Whoever said there are no second acts in American lives never met Ann
Filmer, founder and artistic director of the recently formed Berwyn-based
16th Street Theater and director of "The Ascension of Carlotta,"
which opens April 4.
Since Filmer came to Chicago a little more than 10 years ago, this California
transplant has reinvented herself several times, first as choreographer,
then as the founder of and director for a cutting-edge theater, The Aardvark.
Then as an arts administrator in a couple of high-profile companies (Writers'
Theatre, Chicago Dramatists).
Now she lives in suburban Berwyn, has a husband, a 2-year old, a mortgage
AND has started a new theater company.
"I didn't move to Berwyn to start a theater," she says. "It
was all serendipity. My husband and I bought a place in Berwyn, and as
soon I moved in I found out there was a Berwyn Arts Council. So I joined
up and I went to a 'meet and greet' at (the music club) Fitzgerald's."
There, she started talking to a woman on the Arts Council who mentioned
in passing that there was "a little 49-seat theater" sitting
empty and unused in the Berwyn Cultural Center. When asked if she wanted
to see the space, the consummate off-Loop theater director "couldn't
resist having a look."
The theater she saw won her over immediately.
"It was modeled on a store front theater," Filmer says, adding
that while Joseph Vallez, executive director of the North Berwyn Park
District, was giving her a tour of the Cultural Center he offered her
the space to start a new theater company. Filmer couldn't resist -- and
16th Street Theater was born.
"Our first production is 'The Ascension of Carlotta,' " Filmer
says. "It is a lovely play about dreams and destiny. It is set in
Berwyn and concerns a woman who works and has no dreams until she meets
a man who has a very unique dream, to be a robber, like his father and
his grandfather. This is his destiny, you understand. And his dream is
to rob a 7-Eleven store. So it's about these two people from two different
planets who find each other."
Filmer initially directed a workshop production of the play at Chicago
Dramatist's several years ago.
"It is definitely a play I wanted to do eventually," she says.
"Then, when I moved to Berwyn and started a theater there, I realized
that it was my destiny to do a play that was set in Berwyn.
"But it's more than that." Filmer says, showing the enthusiasm
that carries her from opportunity to opportunity. "The characters
are so full. It is so beautifully written."