On the weekend of January 23-25, Chicago Street Theatre continues to celebrate their 60th Anniversary and the 20th Anniversary of their Children's Educational Programming with works by two of their former students. Julia Weiss and Sarah Dooley were a pair of middle school kids when they did productions and classes together at Chicago Street in the late 90's and early part of 2000. The weekend they are returning for is special because these two friends will get the chance to share the stage with the opening of Weiss' play TAMMY: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex on Friday and Saturday and a concert by Dooley on Sunday. The Latter's album Stupid Things jumped to No. 19 on iTunes last year as the theatre was constructing its anniversary season.
"We are so proud of Julia and Sarah. CST has had so many talented people come out of our program who are working professionally as actors, writers, directors, and artists. The cool thing is that so many of them have remained close friends over the past several years," says Eric Brant, Director of Marketing for Chicago Street. "When we were planning the season we wanted to pay tribute to the importance of theatre in the community by arranging for lots of our past members to return to celebrate the two anniversaries we have going on this year."
Both girl's parents were were actively involved as members and artists with the volunteer organization and it helped them find a love and passion for what they both do professionally today. Weiss studied acting, improvisation and technical theatre at Chicago Street while her mom, Deb acted, directed and served on the theatre's Board of Trustees. She said that her mom brought her and her older sister down to be in a Popcorn Festival Production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when they were in Middle School and they continued to stay active with the group through their high school years.
Weiss said that she met Dooley, who is a little younger, while working as a teacher's assistant with one of Children's Theatre Works' classes. "Sarah and I were in a few productions together and there were several of us who became great friends because Chicago Street was like our second home," said Julia.
After graduating from Valparaiso High School, Weiss went on to college at Indiana University where she became involved with the Bloomington Playwrights Project as an actress. Her mentor at BPP, Rich Perez encouraged her to write which eventually led her to the group producing her first One Act play, Mr. Postman. Weiss enjoyed her time with the producers of new works but found herself gravitating back toward the improvisational comedy that she had studied as a student in CST's Children's Theatre Works classes as a teen.
Weiss said that she had a goal to get her short plays produced at the small theaters in Chicago and study with Improv Olympics and Second City. Currently she is employed by both companies as a performer and a writer. "Now that I've worked and had my plays produced at some small professional companies in Chicago, I realize what a great resource I had growing up at Chicago Street," said the playwright, " Even though we were a family of volunteers, my small home town theatre exposed me to the quality work that I've always been drawn to."
On January 23, Chicago Street Theatre will be presenting Julia's first published play- TAMMY: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex. Directed by Andy Urschel and Tim Gleason, the play is a biting satire that depicts growing up in the 90's as a twisted After School Special that combines the movies Heathers, Jurassic Park and Carrie. The play was published last year and has been produced five or six times that Julia is aware of. "I feel truly honored that CST is producing it and and so excited they wanted Sarah and I to be part of their season," said Weiss.
Dooley, who lives in New York, said that she is equally excited to play a concert at the theatre that she started with as a child. Sarah's mother, Laura, was a Valpo University Law professor who became involved with the theatre as a singer and an actress. While taking part in the theatre, the performer became close friends with Weiss and fellow CTW student, Mark Blane. Blane is a professional director, writer, actor and film maker who also lives in New York. The two have worked on numerous projects together over the years with writing plays, videos and music.
The singer and songwriter attended Barnard College and studied music. After college, Dooley performed all over the New York area and writing her own material. Her album Stupid Things became available on iTunes last year and the artist has been steadily in demand ever since. "I think that my music and Julia's plays both have this playful quirkiness and heart to them that speaks a lot to what growing up in the 90's was like," said Dooley.
Tickets to both shows are available through the CST Box Office at 219-464-1636 X1 or online at ChicagoStreet.org. Box Office Hours are weekdays 10 AM to 2 PM and two hours prior to show time. TAMMY: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex runs January 23 through February 7. CST's One Night Jam- An Evening of Stupid Things with Sarah Dooley is at 7:30 PM on Sunday< January 25. Please join Chicago Street Theatre in welcoming these two very talented ladies home!