Citadel Theatre set to return to the stage

  • Ellen Phelps, left, and Billy Minshall from Citadel Theatre's 2017 production of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," taken at Citadel Theatre in May, 2017.

    Ellen Phelps, left, and Billy Minshall from Citadel Theatre's 2017 production of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," taken at Citadel Theatre in May, 2017. Courtesy of North Shore Camera Club

 
 
Updated 7/9/2021 12:02 PM

Citadel Theatre was barely a week into rehearsals for its spring 2020 production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" by Neil Simon when they were told to halt production, go home, and wait.

Like most everyone back in March of 2020, Citadel Theatre thought that this would push back their show by a few weeks; a couple of months at most. No one would have predicted that almost 15 months would go by before the show would get its time on stage.

 

However, as of June 11, Citadel Theatre was given the green light to not only run its full 2021-22 season, but also open the theater at 100% capacity.

Citadel Theatre was founded in 2002 by a small group of local theater artists led by artistic director Scott Phelps. They had humble beginnings in a 50-person, black-box theater in the basement of the Gorton Center in Lake Forest, before moving to their current residence at 300 Waukegan Road, Lake Forest.

Citadel Theatre decided to celebrate its 20th season by filling it with feel-good, family friendly productions. Phelps made this choice consciously to celebrate the gift of live theater.

From the streets of 1930s New York, the nostalgic world of the comic strip "Peanuts," the rolling hills of Ireland, and a dive bar in 20th Century Paris, there will be something for every member of the family.

The team at Citadel Theatre is working relentlessly to bring together the best cast, crew, and production for the community to experience.

Part of that team are the actors of "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Shaya Harris, a young actress from Highland Park, reached out from sleep-away camp to relay how excited she is to finally rehearse.

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"I am so excited about live theater opening up again. There's just nothing like it. I think I'm most looking forward to the connections that the cast makes with the audience as the show unfolds, when you can hear the applause or the laughter and you know that they are connecting with the characters and the story," Harris said.

What sets Citadel Theatre apart is the intimacy with its audience. The theater itself only fits 150 audience members, with the stage and the first row on the same level with each other, bringing the audience and the art closer than other theaters in the surrounding area.

Monica Castle, a Glenview-based actress and another castmate of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," summed up what live theater does for a community.

"Live, professional theater should be easily accessible to all communities. As awesome as technology is for increasing communication, I think that authentic human connection has taken a back seat. Despite all the terrible things that have happened due to COVID, one light at the end of the tunnel is that people want to be together, face to face, to tell their stories and to hear the stories of others, and there's no better place to do that than live theater," Castle said.

Citadel Theatre will open its season Sept. 17. For tickets or season subscriptions, call (847) 735-8554, ext. 1, or visit www.citadeltheatre.org.

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