Berwyn resident Ann Filmer said theater is an essential
part of any community, bringing its members together and creating a forum
The lack of theater was one of the first things Filmer noticed when she
moved to Berwyn earlier this year, and she immediately took it upon herself
to remedy the problem.
Filmer got in touch with North Berwyn Park District Executive Director
Joe Vallez, and pitched to him an idea of how to best use the Cultural
Center the Park District recently developed.
“I proposed to him a vision I had for a professional theater company
that would serve the community of Berwyn and many people in this entire
area,” Filmer said. “An arts program and a theater program
is of value to any community and until now, there wasn’t a theater
company right in Berwyn. ... It’s a great benefit to not have to
go into the city of Chicago to see an engaging production, and now (residents)
can see one in their own backyard, and it’s something they can be
proud of, too.”
Vallez liked the idea, and Filmer set to work as artistic director of
the 16th Street Theater — a professional theater company that would
offer full seasons of productions to the community and opportunities for
involvement to its residents.
“It will give people the opportunity to enjoy the value of theater
productions right in their own community,” Vallez said. “In
the (past), if someone wanted to take in a play, they’d have to
go to Forest Park or Oak Park, but now people can stay in their own neighborhood.
People can walk from their homes and get professional theater, and maybe
even recognize a person in the production.”
Filmer said she was specifically drawn to the small, 49-seat theater in
Berwyn — which opened its doors in May — due to the intimate
environment it creates during shows.
“The actors will be right up close to the audience, and with story-telling,
I always find that the most engaging form of theater,” Filmer said.
“When it’s right up close, you can look the actor in the eyes.
Theater to me is always about the relationship between the performers
on stage and the audience — it’s not a passive experience,
it’s a shared experience.”
The first season of the theater company will kick-off in April and offer
three shows: “The Ascension of Carlotta” in April, “Aiming
for Sainthood” in July and “Kita y Fernanda.” Each show
will run for at least four weeks with performances Thursday through Sunday,
Filmer said. Single tickets will cost $16, and year subscriptions will
cost about $45, Filmer said.
Having previously worked as the producing director of Chicago Dramatists
and the associate artistic director of Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe,
Filmer wanted to create a place for Berwyn residents like herself to go
and experience theater in their own hometown.
“Theater is a place where people from various backgrounds come together
and share stories, stories of their own and to learn about other people’s
lives,” Filmer said.
“Theater doesn’t happen just in the two hours you’re
seeing the performance, but afterward when we come together to discuss
what we have seen and what we got out of the experience. ... I think having
a place where the community can come together and witness and debate and
discuss art is a benefit for any culture.”