When the Encore Theatre's 16th season came to a close, Director Bob Silton had some news for the local youths who bring several shows to the stage each year.
At the cast party for the final show, "Shrek: The Musical," Silton revealed the upcoming 2014-15 season will be Encore's last.
"It went completely dead quiet," Silton said. "There were a lot of tears."
Silton said he feels he is ready to do something new. In addition to serving as the Encore Theatre director, he works on shows at the Marriott Lincolnshire.
"I feel like I, as a person, am ready for something else. Seventeen years is a long time," Silton said. "People said they're excited for my future and what's to come."
Encore has truly become a family over the years, Silton said, and it's a family that he has always kept in touch with. He recently saw on Facebook that one of his first Encore participants just got married.
"There are so many friendships and relationships built on it," he said. "We're an Encore family, first and foremost beyond everything."
He has enjoyed watching that family grow and mature. For example, one of the participants, Phoebe Paslaski, just finished her 20th show. Silton noted, however, that when Paslaski joined Encore, she was shy and nervous.
"Now, she has hysterical comic timing, and she has done regional theater," he said.
Jessica Schrag said she, too, was scared when she joined Encore. She loved to sing and had performed in one show with another theater company. Then someone suggested she check out Encore.
"I loved it. Everyone was just so nice," Schrag said. Though she started out not liking the spotlight, Schrag has now performed in 10 productions. Her favorite was playing Gavroche in "Les Miserables."
"Since I like singing so much, I liked how the story was incorporated through the songs," Schrag said. She is already preparing to participate in a few of this season's productions.
"I feel like it's made me more confident," she said of Encore.
Jackie Ovassapian, who acted in 16 productions and worked on the stage crew for three others, shared Schrag's sentiments.
"Encore was amazing for me," Ovassapian said. "The shows were incredible. Everything was high-quality. Being part of something so intense was awesome."
Ovassapian said she appreciates the friendships she made through Encore, which she described as "a big family," and called Silton "a great mentor."
"It's sad (to see it end), but it was an awesome 17 years," she said.
Silton admitted this final season will likely be really tough.
"I'm not looking forward to the closing show," he said. "It's going to be so intense for so many reasons."
Each Encore show, he said, has been a challenge he has enjoyed. He has always aimed to do a mix of well- and lesser-known productions. He presents his vision to his team, "everyone goes their separate ways, then we come back and regroup, and it ends up being better than my vision."
The Encore team even makes its own costumes for the productions, which are staged at the Libertyville Civic Center or Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein.
"We have fun, but we're also there to work," Silton said.
And that is precisely what he's going to focus on from now until the close of the final Encore show in July 2015. Slated for the 2014-15 season are: "Once Upon a Mattress," "Tarzan," "Fame," "Hairspray Jr.," "Seussical the Musical" and "Peter Pan."
For information on Encore Theatre and its shows, visit jrencoretheatre.com or Facebook, www.facebook.com/pages/Encore-Theatre-NFP/64296274181 and www.facebook.com/pages/Encore-Theatre-NFP/64296274181? sk=info.
"'Peter Pan' was my first obsession. It was the show that got me into theater," Silton said. "The theme for this season is 'A Season of True Believers.' I think the season is really fun. I want our cast party at the end of 'Peter Pan' to be a big celebration."