Storefront Shakespeare performs first shows in Geneva

By Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted7/2/2010 12:01 AM
  • Gina McDonald of Wheaton plays Puck in the Storefront Shakespeare production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Performances are set for July 2-5 in Geneva, and July 9-11 in Naperville.

    Gina McDonald of Wheaton plays Puck in the Storefront Shakespeare production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Performances are set for July 2-5 in Geneva, and July 9-11 in Naperville. Courtesy of Storefront Shakespeare

Turning a dream into reality can take a lot of sweat and greasepaint.

Just ask Nora Manca, president and artistic director of Storefront Shakespeare, a new theater company which recently performed the first week of its very first production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"I've achieved my career goal; I'm the director of a Shakespearean theater," Manca said.

Storefront Shakespeare is a mobile theater company, which uses empty storefronts and other large spaces.

Using Promenade, a nontraditional form of theater in which the entire space becomes the stage, this theater company's performances engage the audience in an interactive as well as an entertaining experience.

For the company's first production, Manca chose to direct a cast of about 25 actors in this tale of four intertwining stories, written by her favorite bard.

"Shakespeare's stories are so interesting and so complex, and the language is so beautiful and witty," she said. "I saw my first play when I was four, and have been obsessed with it ever since. It was 'Taming of the Shrew,' and I was so bothered by (the character) Petruchio. When I found out he was a wife beater (in the play), I was so mad at him," but she was hooked.

Another fan of Shakespeare is cast member Nadia Handler, a 15 year-old high school student from St. Charles, the youngest performer on stage.

Auditions were open to actors ages 16 through adults, but Handler's talents got her in the door and into the cast.

Handler appeared in "Beauty and the Beast" at Noble Fool Theatricals, and as the fairy Peaseblossom in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Thompson Middle School.

In Storefront Shakespeare's version of this play, she is performing the role of Hermia, who loves one man, but is loved by another.

"The actors are part of the audience, and the audience is part of the play. It's wonderful," Handler said. "They follow along, watch, and laugh. They even move around if they can't see."

Handler met Manca while performing at Noble Fool. She learned about auditions for this current production through a Facebook posting.

"I really like Shakespeare. It's hard, but once we learn the meaning of the lines, it's really fun. It's a great experience for actors," Handler said.

Besides appearing in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Handler is preparing for her lead role in "Tied to the Tracks," a musical melodrama opening at Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles Thursday, July 15.

Manca, who lives in North Aurora, has been working up to this her entire life.

"I've been doing theater since I was about 10 years old," she said. "I just had a passion for it. I started a mini theater company when I was 13; we did 'Romeo and Juliet' for three years."

After high school, she attended North Central College, and completed a bachelor's degree in theater performance, with an emphasis in directing. She also minored in art. She has directed four previous productions: "Steel Magnolias" at the Geneva Underground Playhouse; "Potea Safari" at the Masala Yangu restaurant in Naperville; and "Euripides' Medea: A Director's Nightmare" as well as "An Ideal Husband" as guest director at Benedictine University.

She was the assistant director for "Beauty and the Beast" at Noble Fool Theatricals in St. Charles.

"Last year I got the idea for a promenade-style production of 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' but no theater was right for what I had in mind. Some friends and I started brainstorming and decided we needed to form our own company and use empty storefronts. We wanted to be right where the people were," she said.

Preparations for this premier production involved a bevy of talented friends who pitched in with everything from creating costumes to crafting sets. Props and decorations were cobbled together from donated items, as well as from bits and pieces found at yard sales and the Goodwill store, enabling this company to function with absolutely no budget.

What made this all come together into a run of performances already enjoyed by many was the availability of a vacant storefront in downtown Geneva.

Manca explained that she and executive director Racole Fisher "went walking around downtown Geneva. We wanted a place with a lively and active downtown. We took down phone numbers (of vacant stores), and made calls. Then we got approval and a permit from the city of Geneva."

The two women were able to find a temporary home for the company's first production at an empty storefront at 228 S. Third St. They may have gotten more of a "lively and active downtown" than they could have imagined, as their play opened and ran the week of Geneva's annual Swedish Days festival.

"We had pretty good attendance, especially for our first week," Manca said.

Upcoming performances of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will take place today through Monday, July 5, at 228 S. Third St. in Geneva, with shows at 7 p.m. each evening, and additional 3 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 and may be bought on line at, or at the door. Only cash or checks will be accepted at the door.

Monday's performance offers $8 pricing for Industry Night, to active and interested performers, tech and crew people, especially those who are interested in auditioning for the company's next performance. General admission remains $10 per person.

The following week, Storefront Shakespeare will move "Midsummer Night's Dream" to Sky Yoga Studio, 2035 S. Washington St., Suite 147 in Naperville. This is not an empty storefront, but is owned by a friend.

Shows will be at 7 p.m. July 9-11, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 10, only.

The next production by Storefront Shakespeare will be "As You Like It," with a Bollywood twist.

"I hope we can find a (performance) space near an Indian restaurant, and tie it all in," Manca said.

Whether you want to learn more, buy tickets, or audition for the company's next production, visit, or call (630) 677-0983.