Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jersey Boys, Jersey Boys, Jersey Boys!

Less than one week to go before the national tour of Jersey Boys pulls into our loading dock!  We have been making preparations and looking forward to this engagement for over a year now.  Jersey Boys has been a Broadway favorite since its debut and its win of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, and we've had repeated requests for it since its very first appearance.

Jersey Boys is a Broadway musical that tells the story behind Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  It uses the chart-topping music of that group as it tells how four blue-collar kids from Jersey rose to fame and how they grew and changed through those early (and later) years.  It's a great story.  It's great music.  And it's brilliantly theatrical, musical storytelling.

Do you have your tickets yet?  Jersey Boys will be presented at Sangamon Auditorium seven times between March 4 and March 8.  For details and to purchase tickets, visit our website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Behind the Scenes - What does it take to create a new collaborative project?

What inspires you?  That’s the question Sangamon Auditorium and Fifth House Ensemble posed to six faculty members at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS).  Their stories and observations are being integrated with multimedia elements and modern chamber music provided by Fifth House Ensemble to create a new performance event, which will premier in Sangamon Auditorium’s Studio Theatre on Saturday, February 15, at 8 PM.

The concept for this project arose out of the mythological stories of the ancient Greek muses, a group of goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences and were called upon when people needed inspiration.  Sangamon Auditorium staff identified six UIS faculty members whose fields of study or research were connected to the areas traditionally associated with the ancient muses.  The participants include Michael Burlingame (history), Ethan Lewis (English), John Martin (astronomy), Tiffani Saunders (sociology), Yona Stamatis (music), and Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson (theatre).

The faculty participants were each asked to consider what personally inspired them to pursue their fields of study and to think more generally about what inspiration means in their fields. Reflecting on this process, Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson said, “When I first heard about this project with the 5th House, I was intrigued and somewhat frightened, to be honest. As an actor and director, I'm fine working with words and characters provided by a playwright, but to create something on my own was daunting. Which, I suppose, is one reason why I decided to do it. I'm always telling my students to ‘climb the tree, go out on a limb, and start sawing...’ so I figured I'd better take my own advice! If we don't do things that scare us just a little bit, then we'll never really grow and learn.”

After collecting information from all the faculty participants, Fifth House Ensemble brought graphic designer and storyteller Sarah Becan into the project to write a narrative and create images that connect the individual stories together.  Anna Cooksey from Fifth House Ensemble stated, “The scale of this collaboration - pulling in ideas and materials to guide the show from so many different sources - has been one of the many exciting things about the upcoming concert at Sangamon Auditorium. The ability to connect with experts from such varied disciplines has brought great energy and diversity of thought to the planning process.”

For this performance, Fifth House Ensemble will be utilizing an ensemble comprised of piano, flute, oboe, violin, viola, cello, and bass.  The musicians will perform pieces from composers including Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla, as well as the Midwest premier of a new work by Charles Zoll that was the Rapido! Take Three!! National First Prize Winning Composition.

This project was built on the success of a previous collaboration between Sangamon Auditorium and Fifth House Ensemble.  In 2012, the two entities worked together to develop a project titled “Listen to the River.”  The performance integrated live music with stories, photographic images, and commentary about the Illinois River. The woodwind quintet from Fifth House Ensemble performed water-themed selections interwoven with presentations from noted regional professionals , faculty and students from the UIS Biology and Environmental Studies Departments.

One of the presenters, UIS emeritus faculty member Keith Miller, said, “It was inspiring working with the Fifth House Ensemble for the ‘Listen to the River’ project. The players are professional musicians with immense talent, but they also were skilled collaborators, and graciously brought us into their artistic process. All in all, it was delightful to be involved with this event.”

Tickets for the performance start at $39 and are available by calling the Sangamon Auditorium Ticket Office at 217.206.6160 or 800.207.6069, or by visiting the Sangamon Auditorium website at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A World-Premiere Event About Inspiration

Sangamon Auditorium is pleased to once again be working with the dynamic chamber group Fifth House Ensemble on a world-premiere event.  In 2012, the project was "Listen to the River" and focused on the UIS departments of biology and environmental studies and the work being done at the Emiquon Field Station on the Illinois River.  The ensemble's musical selections about water were brought to visual life by vivid projections of the photography of UIS environmental studies graduate student Chris Young and in between selections, faculty and students shared reports and stories about the work being done at Emiquon.  It was a truly unique event.

This year, the event is "Invoking the Muse: What Inspires You?" Fifth House Ensemble has been collaborating directly with six UIS faculty members who will explore the nature of inspiration in fields ranging from astronomy to fine arts.  The scholars will share their own stories of inspiration and thoughts on how inspiration manifests itself in their individual fields.  Intermixed with the presentations will be musical works by Astor Piazzolla, Philip Glass, and others, brought to life by piano, flute, oboe, and four strings.

Fifth House Ensemble
Not only will the piece be performed as part of the Kitchen Sink Series in the UIS Studio Theatre on Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m., but Fifth House Ensemble will be performing a version of "Invoking the Muse" several times in the Chicago area as part of their more "at-home" concert series.  We are excited that this piece, with an idea conceived by Auditorium Director Bob Vaughn, will have a life outside of the one-time UIS performance and it will bring additional exposure to the UIS faculty members involved.

Following the performance on February 15, the audience will be invited to participate in a post-show discussion with the musicians and scholars involved in the collaboration.  We anticipate a lively discussion about the creative process with additional musings about inspiration will ensue.  We hope you will join us.

For more information about the faculty collaborators on this project, please visit our website.