Thursday, August 18, 2016

A performance that explores and honors the experience of those who serve

by Bob Vaughn, Director of Sangamon Auditorium

Born in the base hospital at Ft. Sheridan, IL and raised by a former drill sergeant, I will never forget the sense of pride I felt as I watched Audie Murphy leap from that burning tank after gunning down enemy forces in the 1950’s film, To Hell and Back. Military exploits were front and center in the public media during those years, and young boys were engaged in war strategies on mounds of dirt with plastic soldiers, wrapped up in the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire somewhere in the Pacific Theatre so vividly illustrated in comic books, or examining the relics of war brought home by friends’ parents. Here a helmet liner, there a flashlight, ribbons, medals, and other trophies took center stage as we discussed each item carefully amongst ourselves.

My dad, friends and acquaintances who so generously served were not so anxious to discuss their experiences.  One lost his hand trying to throw back a potato masher that had landed in his vicinity. Others…well, these were not subjects that elicited more elaboration.  This was made abundantly clear.  Even Independence Day fireworks, so exciting and entertaining to my friends and I held little fascination for many whose experience with exploding fare brought back difficult and painful memories.  Many of us were unaware of the consequences of war; the loss or injury of loved ones, the day to day effects of the condition known as shell-shocked, battle fatigue, or more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder.  And what about the full range of effects on the families?

When I encountered the Basetrack Live program as a possible theatre piece to include on our series at the University of Illinois Springfield, I knew I had to include it, and I had so many reasons to do so.  A full appreciation of those who have served and the families that support them requires life-long learning for all concerned.  We cannot fully grasp their importance, pay reasonable homage, create a fair and equitable system of support, and repair the damage done without better understanding the experience of those affected and reordering our priorities to appropriately assist.

Basetrack Live is a documentary theatre piece produced by the not-for-profit theatre company En Garde Arts about the impact of war on veterans and their families.  Two actors portray the real life characters of AJ and Melissa Czubai, a young Marine and his wife.  We follow their journey through his deployment to Afghanistan and back home again, her birth of a child while he is overseas and his injury that sends him home.  Photographs and videos shot by embedded journalists bring to light the stories of other Marines with whom AJ served in Unit 1/8, their feelings about deploying and their hopes and dreams for coming home.  There is additional video footage of Marines and their families once they are back home that shows the transformation of ordinary people fundamentally changed by the extraordinary experience of fighting a war. Basetrack Live does not represent these characters as either heroes or victims.  Instead, it shows a complicated and sensitive portrayal of how war affects us all.

Perhaps unlike any other theatre piece of the last decade, Basetrack Live gives us an up-close-and-personal look at the impact of war on the families and caregivers of those who have served.  Right along with them, we come to experience the difficulty of separating from a loved one, the anxiety provoked by their long absence overseas, the angst of not knowing day-to-day whether or not a family member is safe and the tremendous adjustment families undergo when those who have served come home and begin to reintegrate back into American life in search for a place for themselves.

En Garde Arts formed an advisory committee of service members, combat veterans and other key leaders to guide and advise them through the development of Basetrack Live.  Sangamon Auditorium staff are working to make similar connections locally to help strengthen the impact of the performance in our community.  We are partnering with the University of Illinois Springfield’s department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Chancellor’s Office to develop a post-show panel discussion that will provide audience members with the opportunity to hear local service and veteran responses to the performance piece, followed by break-out sessions that will provide a forum to listen and tell personal stories.

Basetrack Live will be presented at Sangamon Auditorium on Wednesday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m.  For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 217.206.6160 or visit our website. Veterans, service personnel and their families are welcome to contact us about discounted tickets to the show, special events and opportunities to share your experiences.

Monday, June 13, 2016

#doUwannaGo - Announcing the 2016.2017 season lineup at Sangamon Auditorium!

We are so pleased to announce the 2016-2017 Performing Arts Season at Sangamon Auditorium.  It is sure to be another exciting season, with a range of Broadway, Visiting Artist, and Kitchen Sink events from which to choose.

I encourage you to check out the exciting Broadway lineup, which includes:

Dirty Dancing, September 20 & 21 @ 7:30 p.m.
Once, October 9 @ 8 p.m.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze, November 30 @ 7:30 p.m.
PIPPIN, January 18 @ 7:30 p.m.
Chicago The Musical, March 13 & 14 @ 7:30 p.m.
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, April 4 @ 7:30 p.m.

Broadway subscription packages, securing the same seat location for this year and subsequent years, should you choose to renew, are now available.  This is the best way to lock in your price and your seat!

But what if a Broadway subscription doesn't seem right for you?  Do you already know you’ll definitely go to Once and PIPPIN? Absolutely confident that you want to see Natalie Randall sing with the smash-hit vocal group Vocalosity? Have a kid in your life who would love to see the Wild Kratts Live? If there are at least four shows you would pick, can you commit to them now as a Create Your Own buyer? I find that making this kind of up-front commitment makes an event so much more enjoyable; you are putting some events on your calendar and promising yourself four great nights in the coming year. In addition to setting your calendar, as a Create Your Own buyer, you can access the Broadway events early and get a discount on many of the events you choose. CYO buyers can also buy different numbers of tickets for each event, so that makes date nights + kid nights + treat-your-mom-to-a-show nights all possible through this purchase.

Additionally, did you know that supporting Sangamon Auditorium’s events as a package buyer is one of the best ways to help assure that Springfield can access the hottest Broadway shows? Producers care about the package load we carry as they consider what shows to send our way. Sure, a trip to the Fabulous Fox is absolutely fun on occasion, but your gas money, time, and restaurant spending is less expensive supporting your hometown, and – I would argue – knowing you are contributing to the arts in your own community.

Research has been saying recently that the money we spend on EXPERIENCES has a more lasting impact than money we spend on THINGS. Consider how that has played out in your own life. That one great night at a show spent with someone you love? Worth as much or more than some item for which you paid a similar price?

I hope you will consider it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New assistive listening equipment at Sangamon Auditorium provides increased level of patron services

By Susan Koch, Chancellor at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois. 

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), hearing loss is a major public health issue affecting more than 28 million people in the United States.  Overall, the prevalence of hearing loss increases with every age decade and about 1/3 of Americans over age 65 have a significant hearing impairment - a loss that can negatively affect communication, personal relationships and even safety.

Hearing loss also affects the ability to fully enjoy music and other forms of entertainment.  This concern has been the subject of considerable discussion for the UIS Sangamon Auditorium Advisory Board – a group of active community volunteers who help to guide, promote and support the University of Illinois Springfield campus’s performing arts programming each year.

According to Bob Vaughn, Director of Sangamon Auditorium’s performing arts programs, the Auditorium (and its smaller Studio Theatre venue) has had an assistive listening device system since 1981, but advances in technology in recent years offered new options for greatly improving the listening experience.  “I’d been concerned for some time about our outdated assistive listening system,” says Bob. “Most of it was the inadequacy of the sound quality and the degree of difficulty of operating the unit.”

Bob’s concerns were shared by longtime Sangamon Auditorium patrons, Carol Esarey (a member of the Auditorium Advisory Board) and her husband, Clark, both of whom had noticed they were sometimes having trouble understanding and hearing the performers speak or missing various nuances of the programming. “We reached out to auditorium Director Bob Vaughn,” says Carol, “to see what options were available to increase our ability to better hear what was going on.”

Carol’s and Clark’s inquiry resulted in a generous gift from the Esareys to fund the installation of a new digital assistive listening system this year in both the Auditorium and the Studio Theatre.   The system, purchased from Listen Technologies, was used for the first time in November for the Broadway show Elf the Musical and is now available to patrons by request at no charge for performances in both venues.

Ease of use was a major factor considered when selecting the new system and, for Auditorium and Studio Theatre patrons, it couldn’t be easier.  Patrons simply stop by the coat check before the performance to request a Personal Assistive Listening Unit, leaving a form of ID to pick up later when they return the unit after the performance.  (The PAL unit is a small, inconspicuous receiver that fits conveniently into a pocket or hangs from a lanyard around the neck.) Coat check personnel briefly consult with each patron to determine headphone or earpiece preferences, with a variety of options being available.  The Auditorium provides high-quality Sennheiser headphones that have a wider frequency range, but patrons are also welcome to bring their own if they prefer. PAL units are compatible with various hearing aid devices and, if the patron has a T-coil equipped hearing aid, induction loops that eliminate the need for headphones entirely are also provided.

The PAL devices can also improve the listening experience for patrons with hearing loss who do not have a hearing aid, allowing them to adjust volume though not replacing ranges they can no longer hear. The devices help reduce distracting background noise, reverberation and sound distortions and help improve clarity, understanding and hearing from a distance.

“This exciting upgrade to UIS performing arts programming will make a huge difference in the quality of enjoying a performance for many of our patrons,” says Bob. “I’m hoping this will bring some folks back to the Auditorium who had given up on being able to fully enjoy the experience due to hearing loss.”

“We are so pleased to have had the chance to work with the Auditorium and the UIS Foundation on a project that can truly enhance the enjoyment for patrons attending the great programs at Sangamon Auditorium,” said Carol in a recent email message.  “Our hope is that the PAL program will be a boon to all who might need a boost to enjoy this wonderful community asset to its fullest.”
With the second half of the 2015-16 season, including the Broadway shows Annie, 42nd Street, Ragtime the Musical and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on tap, this is an ideal time to take advantage of the new PAL program and enjoy enhanced performing arts performances at UIS.

Please consider this your personal invitation! Tickets are available at or by phone at: 217-206-6160.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Give the gift of entertainment for the holidays!

In the past few years, there has been a lot of lip service given to the idea of giving the gifts of EXPERIENCES to yourself and to others.  Many would say that we live in a world cluttered with *things* and while we do need a certain amount of *things* to function in the 21st Century, we could also stand to forego some things and let the power of experiences do its magic instead.

Have you ever been able to witness a child's first experience as an audience member at a performance?  I can assure you that it is magical moment.  Choose tickets to Annie or Three Little Birds, both coming up in February, to see it happen for yourself.

Do you have a family member or friend whose possessions create a real challenge for you when trying to determine an appropriate gift for them?  A Sangamon Auditorium gift certificate can be redeemed toward any Sangamon Auditorium event tickets, which means you don't even need to know if the person's taste would lean more toward Broadway, traditional Irish music, non-traditional organ music, or the world's greatest living tap dancer.

And what about for yourself?  Do you remember and cherish that flatscreen television you bought five years ago on Black Friday, or has it already hit the electronics recycling center and its memory been erased?  How about that time you enjoyed an intimate evening with friends at a concert by an artist you really cared about...or an artist you knew nothing about until that evening?  I would argue that the stronger connection was probably forged by the live experience.

I encourage you to invest in that live experience for yourself and for others this holiday season!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Guest blog: Graduate Assistant Katie Woodford reflects upon her performing arts experiences

Here at Sangamon Auditorium, we are fortunate to be a vibrant part of a public university, interacting with college students alongside the public.  I asked our current graduate assistant, Katie Woodford, to reflect upon the experiences she's had so far with us, and she offered up the following thoughts:  

Throughout my life I have witnessed and participated again and again in the beauty of the performing arts. Whether singing in the children's church musical at a young age or watching a professional production as I grew older, theater performances were always special and important in my life. Throughout my high school and college career, I have enjoyed watching shows at the Sangamon Auditorium. With such a generous student ticket price, Sangamon Auditorium has made it possible to experience spectacular, high quality performances during the course of my college years. Then while pursuing graduate school and an assistantship to pay for this higher education, I was pursued by Sangamon Auditorium for a marketing position. I was thrilled with the opportunity and following the interview process, eagerly awaited my possible selection for the Graduate Assistantship at Sangamon Auditorium.

Now I am the marketing Graduate Assistant for the Sangamon Auditorium and have the opportunity to see the other side of fine arts. We work diligently to promote our shows to specific target audiences while still pursuing overall awareness and knowledge on the expansive array of shows offered by the Auditorium. In addition, I work with many different individuals with a passion for their work and for the importance of culturally diverse offerings. This environment has allowed me to develop as a business woman, performer, and audience member.

I began this season attending the Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Series event in September. With my new position, I felt I should expose myself to the various presentations Sangamon Auditorium offers.  While I have tons of experience in vocals, opera has never appeared in my repertoire. I took my seat, sat back, and thought, “let’s give this a try.” By intermission I was nearing a state of total awe. The four vocalist sang beautifully and powerfully (without microphones might I add) in a language that meant both nothing and everything to me. Concluding the evening with classic pieces from legendary Broadway shows, the audience erupted in true graditude for such a spectacular evening. From the very beginning to the very end I was blown away with the beauty, control, and power these individuals brought to the stage.

Without Sangamon Auditoriums focus on student involvement and opportunity I would not have pursued this type of event. Investing in the students of UIS now allows for the development of loyal customers in the future. We will one day be (as many like to remind us) “in the real world” and will seek out opportunities of entertainment and beauty in the performing arts. With the fond memories we built during college, many UIS alum will attend and become loyal audience memebers of Sangamon Auditorium. The truth is, few college students had as many opportunities to experience the stage as I did growing up; however with the help of Sangamon Auditorium, UIS students, young children, and experienced veterans can begin and continue to receive and appreciate the true magnificence of live performing arts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Connecting to our community

Here at Sangamon Auditorium, we try to take every opportunity to make the arts enriching and tie events to other interest areas in the community.

On Sunday, October 4, we were pleased to host a performance by Compañia Flamenca José Porcel, a company fronted by Spain's premier flamenco dancer and choreographer.  Prior to the performance, high school Spanish students from several schools enjoyed a Spanish-themed pre-show meal alongside UIS students from the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) and the Sangamon Auditorium Student Club (SASC).  Following the meal, Sangamon Auditorium marketing graduate assistant Katie Woodford interviewed the OLAS and SASC students about campus life and college choices.  Then, those present were treated to a pre-show discussion with José Porcel himself.  Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association member and Pleasant Plains High School Spanish teacher Fernando Ares served as interpreter, though it was great for the students to hear so much Spanish being spoken and interpret on their own.
Fernando Ares and José Porcel
Following Mr. Porcel's discussion, Sangamon Auditorium Volunteer Association and Springfield International Folk Dancers member John Petter discussed the significance of preserving folk dancing and the role of the local club.  
John Petter
It was a great event for providing additional context to the performance that followed.  Many thanks to Audience Development Coordinator Amy Zepp and other members of our staff for making the event possible and thanks to the teacher participants who organized student groups to attend.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Create Your Own Experience

Are you familiar with our Create Your Own (CYO) package?  You can choose four or more events on our Performing Arts Season, getting up to a 15% savings on the tickets you purchase, lock in great seats, and secure access to Broadway events before individual tickets are on sale.  Becoming a CYO package buyer is a great way to treat yourself by setting some performance dates on the calendar and making sure you save room in your year for some great Performing Arts events.

Each year, I ask our staff to comment on the events they would choose if putting together their own CYO package.  Here are this year's responses:

Jen Tibbs
Jen Tibbs, Coordinator of Public Information and Marketing:

The Illusionsists
Beauty and the Beast

Of course The Cat in the Hat for my kids

Hey Jen - Of course, you don't *have* to limit yourself to four choices.  You can choose more!  It's part of the beauty of the CYO package.  Also, you can purchased different numbers of tickets for the shows in your package.  So you can get 2 tickets to The Illusionists and 4 for The Cat in the Hat.  

Michelle Yenerall
Michelle Yenerall, Ticket Sales Assistant:

I am leaning towards most of the Broadway shows this season.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (saw it before when it was here and just loved it)
The Illusionists (Looks interesting)
Annie (Classic)
Maybe ELF (I liked the movie but I don’t know if I could sit through the musical)
The Chieftains (I want to take my dad to this)
Cameron Carpenter featuring the International Touring Organ (I just think this sounds interesting)

Hey Michelle - Taking a risk on something you're not entirely sure you'll like might feel better when you're getting a savings overall.  Another benefit to the CYO package! 

Shannon Smith
Shannon Smith, Ticket Office Manager:

The Met Opera – to see if I would like it…think I will but no real experience
Corky Siegel – I mean, it’s the blues, man
Lakota Sioux – beyond a shadow of a doubt, gonna be there
The Chieftains – of course
One extra maybe The Fab Four

Hey Shannon - Taking a risk is great and it's easier with a CYO package.  Also...of course you can pick more than four!  

Amy Zepp
Amy Zepp, Audience Development Coordinator:

Met Opera – I’ve never attended a live opera, and this seems like a good opportunity to get a sample of live opera performance.

Cameron Carpenter – A friend is getting her master’s in sacred music with an emphasis in organ performance, so she’s going to come with me.  I think his style and the variety of music genres will be fun, and I’ll also enjoy the reaction from someone who really understands organ music. 

Fifth House Ensemble – I want to experience a show that is truly interactive for the audience because we aren’t often able to present something like that.

Ragtime – It’s a classic show that I’ve never seen.

And from those who know exactly what they want, without need for comment:  

Mindy McCaffrey
Mindy McCaffrey, Volunteer Coordinator:

The Chieftains
Cameron Carpenter 

Mandy Buchanan
Mandy Buchanan, Ticket Sales Assistant:

The Illusionists 
The Fab Four
Beauty and the Beast

Elise Robertson
Elise Robertson, Event Administrator:

The Illusionists
42nd Street

Brandy Stabler
Brandy Stabler, Development Assistant:

Beauty and the Beast
42nd Street