Director.............................................Rodney Higginbotham
Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director…….…….Jessica Kuehnau
Light Designer/Co-Tech Director…….……...John Rodriguez
Costume Designer……...…………….……...Jana Anderson
Stage Manager……………………………..…Ann Dernbach
Sound Operator………………..…………….Tania Saavedra
Light Operator……………………...……Yesenia Rodriquez
Stage-hands..Kimberly Greenberg, Jessi Randazzo, Katharine Shugrue
Set Construction…………… …...Theatre Practicum class

Musical Arrangements written and recorded by
students in MUS-308 Orchestration, Dr. Jeffrey Kowalkowski (Instructor)
Ain't We Got Fun……………………………...Annie Kincaid
Home Sweet Home and Incidentals…………………..Erik Kivi
Star Spangled Banner and Incidentals……………...Letty Garcia
Chicago………………………………...…...Stephen Kentala
 Lullaby of Broadway and I Won't Dance…...…..Stephanie Stahl
Makin' Whoopee! and Second Hand Rose..Connor Hollingsworth
I'd Rather Be Blue Over You……………...……..Barbara Sidor
Moonglow……………………………………….Violet Muser

    What was vaudeville?  Simply put, it was variety entertainment. In the course of one show,  audiences would be treated to a series of short unconnected performances, usually no more than twelve minutes each, that would include acting, singing, dancing, comic monologues, animal acts, acrobatics, juggling, ventriloquism, animal tricks,  magic acts and just about anything else you can imagine.  If you didn’t like one act, you only had to wait about twelve minutes to see other performers doing something completely different.

    Vaudeville was a very American form of theatre that dominated stages in this country from the late 1800’s until the 1920’s. Today’s television has deep roots in vaudeville.  Television programs were once heavily populated by vaudeville performers who adapted their acts for the new broadcast medium.  Vaudeville lasted well into the twentieth century and didn’t truly fade into history until Ed Sullivan broadcast his last television show in 1971.

    Vaudeville America! recreates an old-time vaudeville show using authentic scripts, music and jokes from the first quarter of the twentieth century to craft a theatre experience from the days of  Fanny Brice, Al Jolson , Eddie Cantor and Eva Tanguay.  It’s the director’s intention to assemble a group of young performers, immerse them in a bit of American theatre history and produce a show which is truly entertainment for the whole family.

The closest thing to vaudeville that we have today is the USO Tours that are done for our armed forces overseas, usually in areas where our men and women are fighting in dangerous conflicts. A band of entertainers travels to foreign climes to entertain the troops. The performers give many shows many times in many places over the course of their tour, which may be a week or a month. So, for example, the Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom Tour of 2009 visited Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan for the ten days just before Christmas. The tour featured Alana Grace, a beautiful country music artist; Kenny Thomas, a handsome rhythm and blues performer from England; Leeann Tweeden, a curvaceous model who has promoted Playboy and Hooters; Sheryl Underwood, a comedienne most famous for her quip about being "a sexually progressive, God-fearing, black Republican"; Mark Wills, another good-looking country music artist; the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, whose reputations precede them; and the U.S. Army Band. We can only imagine what the shows were like: lots of sentimental songs, lots of patriotic speeches, lots of double entendres and short skirts and plunging necklines. In essence, the entertainment had something for everyone while offering nothing that could offend anyone (except perhaps a feminist).
Those performers lived ten very hectic days, and their audiences had a mild and amusing respite from the rigors of battle and occupation. The parallels between these events and the days of vaudeville are striking.
America in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a tough place to live in.  For most people, employment involved long working hours and hard physical labor. The average family had few outlets for entertainment beyond the amusements they and their neighbors could invent for themselves. Radio and movies were things of the future. Legitimate theatre was expensive. Vaudeville was the answer.
Imagine a troop like the USO Tour traveling without cease all through America. On wagons, trains, buses, men and women and children—comics, jugglers, singers, dancers, contortionists, musicians and sleight-of-hand experts—spent their lives traveling from city to city and rural town to rural town. Their days went something like this. They performed a ten-in-the-morning show, a noon show, a two-o'clock show, a five o'clock show, and another at seven, nine and eleven. Then they packed their equipment and props and set off together for the next town. This was not merely weekends. Sometimes they settled in a large city for a week or two, performed the same songs with the same spontaneously improvised lyrics, the same jokes with the same double-takes, the same dialogues with the same surprising ad libs, the same asides and afterthoughts.
But audiences, who shuffled in for shows at these strange hours, began to have their preferences, and performers became stars. There's a difference between the USO Tours and vaudeville. The players on the USO are already famous and popular, and that's why they are invited on the tour; the players in vaudeville became famous because of the tour. Their work rose above that of other performers. But the idea of the show was fairly much the same: a vaudeville show offered something for everyone. Serious song followed comic song, which followed the most unusual juggling acts, and soforth. And headliners, those with top billing, became stars with incomes comparable to the huge sums we give our headliners. One female singer made $12,500 a week in 1909.  Like our stars, she was often given to imperious tirades and super-difficult behavior, but on stage she was cute as a button.
The audiences in the days of vaudeville were easy to please, and humor often took its lowest path. Stereotypes, of course, abounded. White performers wore black face with large exaggerated white-painted lips to sing songs harking back to pre-Civil War days, as if the American black population preferred slavery to what it had after the war. Women were divided into two classes: those who did and those who didn't. They were often dumb and naive; their men were indeed manly men. The Irish drunk was a staple as was the insensitive Jewish landlord, who demanded his rent. The Polish were stupid, and the American Indian spoke a silly patois of ungrammatical constructions. I'm sure the Pole in the audience laughed at the Irish drunk, but wondered why his people were depicted in a way that he didn't understand.
When we wax nostalgic about the demise of vaudeville, we might better recognize that it was a gun that backfired as easily as it hit the mark. Yes, it was entertaining, and, yes, it got many people through hard times. And, yes, it could be funny as all get-out. But it also achieved much of its success by presenting to Americans an America that was still a variety of insular communities, who could laugh at the stereotypes of others while quietly bristling over the stereotypes of themselves. In short, vaudeville was America.
Patrick McGuire
English Department,
University of Wisconsin Parkside

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Elisabeth Jackson is appearing for the second time on the NEIU stage and is super excited to be working with such a fun cast! She is really happy to be working on a show that has so many different elements to it. Thanks to all her friends and family that have supported her.

Kolleen Blume has been a student at Northeastern on and off for 27 years. Currently she is in the Graduate Program for Marriage and Family Counseling. Kolleen wishes to use her degree to help people learn through art, music, theatre, poetry, or dance that they can live without domestic abuse. She thanks her family and dedicates the  performance to Bonnie, Effie, and Duncan who share an enthusiasm for all types of art.

Caitlin Inman is thrilled to be appearing in her second NEIU show this year. She was most recently seen in An Inspector Calls as Sheila Birling. Having come all the way from Michigan to follow her dreams here in the big city, she is ecstatic that NEIU is there to see her along the road to fame. She would like to thank Mr. Higginbotham and the cast for all their hard work and dedication to the vaudeville way of life.

Brad Cantwell recently appeared at the Stage Center Theatre as Richard in Living Out, as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Amenuensis/Geronte in The Illusion and as Teddy in How He Lied To Her Husband.  Other favorite roles include Nick in A Thousand Clowns and Whitney in Life With Father.  Brad is thrilled to work with this wonderful group, and he thanks the loves of his life, Lisa and McCoy, for their inspiration.

Lisa Cantwell recently completed her Master's degree in Communication, Media  and Theatre and is currently teaching Children's Theatre here at  NEIU. Recent roles include Rita in Lucky Stiff, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Miss Framer in Lettice and Lovage, and Miss Lynch in Grease. Many thanks to Rodney and to the wonderful cast and  crew for this unforgettable journey. And to Monkey and B, I love you, my boys.

Cassie Vestweber is appearing for the first time at the Stage Center Theatre. A lighting designer and make up artist, Cassi is usually found backstage. Previously she was assistant director for An Inspector Calls, a role she picked up for the studio performance of Wine in the Wilderness, currently being performed. Cassi would like to thank Rodney and Cheryl for this wonderful opportunity; mom and dad for understanding her hectic life; and her boyfriend, Lee, for dealing with her through this mess.  And just remember, even if they forget your lights or music, the joi-ful show must go on!

Cheryl Lyman is delighted to be back on the stage at Northeastern after working behind the scenes as assistant stage manager for Lucky Stiff last fall, and directing the Studio Series Wine In The Wilderness, this semester. She is a Communication, Media and Theatre Major and is thinking about double majoring in English. She sends a great big thank you to Rodney for working with her directing/performing schedule this semester. But the largest thank you goes to Alex, Dylan, Josh and Vince (as well as the rest of the crowd) for not laughing at her when she picks up the poi…. even when she hits herself in the head with them.

David Ropinski is pleased to make Vaudeville America! his ninth stage production at Stage Center. His most recent performances include Stage Center’s The Good Doctor, Little Murders, Ghosts, The Three Cuckolds, Arcadia, and several one act performances at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre’s 2003 Director’s Series. David is a NEIU graduate double majoring in Studio Art and Communication, Media and Theatre and is a graduate of the Comedy Sportz Training Center. David would like to thank all his friends and family and especially this very talented cast and crew.

Mike Jando was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. At a very young age, he discovered his love of comedy, and making people laugh. As he got older, he began to help create and star in many short films, as well as perform in live theatre around the Chicagoland area. Mike has begun his training in the art of Improv.   He has graduated from Chicago's IO theatre and can be found studying at Second City. His future goals include working at Second City, and performing with an improv troupe around the city.

Jesse Babb is apprearing for the  first time at the Stage Center Theatre. Outside of an outstanding performance as Columbia in the Rocky Horror Picture Show to packed audiences, Jesse has not been on stage since high school. Jesse is currently studying for her second bachelor’s degree in English Education.  She is excited to be a part of Vaudeville America! and will be seen on this stage again in A Tale of Two Cities. Jesse enjoys flying, sushi and Anime conventions.  She would like to thank Cory and Lily for understanding her hectic schedule and being there when she needs them.  Now, where is that baby.....

Duncan Macnab is excited to return to the Stage Center. He recently graduated from NEIU with a BA. in Communication, Media & Theatre. Upon graduation he spent one month traveling in the North Island of New Zealand and then found his day job as a dog walker. He credits his experience at Actor’s Gymnasium and Piven Theater Workshop and watching Cirque du Soleil as inspiration for performing vaudeville. He was most recently seen as a Conveener in Skin of Our Teeth, and Fergus in Finding the Sun. He thanks his parents, fellow thespian sister (the better actor) and friends for their support and continued guidance through life. “Whatungarongaro he tangata, toitu he whenua” ­– Maori Poverb

Tiffiny Nicole Blake is a Communication, Media and Theatre major at NEIU. She has performed before at the Stage Center Theatre in The Jungle Book and Senora Tortuga. Tiffiny has choreographed and performed previously in Aida, Once on this Island, My Favorite Year and Once Upon a Mattress. She began her career playing the violin with the Magical Strings of Youth at  Symphony Center, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, twice at The White House and in Europe, Asia and Australia. She is currently a Cadet Teacher at The Betty Haag Academy of Music. Tiffiny thanks Rodney, Anna, the entire cast and crew, mom, dad, Art, Horst, and Chris for their constant encouragement, love and support. She also thanks the most inspiring person in her life, her grandmother. Enjoy the show!


Rodney Higginbotham
(Director) holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from Southern Illinois University and a BA in Speech Education from Northeast Louisiana University. He has served as Managing/Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre and Acting Chair of the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre. He has directed several productions for the Stage Center and for professional, educational, and community theatres in Chicago-land.

Jessica Kuehnau (Scenic Designer) is pleased to be designing her third season for the Stage Center Theatre and third year as technical faculty for NEIU.  Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Art Center and Backstage Theatre.  She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Center Chicago.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU six years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center Theatre productions.  Most recent designs include Lucky Stiff, An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lettice and Lovage, The Illusion, Electra, and Charley’s Aunt as well as Thymely Theatre’s productions of Taking Steps and Stage Door.

Jana Anderson (Costume Designer) has worked with the Stage Center Theatre for the last few years.  Her work has also been featured by numerous theatre groups including Redmoon Theatre, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, just to name a few.  Prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  When she is not preparing costumes for theatre productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute couture fashions for individual clients in the U.S. and Europe.

Ann Dernbach (Assistant Director/Stage Manager)  is very excited to be stage managing her second show at the Stage Center. She would like to thank everyone involved in the production  for a great experience, Lisa for all the rides, her family for the support, and her boss for being flexible yet again.

  Artistic and Managing Director………….……...……Anna Antaramian
Theatre Bookkeeper…………………............Becca Raven Uminowicz
Theatre Manager………………………............Blagovesta Ranguelova
Assistant Director/Stage Manager.........................................Ann Durnbach
Newsletter Editor……...……………………………..Jessica Slizewski
Assistant to Theatre Manager…………………………...Carolyn Bernal
Box Office Manager………………………………….Herschel Slosberg
House Manager………………………………………..Melissa DeJesus
Assistant House Manager ……………………………....Albert Bautista

Special Thanks to
The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Dr. Katrina Bell-Jordan, Dr. Anthony Adams, Department of Music, Dr. Shayne Cofer, Dr. Jeffrey Kowalkowski, Mr. Michael Melton, the Departments of Accounts Payable, Budget, and Purchasing, Public Relations, and Facilities Management.

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