New Director Brings Lifetime Love of Film and Comedy to Wheaton Drama

November 20th, 2019

Doug Long is a new director at Wheaton Drama, but far from new to directing. With theatre credits including work at Steppenwolf and Bailiwick, and teaching credits at DePaul, College of DuPage, and St. Francis University, directing Moonlight and Magnolias is hardly a stretch. In fact, you might say he’s been preparing for this his whole life.

Director, Doug Long (R of couch), and his crew on the set of Moonlight and Magnolias

We sat down for “5 Questions” with Mr. Long to give you an insight into this remarkable new talent joining Wheaton Drama.

1. Every actor, director, tech person in theatre has a story on how they became involved – what was your journey?

I’ve been doing theatre since I was a kid, acting in school and community theatre plays. I convinced my 5th grade teacher to let me direct a story of the Pony Express from our textbook that was written in dramatic form. We got to use the stage in the gym, lights and all, and my mom helped me make props. For a few Fourths of July, my brothers and I wrote little musicals which we staged for an audience of our parents. I was active in drama throughout high school and later double majored in theatre and journalism at Ball State University. College is where I decided to focus on directing and where I directed my first full-length play, Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. After graduation, I was a newspaper reporter for a year, but gave it up to go to grad school at Indiana University, where I earned an MA in theatre history & research and an MFA in Directing (my thesis show was Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke). I worked full-time in the IU theatre department, where I taught acting and oral interpretation, and also directed and acted at the Bloomington Playwrights Project. My family and I moved to Chicago in 1996 so I could work professionally as a director. My first gigs here were assistant directing at Steppenwolf (Slaughterhouse-Five) and directing an original one-act (Buzz) at the Bailiwick Directors Festival.

2. Moonlight and Magnolias is a comedy about a film (Gone with the Wind). You’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of film and comedy, how did that come to be?

This started when I was quite young. My parents had some movie books, particularly the first edition (1957) of Richard Griffith & Arthur Mayer’s The Movies, which my brother and I devoured. We watched as many old movies as we could on TV and from the library on a library projector my dad would operate. I reviewed movies for my college newspaper and for a few years, I was the film writer for The (Bloomington, IN) Herald-Times. Over the decades, film has been my chief research area. I’ve created classes at DePaul University that focus on the world of film, like the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Chicago in film, movie musicals, and the films of 1939. I love most genres, but I have a special fondness for American comedies from film’s early Golden Era (1930s-40s), including Dinner at Eight, produced by David O. Selznick, screwball comedies such as Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve, and of course the Marx Brothers, particularly their masterpiece Duck Soup. Comedies of that era drew on the physical mastery from the silent comics like Chaplin, Keaton, etc., and the snappy dialogue of vaudeville and radio.

3. In addition to being a director, you’re an educator. How does teaching fuel you?

I love inspiring people to investigate their creativity and share themselves through it. I’ve taught acting at many places – Indiana University, Victory Gardens Theatre, the College of DuPage, and the University of St. Francis. For students on the professional track, it’s a matter of honing and merging technical and imaginative skills and telling the truth on stage. For those not looking to act professionally, it could be the time in their life when they have permission to explore parts of themselves they don’t usually share with the world. Studying theatre develops a person’s confidence, imagination, and teamwork.

4. You’re a busy professional. With so much to juggle, what drew you to Moonlight and Magnolias?

For years, I’ve been on the lookout for a Chicago-area theatre who needed a director for Moonlight and Magnolias, so I was glad to see Wheaton Drama’s notice. I’ve taught and studied Gone with the Wind for several years and have found it to be a cultural touchstone which continues to be re-evaluated, most recently in light of the white supremacy marches and racially-motivated violence. Playwright Ron Hutchinson uses comedy to wrestle with some of these contemporary issues, such as the portrayal of the slave Prissy and the resistance of the studio heads, who were mostly Jewish, to address the growing power of the Nazi party. Despite these serious themes, Moonlight and Magnolias is a comedy. If you explain to someone that it’s about how difficult it was to create the screenplay for Gone with the Wind, that sounds anything but funny. But in his 1954 memoir A Child of the Century, Ben Hecht humorously tells how bizarre it was, with the dominating Selznick and macho director Victor Fleming acting out all the parts for Hecht, who, unbelievably, had never read Margaret Mitchell’s famous book! This was the starting point for Ron Hutchinson’s script. At times the play is full farce, and by Act 2, it’s almost like a comedic Lord of the Flies, if you can imagine that.

5. People seem to consume more content than ever, and yet theatres struggle to compete. Why should people make live theatre make a priority in their hectic lives?

As we’ve become more connected to our phones and computers, our lives have become less dependent on live human interaction. Live theatre is an antidote for that. When a character on stage hears crushing news, the audience hears it at the same time, in the same space, and feels the character’s aching. When something funny happens, an audience laughs together, forming community that is unique to live performance. In Moonlight and Magnolias, our audience will witness a hysterical breakdown in decorum as three men push themselves to the limit to achieve the screenplay for what producer David O. Selznick envisions as the greatest movie of all time.

Moonlight and Magnolias runs Thursdays – Sundays until December 6th at Wheaton Drama. No show, Thanksgiving Day. Visit www.wheatondrama.com/moonlight-and-magnolias for more information.

“Little Women – The Broadway Musical” Cast Announced

November 7th, 2019

The production team of Little Women – The Broadway Musical is proud to announce the cast and crew of this heartwarming musical coming Wheaton Drama January 17 – February 9, 2020. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1869 novel, Little Women is a musical storytelling of the adventures the four March sisters and their beloved Marmee while their father is away serving in the Civil War. Beautiful music and the well-loved story of traditional Meg, wild, aspiring writer Jo, timid Beth, and romantic Amy, will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart this winter.

 The roles will be portrayed by:

Jo: Carolyn Waldee

Professor Bhaer: Kevin Loeper

Marmee/Hag: Meg McGarry

Meg/Clarissa: Morgan Dietkus

Beth/Rodrigo 2: Elisabeth Reuter

Amy/Troll: Mackenzie Grattan

Laurie/Rodrigo: Zack Eckhardt

Mr. Lawrence: Stan Austin

Aunt March: Amy Brockman

Mr. John Brooke/Braxton: Mark Hutchison

Mrs. Kirk: Charmaine Jones

Knight: Michael Albrow

Ensemble/Laurie Understudy: Erol Ibrahimović

Ensemble/Amy Understudy: Abigail Hamilton 

Ensemble/Meg Understudy: Kayla Lollar

Ensemble/Beth Understudy: Allie Plansky


Production staff includes:

Production Manager: Elyse Willis

Director: Krystyn Wells

Assistant Director: Leah Rae Witt

Music Director: Joni Kotche

Choreographer: Katy Smith 

Stage Manger, Set Designer: Bruce Ebner

Assistant Stage Manager: Melanie Johnson

Set Dec, Hair, Make Up, and Scenic Artist: Jim Martin

Light Designer: Jim Van De Velde

Sound Designer: Tom French

Props Designer: Jody Gosain

Costume Designer: Cindy Lonhart

Little Women – The Broadway Musical runs January 17 through February 9, 2020 at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street in Wheaton, IL. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30p, and Sunday at 3:00p. Two performances of the show will be performed with American Sign Language interpreters, dates TDB. Tickets can be order online, or by leaving a message with the Wheaton Drama volunteer box office at 630-260-1820.

Presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI)

Auditions for “Little Women, The Broadway Musical”

October 6th, 2019

Wheaton Drama, Inc. will hold auditions for Little Women, The Broadway Musical on Sunday, November 3rd and Monday, November 4th at 7pm. Callbacks (if needed): Tuesday, November 5th, 7pm. All auditions will be held at 112 N Wolf Road Northlake, IL 60164. NOTE – This is NOT Wheaton Drama. Auditions are being held off site for this production. The show runs January 17th – February 9th, 2020.

Little Women, The Broadway Musical is a heartwarming look at the lives of the four March sisters as they grow up and find their own voices against the backdrop of the Civil War. Full of hope and adventure, memorable songs, humor and heartbreak, the show (and beloved book) is based loosely on Louisa May Alcott’s life.

Audition slots are available by appointment only. Director Krystyn Wells would like to see a 30 second – 1 minute story or “elevator” pitch about a favorite thing (book, play, TV show, recipe, vacation). Please also prepare 16-32 measures of musical theatre style in appropriate key; please provide copy as an accompanist will be provided.  Please no a cappella or recordings. You may be asked for additional singing for range placement.

To request an audition time or to ask questions: please write to the show’s email: LittleWomenMusicalWDI2020@gmail.com and indicate preference for Sunday or Monday, as well as preference for earlier or later in the evening. We will do our best to accommodate your requests. Audition forms can be downloaded by clicking the link below:

Download audition forms here. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W5Y5oSB7_FrSMb-is8jqxT9lsYThOigwNGg2UFX7yAg/edit?usp=sharing

Available roles:
Jo March – Our protagonist who stands up for everything she believes in. Passionate, adventurous and brave. (Vocal Range E3-A5 (Belt/Mix), Age Range 18-23)

Professor Bhaer – A German Professor who exemplifies proper manners. He is a boarder in Mrs. Kirk’s boarding house. (Vocal Range G2-F#4 (Baritone), Age Range 25-45)

Amy March – The youngest March sister, impulsive, energetic, and striving for a more sophisticated life. (Vocal Range Cb4-Gb5 (Soprano/Mix), Age Range 14-18)

Meg March – The world-weary, yet hopeful, oldest sister who yearns for a great life. (Vocal Range A#3-Gb5 (Soprano), Age Range 20-25)

Beth March – The second youngest sister who tragically dies of Scarlet Fever. Peace-maker, giving and optimistic. (Vocal Range A3-G5 (Soprano), Age Range 16-21) 

Marmee March – The girls’ mother. She is the strong backbone of the family, courageous in spite of difficulties. (Vocal Range Eb3-Eb5 (Mezzo Soprano), Age Range 45-55) 

Mr. Laurence – Laurie’s grandfather who lives next door. Slightly crotchety. (Vocal Range D3-E4 (Baritone), Age Range 55-70) 

Laurie Laurence – The bright-eyed-boy-next-door with considerable charm. (Vocal Range Bb2-Bb4 (Tenor), Age Range 18-23) 

Aunt March – A formidable, over-bearing matron and great-aunt to the March sisters. (Vocal Range E3-F5 (Soprano), Age Range 35-60) 

Mr. John Brooke – Laurie’s tutor and a rather stiff man; shows very little emotion until he falls in love with Meg. (Vocal Range C#3 – F#4 (Bari-Tenor), Age Range 25-35) 

Mrs. Kirk – The woman who runs the New York boarding house where Jo lives. Slight Irish accent. (Vocal Range D4-G4 (Soprano), Age Range 45-60) 

Weekly Volcano Press Characters –  (Troll, Clarissa, Rodrigo II, Knight, Rodrigo, Hag, Braxton) – May be cast as separate roles within the ensemble or double cast with Amy, Meg, Beth, Mr. Laurence, Laurie, Aunt March and John Brooke (Various Vocal Ranges, Age Range 14+) 

Ensemble – Dancers at the ball, ice skaters, beachcombers, hags, trolls and monks. (Various vocal ranges, Age Range 14+) 

Moonlight and Magnolias Cast Announced

September 18th, 2019

Director Doug Long is proud to announce the cast of Wheaton Drama’s, Moonlight and Magnolias. This fast-paced comedy by Ron Hutchinson is (loosely) based on real events and recreate the finalization of the 1939 screenplay for Gone with The Wind. The cast is three men and one woman, featuring producer David O. Selznick, screenwriter Ben Hecht, and director Victor Fleming, supported throughout by Selznicks’s intrepid assistant, Miss Poppenghul. The roles will be portrayed by:

Ben Hecht – Sean Stephen Thomas
David O. Selznick – Christopher Williams
Victor Fleming – Geoffrey Maher
Miss Poppenghul – Sande Ogren
The production staff includes:
Director – Doug Long
Assistant Director – Tom Walker
Stage Manager – Amy Johnson
Set Design – Don Dumper
Costume Design – Marcia Steinbrecher
Lighting design – Jim Van De Velde
Sound Designer – Jim Quan
Production Manager – Mike Boyna  

Moonlight and Magnolias runs November 15 through December 8, at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street in Wheaton, IL. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30p, and Sunday at 3:00p. There is no show on Thanksgiving, November 24. Tickets can be order online, or by calling the Wheaton Drama box office at 630-260-1820.


Wheaton Drama’s “The Addams Family” actress breaking new ground

September 6th, 2019

By: Elena Dansdill, September 2, 2019

After 88 years of providing theatre and arts for the community, Wheaton Drama is taking a step to open their doors to another group. Gretchen Gannon is the first deaf actor to work on a show at Wheaton Drama, and she’s blowing past everyone’s expectations. After deciding to return to theatre after a hiatus of almost 10 years, Gretchen realized many of the deaf theatres she previously worked at had folded, and auditioned for Wheaton Drama for the first time, landing an ensemble role in The Addams Family – A New Musical, playing September 13th – October 6th at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111.

Gretchen Gannon plays an ancestor in The Addams Family – A New Musical

“Without the gracious forward thinking of Wheaton Drama to make their theatre accessible to the Deaf Community, none of this would be possible,” Gretchen said in an interview, “For example, hiring Sign Language Interpreters for rehearsals and performances.  The interpreter keeps me in the “Family” business at all times with whatever is going on at that moment.” Additionally, she says that technology like Facebook, which wasn’t around when she began doing theatre, has helped her by giving her a way to watch rehearsal videos over to nail down each step.

Gretchen’s interpreter, Patti Shore Kaden, is just as excited to be working on this show, stating that it’s an honor for both of them to be working for a theatre that’s never been accessible before. “Gretchen brings depth and creativity to this theatre,” said Patti, who’s worked for 30 years as an interpreter.  “People who come to the show will see this and be part of the magic.” Gretchen certainly does have a bit of magic that every actor needs. At rehearsal, Gretchen is the one high fiving and laughing with all the cast members, bringing out the best in them all. She says people have always seen her as an entertainer, making them smile and relax, and that’s what draws her to theatre.

Gretchen Gannon (center), rehearses a dance routine with the “ancestor” ensemble

            Besides casting their first deaf actor, Wheaton Drama is also offering an interpreter at four different performances of The Addams Family for  deaf and hard of hearing audiences. This is a huge step towards making Wheaton Drama more accessible, and one that needs to happen more often in community theatres, according to Gretchen. In some productions that perhaps offer one interpreted performance, Gretchen points out that only offering one show with an interpreter just doesn’t work and “lessens the opportunity for all people to see the show. The more options, the better,” she says.

            “The opportunity to make the show accessible was made possible in part by Gretchen’s talent and tenacity, the leadership of the production team for Addams Family, headed by director Dan Hitzemann, and by generous donations,” says Wheaton Drama president, Julie Kanturek. “Honestly, we didn’t set out to create a show inclusive for more audiences, but Gretchen blew the socks off our production team; they knew we had to have her, and we knew we needed to figure out how to make it happen.”  Creating a show with inclusivity involves hiring an interpreter for the rehearsals, and two interpreters for each performance to bring the show to life through sign language, costs the theatre hadn’t originally considered when budgeting the show. “Thankfully, before we’d even decided as a board to hire interpreters for four performances, we had the commitment of an anonymous donor to help make it happen. Since then, we reached out to Representative Terra Costa Howard, who has also generously agreed to help. The support of our community, both inside and outside our theater, is what is really special about this production. And it means Wheaton Drama is becoming even more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community – and to anyone who loves theatre.”

            The Addams Family – A New Musical opens at Wheaton Drama on Friday the 13th of September through October 6th, with performances on Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Four performances of The Addams Family will be ASL (American Sign Language) interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing: Saturday 9/14 at 2 pm, Sunday 9/22 at 3 pm, Sunday 9/29 at 3 pm, and Saturday 10/5 at 7:30 pm. For tickets and more information, visit www.wheatondrama.org.

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