Meet the Cast: Mitch Paxton

MITCH PAXTON was most recently seen at CST in Snow White as Prince Charming.


What character are you playing?

I am playing Dan Dwyer.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

I find it interesting that, even though he's hurt and this a reoccurring thing, he won't tell anybody about Coach Knipsy (a.k.a. Mr. Whip) beats him.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

Seeing how all of these different people from different walks of life come together to get through the hard times of being a high school junior in 1967.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

Connecting with Dan on a level that I'm able to portray his pain, but also stubbornness as well.

What has been the most rewarding?

Meeting all of the fantastic cast and getting to know them. We are so close and have such a great time together!

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

To have some tears jerked, there are quite a few moments that are very powerful, but also very funny ones too.

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

These opportunities I have here are amazing, I've learned and have grown so much. There's nothing around here better for young thespians to get involved in!

Meet the Cast: Auriel Lark Felsecker

AURIEL LARK FELSECKER is eighteen years old and finishing her senior year in high school.  She was most recently seen on CST’s stage as Snow White in Snow White.  She has been in numerous shows at CST, but this is quickly becoming one of her favorites.  


What character are you playing?

I play Amanda Denney.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

Amanda is a character with many different walls put up around her. As the play progresses most of the walls get knocked down, yet at the end of the play I think there are a still a couple of them that she continues to hide behind. Any other character that I've played always seemed to completely show themselves to the audience by the end of the show, so it's pretty different playing a character that is still hiding pieces of herself, even at the end of the show.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

Although this play takes place in such a critical time in history, and in the shaping of our nation, it's pretty mind-blowing how much teenagers lives really don't change throughout time. Even though you have these huge historical events going on, these characters lives really revolve around the typical things that almost every single teenager faces.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

For every one quality that I share with my character there is at least 5 others that I do not. So becoming a character that is so much unlike myself took a little bit of time to really fall into. This is the first time that I've really gotten the chance to become a character that is pretty harsh and even comes across as a little mean sometimes.

What has been the most rewarding?

The fact that I was blessed with an outstanding cast and crew for this production! I think my fellow cast members would agree with me when I say that we've made friendships during this process that will continue to grow even after this show has had it's final curtain call.

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

Something different from your 'average teen play'. It's a story that basically puts your emotions on a rollercoaster ride, that catapults you back in time. Whether you are laughing in certain moments and crying during others, the one thing that is for sure is that when you leave the theatre after the show, you won't soon forget this play.

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

Chicago Street Theatre is the best theatre that I have come across. Everyone involved here is the most welcoming group of people that I've ever had the pleasure of working with. As far as the opportunities for teen actors, CST is the place to go. Not only do they have a teen-based play to be able to look forward to getting to audition for every year, they also offer classes for teen actors that offer a complete hands-on and affective approach to acting. Plus they're loads of fun!

Meet the Cast: Hanna Standerski

HANNA STANDERSKI is in her final year of high school and her third production at CST.  


What character are you playing?

I play the socially awkward Kirstin Sabo.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

The characteristic I find most interesting about her has to be her naivete. That's also the biggest challenge with being her; I find it difficult to act like I comprehend less than I do in real life.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

This play really takes a look at the universal dilemmas of teenagers that, despite the decade, never change. Now adding in the social events and difficulties of 1968, it's interesting to see how they all play together.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

Overall, the biggest challenge would be making decisions and choices about the character. Each line has various doors that could be opened, and it's not always a right-or-wrong decision when choosing.

What has been the most rewarding?

The people in this show are the most rewarding parts. Every member of this production from cast to crew has a crazy personality and huge energy, and being able to work with that is simply amazing.

 What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

Audience...expect moments of utter brilliance. The whole show is entertaining and witty, but every now and then - at least for me - something gets said or something is done that leaves you awestruck and saying "wow."

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

It's difficult being a teenager in the theatre world. There are little options and few opportunities to play roles for your age. At Chicago Street Theatre, though, there's classes and at least one play that highlights the teen age group, so teen actors really get the chance to get deep into acting and theatre.

Meet the Cast: Kaitlin Sarver

KAITLIN SARVER is appearing in her first play at Chicago Street.  She loves acting and being herself.


What character are you playing?

I am part of the ensamble. I play myself. The ensamble isn't just the people in the backround, we have our own story too.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

The aspects of my character, so to speak, is the part I play in the completing of the ensamble story. In the ensamble, I do think you know, there are three girls and only one boy. Ethan dates one girl only for the dances and dumps her after them just so he can be with me. I find it very hard to try to stay very close friends with Delany, the girl being dated for the dances, when I end up taking and liking her guy. 

What do you find most interesting about the play?

I think the most interesting thing about the play is that it is so simalar to being a real life situation for a group of kids in the 60's. The fact that the play shows that who likes who can lead to some very important things.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

I think the most difficult thing for me in this play is thrying to get my notes down and knowing who I'm with in scenes.

What has been the most rewarding?

Most rewarding for me is the friendships I've made with my cast. I can really be myself around them without being thought of as the guffy silly girl. All of my cast members are silly in a way you can barely emagine. We laugh so hard we cry.

 What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

When audiences come to see the show, they should expect a tear jerking, funny, amazing story. It's not one of those plays where you watch it and afterwards you think, "oh yea, that was a good play.", You will leave thinking of mabe, of some old frineds,what life is really about. And some may think, "Wow, the good times in life really do count more than I thought."

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

I love the fact that there are opertunities for us blooming young actors. There arn't many places in Northwest Indiana for young actors and their talents. It really helps us become more of who we want to be and it helps us with early expereance for later on careers.

Meet the Cast: Anthony Majewski

ANTHONY MAJEWSKI is a Senior at VHS where he was recently seen as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.  He enjoys taking classes at CST and is excited to be a part of The Less Than Human Club.


What character are you playing?

My character's name is Harley DeYoung.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

What I find most interesting about Harley is that he has layers to his personality. At first glance, all you see is a troublemaker and a rebellious teen. When Harley's in public it's like he has these walls built up around himself to look tough and hide how he really feels inside. And whenever Harley is alone with Davis he lets those feelings out and we understand why he does what he does. It wasn't until I really started working on those scenes that I felt sympathetic for him and realized that even though he acts tough, he's just a misunderstood, vulnerable kid on the inside.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

I like the timelessness of this play. It's really cool that it's set in 1968 and I think that the set looks pretty nifty, the costumes are awesome too, but a lot of the themes are still present today. Racism is still a big deal, and homosexuality has been in the news a lot lately, but most of the play is based around high school drama. Teenagers facing adverse times. And that is something everybody can relate to, no matter when they were in high school.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

The most challenging part about preparing for this play has been getting into the right mindset to play Harley. While I can relate to him on many levels, he's still a juvenile delinquent. He's the polar opposite of me. I've never gone so far as to look at a teacher funny, whereas Harley spits in the face of authority. He deals with his anger and stress so differently... he explodes from all his pent up negative emotions. I like to think I'm a bit more cuddly than that.

What has been the most rewarding?

It's a shame that the cast for this play is so small, but I also find it rewarding. I feel like I have developed closer friendships with people here than I have with larger casts in the past. Quality over quantity, I guess.

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

Audiences can expect one heck of a show. It's got parts that will make them laugh, parts that will make them cry, and probably some parts that they'll feel indifferent about. We have one cast full of amazing kids that have been working their butts off to make this show spectacular. Expect to be entertained.

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

Chicago Street Theatre is one amazing place. They put on a show specifically for teens, they offer classes for young actors, they're really great. One year ago, acting was just this crazy dream of mine. I really wanted to do it, but I didn't know if I could. I have grown so much since I started taking classes with Lisa. I'll admit that if I do end up making it as an actor, I couldn't have done it without her. She's such a fantastic teacher and she puts up with my odd sense of humor. I'm pretty sure she doesn't teach anywhere else in northwest Indiana, so beat that other community theatres!

Meet the Cast: Juna Johnson

JUNA JOHNSON is a freshman at Washington Township High School.  This is her fourth production at CST, but she has been in many classes and workshops.


What character are you playing?

I am a part of the ensemble in this production.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

I find the background history very interesting. Even though all of the important things are happening in our country, people still find time to worry about their own problems and differences.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

Developing the character that I play has been somewhat challenging. I basically started from scratch to know who my character is, what she is doing, and why she is doing it.
  

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

The most challenging part about preparing for this play has been getting into the right mindset to play Harley. While I can relate to him on many levels, he's still a juvenile delinquent. He's the polar opposite of me. I've never gone so far as to look at a teacher funny, whereas Harley spits in the face of authority. He deals with his anger and stress so differently... he explodes from all his pent up negative emotions. I like to think I'm a bit more cuddly than that.

What has been the most rewarding?

Getting to know the cast that I'm in has been very rewarding. Not only have I met wonderful people, but as I get to know and bond with them it makes it so much easier to work with them. We all make each other feel comfortable about what we're doing, and that's very important.

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

Audiences should expect to come out of the show deep in thought. This show isn't something that you just watch. Throughout the whole show, you will be thinking about the decisions and consequences that we see in The Less Than Human Club, and even in real life.

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

Chicago Street Theatre is your go to place if you are a teen interested in acting. Not only is there a teen show, but there are also many classes that you can take, to learn how to enhance your acting abilities. Chicago Street is one of the only theaters that offer these classes, and they are by far the best classes that you could take in the region.

Meet the Cast: Chloe Hoeksema

CHLOE HOEKSEMA managed to stay behind the scenes at CST for nearly a year before making her stage debut in The Less Than Human Club


What character are you playing?

Julie.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

I find her ability to deal with how people think of her admirable.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

I find the way in which it deals with major issues and events of the late 1960's in an everyday environment most interesting.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

The most challenging aspect of preparing for this play has been learning to keep my mouth shut!

What has been the most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of any play for me is to see the audience's reactions.

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

They better expect plenty of laughs and tears when they see this play!

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

I very much appreciate the fact that Chicago Street Theatre creates opportunities for not only adult actors but teens as well as children. I think its very rare to find a place in Northwest Indiana that will provide opportunities similar to the one's CST provides.

Meet the Cast Jonah Simon

JONAH SIMON is a Senior at Valparaiso High School.  The Less Than Human Club marks his first performance ever. 


What character are you playing?

I play Clinton, a black over achiever and self-appointed group comedian.

What aspects of your character do you find most interesting?

Clinton jokes even about terrible things that are happening. Also, he's one of the characters who urges Davis to be honest about who he is and his somewhat selfish secondary motivation.

What do you find most interesting about the play?

Probably the one-sided romantic relationship between Davis and Harley. Gareth and Anthony portray it so well and it evolves so believably and naturally.

What has been most challenging for you as you have prepared for this play?

My character does some impressions of authority figures. I had not really attempted an honest impression before, so that was a bit challenging.

What has been the most rewarding?

The way Lisa gets us to analyze our characters. I'm now able to appreciate the work of authors and actors on a fascinating new level.

What can audiences expect when they come to see this show?

They will probably be able to relate to the characters. The greatest things about the play are the realness and honesty. Most people have seen some of what our characters see and have felt what they feel.

What are your thoughts on Chicago Street Theatre and the opportunities it provides for teen actors?

It's so great. A school would never pick a play like this--which is a shame--but they just can't get away with it.

1968 and Me

Our upcoming production of The Less Than Human Club is set in the year 1968 so there's been a lot of talk around the theatre about the history, culture, music, movies, and even the fashion of that era.  My parents met in that turbulant year so I thought I'd give them a call to gain some perspective on what it was like. That conversation turned out to be very meaningful and I have the theatre to thank for sparking me to ask questions of my father that I never thought to ask before.  I knew the basics.  He served in the National Guard from 1962 until 1968 and I knew he had not gone to Vietnam, but I wasn't exactly sure what he did or why.  

My father was just 18 when he joined the National Guard. His brother-in-law and his friend were doing it, so why not. He grew up poor in Indianapolis and the Guard seemed like a way forward. Even in 1962, no one could forsee the turmoil that the nation would erupt into toward the end of the decade. He served for 5 and half years, first in Indiana and then later in California.  The most stunning thing I learned during our conversation was that he was one of the Guardsman rolling down the streets of Los Angeles during the Watts Riots of 1965. The six-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $50 million in property damage. He didn't give me a lot of details, but to say that it was a "confusing time." When they were sent in, he had no idea why people were behaving that way. At the time, it made no sense to him for people to destroy the place where they lived. It was only later my father would come to understand why/how it happened. Here's a summary of the situation from PBS.org:

With the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, race relations seemed to be headed in the right direction. However, states acted to circumvent the new federal law, including California that created Proposition 14, which moved to block the fair housing section of the Act. This created anger and a feeling of injustice within the inner cities.

On August 11, 1965, Los Angeles's South Central neighborhood of Watts became a scene of the greatest example of racial tension America had seen.  A Los Angeles police officer pulled over motorist Marquette Frye [who was with his brother Ronald]; he suspected Marquette of driving drunk. While officers questioned them, a crowd of onlookers had begun to form. When Rena Frye, the boys mother showed up, a struggle ensued which led to the arrest of all 3 members of the Frye family. More officers had arrived on the scene and had hit the brothers with their batons. The crowd had grown and by this point had become angry. After the police left the scene, the crowd & tension escalated and sparked the riots, which lasted 6 days.

[There's also a very telling newsreeal available to watch: Universal Newsreel: Troops Patrol L.A. [1965] from the National Archives]

After the end of my father's five and a half year committment to the National Guard, he applied and was accepted for officer training in San Francisco. It was 1968 and the world was uneasy. The beginning of that year saw the the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong launch the Tet Offensive. Although militarily the operation was a failure, it was a propaganda victory for the communists. On the home front, the American public was shocked by the images they were seeing on their televisions. My Dad saw those images too, and decided not to go to Officer Candidate School. Instead, he met my Mom and 2 years later they were married.

I never knew it until now, but without all the violence and unrest of 1968, my Dad may have never met my Mom and there would be no me.  And more importantly, what would the world be like today without people rising up for change back then?  The things theatre can teach us never cease to amaze me.

-Traci Brant, Artistic Chair