INfrequently Asked Questions: Artistic director moves into the limelight

  • Jim Corti

    Jim Corti

Posted11/15/2015 7:30 AM

This week's INfreqently asked questions feature is of Jim Corti, an award-winning actor, director and choreographer who is artistic director of Paramount Theatre's Broadway series has gained local celebrity status for wildly successful productions that have put downtown Aurora back on the map. He is from Aurora.

Q: So I hear that you've earned rock star status in downtown Aurora?


A: "If an artistic director can be a rock star, maybe?"

Q: Tell me about being an artistic director.

A: "Stephen Sondheim wrote a little ditty 'Every Day a Little Death' and it's about the little things that happen and that you survive. In that way it's very much like everyone else's job. What makes it unique is that every day … is always something different."

Q: What fires are you currently putting out?

A: "We've got some casting problems. We still have two shows that need cast. West Side Story needs a couple of leads. The skill set is so specific. A certain look. The singing technique. The dancing technique. The acting props all have to be a certain proficiency. It's been a tall order."

Q: How do you solve that?

A: "It's thought that actors are replaceable and that you'll just find somebody else. Actors are not replaceable. They're cast for a very specific reason. We keep plugging away. We keep having auditions. Working with a talent agent. Trying to keep the talent pool here in the Chicago area. But we may have to go to New York."

Q: Why do you think there's been so much success?

A: "We're going to do these shows serving the intention of the writers. It's not about revision. It's not about deconstruction. It's about serving the purpose of why it was written."

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Q: How does the audience see that?

A: "We did 'Hair' and it wasn't just a joke about the '60s. It was a real youth-movement, peace movement, defiant production of 'Hair.' An anti-war statement that 'Hair' was written as. It shocked a lot of people. We did full nudity, 25 people on stage singing just butt naked. Full frontal. Twenty-five people. It was a beautiful moment, but people could not believe that we were going to be that bold."

Q: Do you see the Paramount's success reaching beyond the theater?

A: "It's making a big impact on downtown Aurora. The economy was hit hard even before 2008 and the recession. Empty buildings and store fronts when I first came here to interview for this job. It was very remote and empty. I thought, 'What a great thing if doing these Broadway shows could kind of wake things up around here.' It's started to do that. It went from a few hundred people a year coming downtown to hundreds of thousands. And people realized it was the shows that's doing it."

Q: How is this job different for you?

A: "I feel like I'm part of a community. I've never been civic minded. It's the first time being a part of a community. I was a gypsy. I went wherever the work was. And now I'm part of the revival of downtown. It feels very happy that we're here and very happy with what we're doing and that we're making a difference. That's everything that you could ask for your day-to-day job. "

Q: You recently earned the 2015 Jeff Award for best direction of a musical for 'Les Miserables,' among several awards for Paramount. What's that feel like?

A: "I don't look at them as personal awards at all. It might have my name on it but it really represents the entire company and organization and our community and the people of Aurora that are working with us. It's a nice feeling that a lot of people can identify with this recognition and take ownership of it as well."

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