Tag Archives: Ilene Carter

Theater teacher wraps up career with show

by Susan O’Neill
Kaneland—Ilene Carter has worked with up to 150 students per year during her nine years at Kaneland, both on-stage and behind-the scenes.

“A lot of kids have touched me,” she said. “They are amazing. I will miss them a great deal.”

She said it makes her happy that a number of them will major in theater when they go on to college. They have been accepted at schools with well-respected theater programs, such as Millikin University, Augustana College, North Central College in Naperville and Illinois State University, she said. There are also several who will go on to major in music.

Carter said her time at Kaneland has been a true growing experience, and she has appreciated being part of a theater program where such talent could be nurtured. The new auditorium has been a wonderful space for creativity, she added.

Carter is sad to leave, although she looks forward to the next chapter in her life, she said. She hopes to move to New York, where her son lives, or New Jersey, where her daughter lives.

Although the real motivator for moving east is her grandchild, she said that with being so close to the New York theater scene, she would love to become involved in some way.

“Just to be able to attend, I’d be tickled to death,” she said.

Students have fun with Guys and Dolls characters

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Kaneland High School junior Samantha Vasquez, who will play Sister Sarah Brown in the high school’s staging of “Guys and Dolls” this weekend, has been in school plays since the sixth grade, but this is the first time she will play the lead.

Vasquez said she is having a lot of fun with her character.

“I like being someone else for a change,” she said. “She’s completely different from me. She’s serious.”
Sister Sarah Brown, a pious mission worker from the Save-A-Soul Mission, is looking for souls to save on the 1940s streets of New York City. Among the gamblers, crooks, drunks and dancers who inhabit the neighborhood in which the mission resides, Sister Sarah encounters Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler played by Kevin Krasinski, who some may remember in his role as Gaston last year in Beauty and the Beast.

“‘Guys and Dolls’ is always so much fun for kids,” director and theater teacher Ilene Carter said. “It’s a character show.”

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1950, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, according to Carter. The movie version in 1955 starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.

Samantha Vasquez (right), who plays Sister Sarah Brown, shares a laugh onstage with Kevin Krasinski, who plays Sky Masterson, during last week's rehearsal. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Carter said she chose the play because she had enjoyed it so much when she acted in it and subsequently directed it.

Sydney Luse and Kelsey Cotton, both freshmen, are Hot Box dancers in the play. The Hot Box is a seedy nightclub in the city where one of the main characters, Miss Adelaide, played by Chelsey Roberts, is the headliner.

“It’s been a blast,” Luse said.

Luse said she thinks the 1940s, the decade in which the play takes place, is a pretty cool time-period.

Although new to acting at the high school level, both girls had been in plays in middle school. Cotton has also been in two plays at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, where she was a chorus member in Beauty and the Beast and in “Guys and Dolls.”

Chelsey Roberts (left), who plays Adelaide, the headline of the Hot Box dancers, practices a routine at last week's rehearsal with another one of the Hot Box dancers. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Sophomore Brian Edwards plays Big Jule, the gambler from Chicago.

“He’s a tough guy; not the smartest guy, but he has a lot of weapons,” Edwards said.

Senior Chloe Blummel, who has acted in a number of plays during high school, has taken on the role of stage manager for “Guys and Dolls.” The stage manager attends every performance, keeping track of every detail, and is in charge of the performance the night of the show, Carter said.

“It’s really cool to see the stage from the other side,” Blummel said.

Blummel said she has really enjoyed working with Carter, as well.

“She knows her stuff,” she said.

Blummel said it has been great to understand what the director is trying to accomplish, and to see why she does what she does.

“She (Carter) treats me with the utmost respect,” she said. “She’s been kind and very supportive. She asks for my opinion. It’s been a pleasure.”

She said she will be the last stage manager Carter works with before she leaves, and hopes she lives up to her expectations.

“I know how much the show means to her,” Blummel said.

The journey

High school actors worked with playwright through process
KANELAND—Kaneland High School’s Drama Department received special treatment while preparing for its fall play.

Professional playwright James Carter, the son of director and drama teacher Ilene Carter, wrote “Reaching Outpost” specifically for the Kaneland students; and the play is set in the Kaneland area in the not-too-distant future.

In addition to that, the students hosted Carter for a weekend in September to work with him prior to the final re-write.

“The experience for me was sort of refreshing,” Carter said. “The kids don’t B.S. you; they’re very honest.”

[quote]Carter said that when a writer is in the midst of writing a play, he or she is in a bit of a bubble. Watching the students rehearse each scene gives the play an opportunity to breathe, and for the playwright to find the holes and to tweak the lines.

“It was an opportunity for the students to ask, ‘Why is that character doing that?’” he said.

The chance for the cast to work with the playwright paid dividends for student and professional alike, especially for KHS senior Chelsea Roberts. Roberts, who usually plays character roles, will perform in the lead role as 18-year-old Zeada. She said that playing the main character has been a challenge, but one she has enjoyed taking on.

Roberts, who usually plays character roles, said that playing the lead role Zeada has been a challenge, but one that she has enjoyed tackling. Zeada is a strong female character, and Roberts has found characteristics within herself that she draws on to play the role.

“I asked her, ‘What are you most afraid of? What do you want most in life?’” Carter said.

One of the other more challenging roles is played by KHS junior Dylan Draper, who portrays a boy raised by wolves when he lost his mother in the disaster. The boy was traumatized yet again when the wolf who had become his mother was killed.

Draper’s character has a neurotic tic and a profound stutter. Draper said that in order to learn how to effectively play someone with a stutter, he watched people on YouTube and practiced until he perfected it.

Carter said he wanted to write something with many parts to give as many students as possible an opportunity to participate. The play has 12 speaking parts and features many extras and crowd scenes.

“That’s what education is all about,” he said. “You never know—someone with a very small part could someday end up on Broadway.”

Photo: Chelsea Roberts (above, left) and Jordan Withey play sisters in ‘Reaching Outpost,’ the screenplay written for Kaneland High School’s Drama department. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Kaneland High School fall play,
“Reaching Outpost”
A world premier written
for Kaneland by New York
playwright James Carter

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 &
Saturday, Nov. 14; 2 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 15

Kaneland High School

Tickets on sale now; cost
for adults is $5; $2 for children
for ticket order form

‘Reaching Outpost,’ by KHS, for KHS
The Kaneland High School fall play, “Reaching Outpost,” is about a group of children left on their own after when a pandemic wiped out an entire population of anyone over 9 years old. The disaster left 9-year-old Zeada, played by KHS senior Chelsea Roberts, in charge.

The children, assisted by videos containing lessons on how to live made for them by their parents, have forged a society with its own rules and ethics.

A decade later, after five years of silence, a distress signal from an outpost 50 miles away calls the children to set out on a journey to answer the questions: Who is calling, are they really in trouble, and is there really anyone else out there?

Zeada leads a group of seven children on a journey to find the Old Downtown Chicago outpost, while the others await their discovery.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ a beauty of a production

by Susan O’Neill
Disney’s musical “Beauty and the Beast” has been Kaneland High School senior Samantha Eichelberger’s favorite show since she was a little girl. By the time she was 3 years old, she knew the words to all the songs. She said she felt a real connection to Belle, the main character in the story, with whom she shared a love of reading.

“I would say, ‘Look, mommy, she likes to read, too,’” she said.

When she got older, she developed an even greater appreciation for the music. So when she was chosen to play Belle in the high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast, she was thrilled.

The students of Kaneland High School performed the musical last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three days were well-attended, and Sunday was a sold-out show. In full costume, the cast joined a room full of little boys and girls for a brunch before Sunday’s matinee. Some of the children dressed up like their favorite characters, and posed for souvenir pictures with the actors.

“I love the little kids,” cast member Emily Kenkel said. “They’re so in awe.”

Kenkel, who played Mrs. Potts, was dressed like a tea-pot, with one arm for the handle and the other to pour. She said she had a lot of fun with her role as an inanimate object.

This was Kenkel’s last high school production. She graduates this spring and said she will likely become a music teacher. She said she was happy that her last play was such a huge production.

And a huge production it was. Many of the actors had several costume changes during the performance, some as many as three. There were also a number of set changes, as well.

Everything worked flawlessly. Ilene Carter, the director, said that high school junior and stage manager Scott Dykstra had everything under control.

She said he was very disciplined during the rehearsals and performances. He would not allow any chatter over the seven headsets he had going to give everyone direction.

“It was amazing the way he pulled everything together,” Carter said.

Bradley Staker, who played The Beast, not only played one of the lead roles, but also put a lot of time into helping build the sets. He also assisted with the lights “and all the fun stuff,” he said.

Staker said the role of The Beast fit him, because his friends consider him a big cuddly beast. He said he has been singing since the second grade when he sang a solo in the children’s Christmas concert at his church.

“I’ve been singing ever since,” he said.

He began performing in musicals in high school and is a part of the Madrigals and the boy’s choir. Although he is a junior, he has already decided he will major in music education in college. He wants to teach choral music.

Gaston, also known as Kevin Krasinski, said Beauty and the Beast was a part of his childhood, as well. He said it was nice to reminisce while they rehearsed for the performance.

He said playing Gaston was exciting for him, and he was really able to lose himself in the character. Krasinski is 6’1” tall, and similar to Gaston, he has a large presence.

“I’m like Gaston in that I carry myself in a big manner,” he said. “Gaston has a big personality and he is boastful. They always know he’s in the room.”

Krasinski said he has been acting since he was in eighth grade, when he tried out for a play and ended up with the role of Daddy Warbucks. He said he realized then how much fun it was. He also started singing when he was very young.

When he was in sixth or seventh grade, he started to pursue music more seriously. He joined the Midnight Special, the concert choir and the Madrigals, and began performing in musicals.

The other main cast members are Chloe Bluml as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Brock Feece as Lefou, Joey Kenkel as Maurice, Belle’s father, Kathryn Lanute as Chip, Bryan Renaud as Lumiere, Kendall Renaud as Cogsworth, Jake Rosco as Monsieur D’Arque and Bessie Tockstein as Babette.

Mike Panegouleas is the narrator, James Tockstein is the young prince, Taylor Carlson and Danielle Rose played the enchantress, and the silly girls were played by Emma Anderson, Natalie Sweica and Samantha Vazquez.

In addition to the students who played the leads and other larger parts, Carter said there were many others who helped to make the production a success.

“The chorus members worked just as hard rehearsing,” she said. (The musical number) “Be Our Guests” is 12 minutes long.”

The chorus began rehearsing the music under musical director Bryan Kunstman the week of Jan. 9, and students began work on the sets with technical director Chad Carlson at about the same time. Carter said for the high school orchestra to learn that much music in that short of a time was a tribute to orchestra director Aaron Puckett.

Carter, who teaches theatre at the high school, said they were lucky to have choreographer Paula Frasz work with the cast. Frasz is a professor of dance and choreographer at Northern Illinois University.

Lisa Hodge was in charge of the costumes, and Carter said she made the changes look effortless from the audience. She said parents helped in every capacity.

“We had the right combination of people to make the quality happen,” she said.

Eichelberger said she definitely had fun during this performance and particularly enjoyed coming out on stage in the yellow dress.

“I could hear the kids going, ‘Ooooh,’” she said. “My mom said the little girl behind her said, ‘She’s so pretty.’ I felt like a princess.”

Memorial benches grace auditorium

by Lynn Meredith
The Kaneland High School auditorium now has in its lobby a permanent memorial of a well-loved and talented theatre student who was killed in an automobile accident. Marcus Issel, a 2006 graduate of Kaneland, is being remembered with the donation of benches.

“It will be a lasting memory of Marcus,” his father Tim Issel told the School Board on Monday when he presented the memorial plaque that will mark the benches.

The plaque reads, “To all students who perform here: Break a leg!”

Marcus Issel loved the theatre and enjoyed being on stage. He acted, directed and played the electric guitar. He was Prom King in 2006. His life was cut short in a single-car accident in November 2006.

“He was a nice young man who was loved by the people who worked with him,” Theatre Director Ilene Carter said.
Also part of the memorial are scholarships for Kaneland students who go on to major in theatre.

This year’s recipients were surprised on stage after the recent performance of “Beauty and the Beast.”