

VIEW THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON CBS 2 NEWS

SINGER LYNNE JORDAN GETS REAL

Raue Center’s diva-in-residence for the 2021-22 season, singer and storyteller, Lynne Jordan, sits down with us for a revealing look into how she approaches her craft.

Raue Center’s new Artist Residency Program is a groundbreaking, year-long residency that will explore Lynne’s artistry and craft over the course of 5 performances, recorded interviews, and audience talkbacks.

“Raue Center will not only explore and develop Lynne’s original work as diva-in-residence,” explains Raue Center executive director Richard Kurands, “but also delve into some of the more poignant storytelling styles that have made her a favorite daughter of Chicago for over 30 years.”

Learn more about this Chicagoland favorite below!

  1. How do you prepare for a performance? 

First, I freak out. Preparing for performance involves so much more than just thinking about the actual act of performing. It involves; appearance; picking the material;  rehearsing the band; and trying to make the program cohesive. This happens before the actual show night.  Then comes the actual practical stuff and it depends on how much time I have. For example, My November 19  show happens 19 days after the first show. I have to try and stay in good health: don’t catch cold or get hoarse;  pick out what I’m gonna wear especially if there’s a  concept that I’m supposed to fulfill like black-tie or  Halloween or whatever. And then the hardest part for me is putting on make up though when budget allows I try to get a make up artist. Nothing worse than fighting stubborn false eyelashes right before show-time! 

 

  1. How would you describe yourself as a storyteller?

 I am a realist. I’m a “Tell it like it is” kind of teller. I’m very honest, I overshare and I’m usually hilarious. I’m naturally funny but being an oversharing emotional type I can break your heart and my own in a minute. I’m often fighting back tears and I’m not ashamed of it at all because it’s the truth you know? Real emotion. I have had a lot of experiences; met a bunch of folks and I’m a good observer so I have a lot of stories to tell.  

 

  1. You’re really good at “playing to the room” as they say. How does an audience affect the choices you make as a performer? How does it change? 

I consider that my “superpower” as a performer. I can tell right away if the audience is loosened up and ready for my kind of performing. If they laugh at my jokes then I can be a bit freer with language or types of stories. The key is to have a friendship with the audience as soon as possible. Charm them, make them like you, not by pretense but I have to do this by being authentic and vulnerable. Truth and authenticity are the keys to any communication and a performer/ audience interaction is a relationship of communication. Dancing is the sign of freedom of your audience. If an audience starts off quiet or tough then you have to chip away at that barrier with Jokes,  honesty good singing, and universal stories. If my audience is a certain age group then I choose my repertoire accordingly, some groups are freer by nature and I work with that. We make this journey together. I steer the ship but the audience gives me the weather conditions that may or may not affect our journey.

 

  1. It’s almost thanksgiving. Does this holiday hold any special place in your heart? How do you usually celebrate? What are you most thankful for?

Thanksgiving! Love it! I love any occasion to get together with my loved ones. But the fellowship that comes with sharing a meal can’t be beat. The whole ritual of making food and showing up with bags of stuff, playing games,  laying around like beached whales afterward- I love it! I  go to a meal. I have been going to a friend’s house whose Thanksgivings are notorious-it’s all just friends and ends up in a big dance party. However, going home to my brother’s house is beautiful because we are family I feel at home there like nowhere else – no judgments I can run around in socks or slippers. Unconditional love and history.  Plus my sis-in-law is a great cook! I am thankful for my life every day. I’m obese with diabetes and hypertension- I’m working on changing my physical self but trust me – each new day is a gift! I’m also hugely thankful for the love of my friends and supporters. I am blessed. You wouldn’t believe how blessed I am with love! 

 

  1. What’s one thing you want your audiences to understand about you? 

I’m not perfect but I’m dedicated to being authentic and creating an atmosphere of joy and love amongst them during our time together. 

 

  1. You’re a bandleader. How do the members of your band, The Shivers, inform your work as a performer?  How long have you played together? 

The Shivers… my boys, my foundation. There is no “me” without them. And they’re tops in their fields. They have no limits when it comes to repertoire or concepts. They’re fantastic. Top-notch players! My drummer has been with me for 28 years! The rest since 1998. We are family.  Seriously. 

 

  1. What does music mean to you? 

Oh, Lord! Music and performing are my life. They give me my self-worth. I  am nothing else besides an artist. I can’t imagine what else I could do. Thank the heavens I can make a  living doing this. Music, storytelling, performing give me my identity. I guess because I am “just me” on stage – though I am naturally quite shy and I like being on my own – I feel strong and I have a ministry via music & performing to bring folks together to laugh,  cry and dance.  

 

Lynne Jordan’s residency is possible due to the generous support of Pamela J. Althoff. Learn more about this amazing artist below. Her next performance is scheduled for November 19, 2021 @ 8p. Other performances in 2022 are slated for January 15, February 12, and April 23.  Each performance is unique and different so catch them all!

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.

GREENROOM IMPROV JOINS RAUE AS RESIDENT COMPANY 

Improv Comedy for the whole family Finds a home at Raue Center!

Now in its 20th year, GreenRoom Improv joins Raue Center as one of its resident companies, performing its unique blend of clean, high-energy, multi-faceted improv comedy. Raue Center is the place to see GreenRoom Improv!

GreenRoom members include Dave Hunter, Matthew Aldis, Kerry Cox, Sam Barbaro, Christian Zierke, Miriam Naponelli, Jess Smith, Paul Gunsul (piano), & Erik Scheele (piano). For more information, visit greenroomimprov.com

Recommended Audience: All Ages

ABOUT GREENROOM

GreenRoom Improv is an ensemble-based theatre company that specializes in improvisation. GreenRoom was founded by a group of Judson University (Elgin, IL) students in 1999 as a result of the cancellation of the school’s Theatre program. Since then GreenRoom has performed nationally for a wide range of audiences and events. They currently have residencies in two theaters: The Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, IL, and Raue Center For The Arts in Crystal Lake, IL where they perform monthly. In addition to these residencies, GreenRoom plays multiple bookings throughout the year with their unique blend of clean, high-energy, multi-faceted improv comedy.

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.

McHENRY COUNTY ARTISTS WANTED TO CAPTURE HISTORY

The McHenry County Historical Society &; Museum is marking the 2nd year of its featured exhibit “Art of the Past: Discovering History through McHenry County Artists” with a juried art show titled “This Place Matters: Historic Structures and Landscapes of McHenry County.”

Artists are invited to use their creativity and ingenuity to paint or draw historically significant buildings, structures, and landscapes in McHenry County. The McHenry County Historical Society hopes this art show will foster an appreciation for history and create an awareness to preserve these historic structures for future generations.

Download our CONTEST FLYER  which includes complete entry guidelines. And, please share it! The contest rules are as follows:

  •   Registration opens Sept. 3, 2021, for artists 18 years old and older.
  •   Entries due online at GotHistory.org by Dec. 31, 2021.
  •   Up to three works may be submitted digitally. Entry fee is $35 for each artwork.
  •   Entries will be limited to two-dimensional paintings, drawings or watercolors.
  •   Entries must relate to McHenry County buildings, structures or landscapes.
  •   Maximum overall size is 24-by-36 inches, including mat or frame.
  •   Glassless or Plexiglass framing only, for safety.
  •   Submissions will be judged by Sandra Lang, retired MCC art gallery curator.
  •   Artists will be notified by letter regarding acceptance by Jan. 31, 2022.
  •   Artwork must be dropped off at the museum in Union by March 4, 2022.
  •   Art will be displayed and sold during the 2022 May-October museum season.
  •   Exhibit opening spring 2022.
  •   Artists may specify a reserve (minimum) price.
  •   Half of the proceeds from the painting will be paid to the artist, with the remaining half benefiting the McHenry County Historical Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
  •   The Best in Show submission will not be sold or returned to the artist but will become a permanent addition to the McHenry County Historical Society’s art collection.

For additional information, visit GotHistory.org or call the office at 815-923-2267.

RCSA ANNOUNCES INSTRUCTORS FOR INAUGURAL SEMESTER

On their 20th Anniversary, Raue Center looks to the next 20 years and beyond to create a welcoming place where students of all ages can let their creativity soar! Youth and adult classes! Private, semi-private, and group workshops! Masterclasses with industry professionals! Raue Center School For The Arts (RCSA) is poised to be your “one-stop-shop” in arts education!

Modeled as a conservatory program, Raue Cenyer School For The Arts encourages students to build a curriculum that plays to their specific strengths and interests within the ever-changing landscape of theatrical and instrumental arts. Meet the amazing roster of instructors lined up for the inaugural semester.

Meet Aldren Briones, Instructor for Raue Center School for the Arts in a number of disciplines! Aldren is a vital member of the Piano Trends staff and a talented musician in a variety of instruments. He studied Vocal Performance at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Aldren has worked as a children’s music director with Children’s Theatre of Elgin, Arts Center of St. Charles, and also works as an accompanist and worship leader for Fil-Am Baptist Church. He is also a frequent guest on “Lifting Spirits Through Music” on Facebook and YouTube. Come “lift your spirits through music” with Aldren as your Instructor through RCSA.

Meet Amy Nelson, our Brass Instructor for Raue Center School for the Arts! Amy graduated with her music degree from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. Since then, Amy has toured with groups and orchestras both regionally and nationally, including a gig as a member of Adele’s backup orchestra when Adele performed at the United Center in Chicago. She also has a few Broadway tours under her belt, including “Fiddler On the Roof.”

Meet Ashley Beleny, a Piano Instructor for Raue Center School for the Arts!
Ashley has a passion for teaching piano and has been playing since the age of 5. She also grew up singing in professional children’s choirs and started playing the guitar when she went to college (much easier to transport than a piano). She is currently learning to play the cello… a true testament that it’s never too late to learn a new instrument! Ashley plays mostly classical music on piano but has taught a wide range of styles in both one-on-one and group settings for students aged pre-school through adult.
Meet Bruce Waters, our Guitar/Bass/Ukulele Instructor for Raue Center School for the Arts! Bruce is a lifelong resident of the area and a big part of the music scene locally. He has worked with major artists like Ricky Skaggs at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, he is or has been a member of Pirates On 40 and Sweetwater among other bands. Bruce teaches and works with children and adults alike on both acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar, ukulele, and percussion. Learn from one of the best in the biz with Bruce as your Guitar/Bass/Ukulele Instructor through RCSA.
Education Coordinator and instructor Alayna DeVar is now offering Private Voice Instruction through RCSA, in addition to two exciting Musical Theatre Ensembles: Youth MTE & Adult MTE! Alayna holds a degree in Vocal Performance from Millikin University where she studied Vocal Pedagogy and received excellent ensemble training from her time in the internationally recognized University Choir. She has been teaching private lessons since 2013 and began music directing and conducting for musicals in 2014. She worked as Vocal Director for Celebrity Cruise Lines and occasionally visits Nashville for private coaching with industry professionals.
Realize your full vocal potential with Alayna as your Voice Instructor through RCSA.
Meet John Benedeck, one of our Piano Instructors for Raue Center School for the Arts!
John grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a pianist since he was six. Since then, he has implemented music in everything he does. Whether he is leading a worship team for his church, accompanying the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field, or creating original music for podcasts and short films, John seeks the joy in music without compromise. Experience that same joy in music firsthand with John as your Piano Instructor through RCSA.

RCSA, your “one-stop-shop” in performing arts education! For enrollment information, please contact rcsa@rauecenter.org or visit our website for more details: https://www.rauecenter.org/education/

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.

LYNNE JORDAN CASTS HER SPELL

Raue Center announces its new Artist Residency Program with the appointment of vocalist and storyteller, Lynne Jordan for 2021-2022 Season!

In a city brimming with classic blues and jazz voices, Lynne Jordan’s voice stands out as vocalist, bandleader, solo performer, and storyteller. Drawing upon her own personal stories gleaned from 58 years of living, her experiences are poignant, often funny, and always accompanied by a song. Her talent so dazzled the Second City that the late Chicago film critic Roger Ebert declared her his “favorite diva.” 

Jordan has performed internationally with her band the Shivers in France, Brazil, France, Latvia, Ukraine, and Russia.  And now Lynne Jordan brings her magic to Crystal Lake!   Her first performance as diva in residence was October 30, 2021, at 8 pm. Her setlist was a magical tribute to great songstresses like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone, including favorites like “ I Put A Spell On You,” “Sinner Man,” and “The Time Warp”  and many others. 

Photos courtesy of Tom McDonald @tmcd.chi

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.

ENGAGE DANCE BRINGS BACK THE NUTCRACKER

Engage Dance Theatre, a year-round pre-professional dance company in Crystal Lake for ages 5-18 produces three performances a year including a full-length co-production of The Nutcracker with Raue Center For The Arts. The Nutcracker will appear at Raue Center for a limited engagement on November 18 & 19 with performances at 1 pm and 5 pm. 

Join Clara at her annual Christmas Eve party at the Staulbaum house enjoying a night full of celebration, dancing and magic! As the party comes to a close Clara sneaks downstairs to find her precious new Nutcracker doll and falls asleep dreaming of her wonderful evening. She is startled awake by a group of mischievous mice and taken on an exciting journey with Drosselmeyer and her precious Nutcracker. Battling a life-size mouse Queen, slipping & sliding with snowmen & dazzling Snow Queen, and then flying off on an enchanted crystal sleigh to meet the Queen of the Angels and her herald of Angles at the gates of the Land of Sweets. Spanish Chocolate, Arabian Coffee, Chinese Tea, Russian Taffy, Marzipan Candy, Merry & her sweet Mini Mints, Dew Drop with her carousel of flowers, and the elegant Sugar Plum Fairy & her Cavalier all dance for Clara in an adventure not to be missed this holiday season!

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be the new dance company in residence with this cornerstone nonprofit. The Raue Center for the Arts provides for our Engage Dance Academy young artists a state of art performance space and access to industry professionals whose expertise has benefited our performances in the past,” says co-owner Courtney Petrocci. “Looking to the future we see this as an opportunity for both organizations to grow & produce great theatre & dance for the local & greater northern Illinois arts community.”

Engage Dance Academy is a premier dance academy owned & operated by Courtney & Marc Petrocci, former professional dancers at the Milwaukee Ballet. Bringing professional caliber dance training to Mchenry County for dancers ages 18 months-Adult. Engage is a triple-track dance studio offering dance classes for all levels. Engage Dance Theatre also hosts an award-winning competition team for those dancers looking to compete in Chicago-based competitions; and an Open Division for dancers looking for a wide variety of weekly classes ranging from baby ballet, jazz, hip hop, and Aerial Silks & Tumbling.  

For more information visit engagedanceacademy.com 

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org or call the Box Office at 815.356.9212.

ABBA MANIA PACKS THE HOUSE AT RAUE CENTER

Raue Center was thrilled to have a packed house for the first time since the quarantine began back in March of 2020. ABBA Mania had Raue’s audience members laughing, clapping, and dancing to the hits of the 70s Swedish pop superstars.

“Having such a large crowd in our theater was a bit of a strange feeling after the hardships of the past year and a half but it underscored the reasons why we have been increasingly vocal about the need to get vaccinated or show a negative test before you come to the show,” explained development manager James Knight. 

“It was refreshing to see so many in our audience willing to do the little things to help us keep our community safe. We’ve got a number of other big shows on the horizon: Amy Grant, Night Fever, and Hyprov with Colin Mochrie…so a big thanks to our audience for helping keep us all safe and getting Raue Center back on track!”

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 20 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available, and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic downtown Crystal Lake, Illinois, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. 

For additional information, visit rauecenter.org, facebook.com/RaueCenter, and twitter.com/RaueCenter

LOVE STORY AT CARY GROVE HIGH

Don’t miss the first live theatrical production of Cary Grove High School’s 2021-2022 season!

Tickets are on sale now online and will be available at the door. Our CG Drama cast and crew are excited to welcome back our audiences for Failure: A Love Story!

By the end of 1928, all three Fail sisters will be dead – expiring in reverse order, youngest to oldest, from a blunt object to the head, disappearance, and finally, consumption. Tuneful songs and a whimsical chorus follow the story of Nelly, Jenny June, and Gerty as they live out their lives above the family clock repair shop near the Chicago River before their time unexpectedly runs out.

Cary Grove High School is excited to welcome back our CG Drama audience for this magical, musical fable where, in the end, the power of love is far greater than any individual’s successes or failures. Click on the button below to buy tickets.