New Westchester theater all fired up
Zach Watts (from left), and Carolyn Webber, both of Westchester, Judi Grant of Brookfield, and Eric Hamilton of Naperville rehearse for "Barbecuing Hamlet." | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Westchester Civic Theatre, St. Joseph High School, 10900 W. Cermak Road, Westchester
7:30 p.m. Saturdays, June 9 and June 16; and 2 p.m. Sundays, June 10 and June 17
Tickets are $13 for adults; $11 for seniors and students; $8 for children 5-12; children under 6 are free
Call (708) 928-5010
Updated: June 6, 2012 3:15PM
To be or not to be is the question, and the answer, for the Westchester Civic Theatre, is to be. The fledgling theater company hits the boards running with the farce “Barbecuing Hamlet,” to be staged over two weekends beginning June 9 at St. Joseph High School.
“Barbecuing Hamlet” was tailor-made for the company’s first production. It’s a valentine to community theater. Brookfield resident Judi Grant stars as Margo, a New Yorker, who is hired by the Peaceful Glen Memorial Players, whose theater is a renovated funeral home, to stage Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy.
Spoiler alert: Hilarity ensues.
But the play, which puts the “community” into community theater, resonates strongly with company co-founder and play co-director Amy Bamberger. The characters, she said, “learn that it doesn’t have to be perfect, they had a good time and it was the best experience of their lives.”
The WCT was envisioned with the same purpose: to provide “a safe environment” for budding and seasoned theater enthusiasts to get involved.
Just have fun
“We want to put on great productions,” Bamberger said, “but our primary goal is that everybody has a really good time with it.”
Bamberger credits Village of Westchester Trustee Walter Novak with planting the seeds for the WTC when he made a pitch last fall for a community theater. “I believe it will make a positive contribution to the personality of Westchester,” Novak said in an email. “It will give an outlet for youth to cultivate theatrical talents and (experienced participants) a chance to pass their skills and talents on to others.”
Mentoring will play a primary role in the WCT, Bamberger agreed. She and co-director Daniel Rocha are working with director-in-training Thad Fisher on “Barbecuing Hamlet.” The cast also includes St. Joseph High School student Zachary Watts. Even Westchester Mayor Sam Pulia is getting into the act. He is scheduled to make a cameo appearance in the June 16 performance.
“It’s all about bringing in people from all types of backgrounds and ability levels and creating an environment to learn how to do whatever it is they want to do, whether it’s acting, singing, or designing a costume,” she said. “It’s not meant to be competitive. It is meant to be an open door and an outlet for people who enjoy theater but are otherwise engaged in their everyday lives. We are building something from scratch, and doing it together.”
Bamberger and Rocha have extensive community theater experience, with Rising Stars Theatre and the North Riverside Players among their credits. They have been funding WTC’s endeavors out of their own pockets. While Westchester is not helping the WCT financially, the village did connect them with St. Joseph High School, whose theater space was not in use, an all-too-common malady in school districts facing severe budget constraints.
After “Barbecuing Hamlet,” what will the WTC do for an encore? A mystery is being considered for a fall production, Bamberger said. They are also planning a Christmas concert.
But the troupe’s legacy is assured even before the opening night curtain. St. Joseph High School recently announced it will reboot its own
theater department, with teacher Eric Hamilton (who is also performing in “Barbecuing Hamlet”) as theater director.