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updated: 8/25/2014 9:12 AM

BrightSide brings professional theater to downtown Naperville

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  • BrightSide Theatre, which launched its first season in 2011, stages professional theater in downtown Naperville. The most recent season featured "Bleacher Bums" -- with Tin Penavic, from left, Jay Fontanetta, Vic Polites, Jim Heatherly, Frank Menolascino, Judith Laughlin, Todd Aiello and Jennifer Torchia -- in the spring.

      BrightSide Theatre, which launched its first season in 2011, stages professional theater in downtown Naperville. The most recent season featured "Bleacher Bums" -- with Tin Penavic, from left, Jay Fontanetta, Vic Polites, Jim Heatherly, Frank Menolascino, Judith Laughlin, Todd Aiello and Jennifer Torchia -- in the spring.
    Courtesy of BrightSide Theatre

  • BrightSide Theatre co-founder Tin Penavic, from left, Michael E. Black and Jeff Gamlin were featured in the fall in "Moonlight and Magnolias."

      BrightSide Theatre co-founder Tin Penavic, from left, Michael E. Black and Jeff Gamlin were featured in the fall in "Moonlight and Magnolias."
    Courtesy of BrightSide Theatre

 
By Julie Kornak
BrightSide Theatre

BrightSide Theatre is Naperville's only professional theater performing in the downtown historic district with the mission to "enlighten, educate and entertain" its audiences through comedies and inspirational stories from across the globe. A unique blend of award-winners, premieres, modern works and timeless classics meant to reflect upon and inform our community inhabit BrightSide's stage.

BrightSide Theatre's founders -- Julie Ann Kornak, Tin Penavic and Joe Messina -- longed to bring together professional actors, directors and other artists to create a professional company in the Western suburbs. Although Naperville is a culturally rich community, Kornak, a longtime Naperville resident with her husband and three children, knew it lacked a professional theater company performing downtown.

After planning and fundraising, BrightSide Theatre, incorporated in 2009, launched its inaugural season in October 2011 with performances at the Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College. Jeffrey Cass, director of the debut production, was named BrightSide Theatre's artistic director.

Having wrapped up the third season, "Life, Love and Laughter," with Kander and Ebb's legendary musical "Cabaret," BrightSide Theatre has announced its fourth season, "Celebrating Family and Friends." The season will ring in the holidays with a heartwarming classic, Joe Landry's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" (Nov. 27 to Dec. 14), followed by Neil Simon's farce "Rumors" (March 6 to 22), and concluding with Rodgers and Hammerstein's family classic "The Sound of Music" (June 12 to 28).

BrightSide Theatre is guided by the belief that involvement in arts programs increases children's development both academically and socially while building self-esteem. The BrightSide Theatre Youth Project, developed in 2013, provides a professional and educational learning experience for students ages 8 to 18 interested in exploring musical theater. In this program, children work directly with professional directors, musical directors, choreographers, designers and artists to develop their own theatrical skills. Each child has the opportunity to audition for a part in the musical production to be held at the conclusion of the project. The 2015 production for the Youth Project, Disney's "Aladdin," will run March 7, 8, 14 and 15 at the Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall.

In its first season with the philosophy and desire to give something back to the Naperville community, BrightSide Theatre partnered with Fishes and Loaves Community Pantry, raising funds for the organization to purchase $770 in food and collecting a welcome post-holiday abundance of canned and packaged foods for local families in need.

Coinciding with BrightSide Theatre's production of "RENT" in the second season, the theater teamed up with 360 Youth Services, which provides transitional housing, counseling, job placement and educational services for at-risk teenagers. Most recently, BrightSide Theatre joined forces with Western DuPage Special Recreation Association to help educate audiences about the agency's recreational programs for people of all ages with disabilities.

For information or to purchase tickets, visit brightsidetheatre.com.

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