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.