Suitcase Dreams Rehearsals Begin

On Tuesday in Overture Center’s Rotunda Studio, LILA began rehearsals for The Suitcase Dreams. It was a great big table read with twelve actors, two designers, four writers, one director, and a whole lot of inspiration.


Stage manager Tony Reitano, and director Jessica Lanius prepare for the arrival of the cast and creative team on Tuesday night.


Costume designer Monica Butler gives everyone a rundown of the costumes for the production.


Cast members Chelsea Anderson and Di’Monte Henning at the reading on Tuesday night.


Cast members Michael Huftile, Emma Dias, and Emily Janik with director Jessica Lanius and writer Karen Olivo at the reading Tuesday night.


After reading through the script, the cast got on its feet to play with music director Erin Crabb and percussionist Shlomo Calvi.


Before sitting down at the big table, everyone got together for some creative introductions.


Before sitting down at the big table, everyone got together for some creative introductions.



The Suitcase Dreams: Collaborator Profile: Gwen Rice

Gwendolyn Rice
How much can we write about the abundance of talent in this town? Apparently not enough, because we’ve got Gwen Rice as one of the five core creators of The Suitcase Dreams! We decided today would be a good day to profile her here because she has something very cool happening this very night: her new play The Griots will receive a staged reading in Milwaukee as part of Renaissance Theatreworks Brink! 2014. The play, set in rural Georgia in the late 1930s, tells the story of an elderly African American woman who grew up in slavery, a young woman descended from the plantation owner’s family, and a young white man from the WPA Writers’ Project sent to the South to interview ex-slaves.
Gwen has been an active part of our Actors Lab 360 (one of the brave non-actors involved), and has contributed her wealth of know-how to help launch LILA in Madison. We know you’ll love what she’s contributed to The Suitcase Dreams, and encourage you to check out her work tonight in Milwaukee too!
Five Questions for Gwen
Where did you grow up?
Milton, Wisconsin.
What was the last role you played?
The fashion correspondent in a radio version of All About Eve.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
New York City last fall.
What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?
The feeling of magic in the script, and the potential for creating something much bigger than the words.
Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
A notebook, pens, and sunscreen.

The Suitcase Dreams: Collaborator Profile: Trevor Rees

Trevor Rees

We are very excited to welcome Trevor as a LILA Artistic Associate as we push ever closer to opening our first new work in Madison. Trevor is entering his third and final year as a member of the MFA Acting/Directing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received a BA in both Theatre and Communications from Cardinal Stritch University and has worked in the theatre both professionally and non-professionally in many ways. Some of his professional experience includes performing with American Folklore Theatre, Children’s Theater of Madison, Derby Dinner Playhouse, and Renaissance Theaterworks. Along with his experience as a performer, Trevor is also an experienced teacher of theatre and drama and has taught many students with ages ranging from early elementary to the university level.

Where did you grow up?

Waukesha, WI.

What was the last role you played?

Ten different roles in University Theatre’s summer production of Greater Tuna

What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?

I’m going to be greedy and have two memorable trips. Traveling to Italy and visiting Assisi, Rome, and Florence was amazing, absolutely beautiful and quite moving. Next would be several trips to the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. Stratford is beautiful and full of fantastic theatre!

What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?

Everything! The collaborative nature and beauty behind this project is inventive and inspiring. Something like this touches the soul and leaves you wanting more…which is exactly what theatre is supposed to do!

Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?

A sports ball of some kind, my Sony cassette/radio player with headphones (I’m so hip), and lots of Gatorade (Have to stay hydrated, right?)


The Suitcase Dreams: Cast Profile: Di’Monte Henning

Di'Monte Henning

A theatre student at UW-Milwaukee, this will be Di’Monte’s first production in the Madison area. LILA has been pleased to have Di’Monte as a regular “lab rat” in our Actors LAB 360 this summer, and doubly pleased that he will be part of our cast for The Suitcase Dreams. He has several Milwaukee credits, including Hairspray (Seaweed) at Milwaukee H.S of the Arts, and To the Promised Land at First Stage (see below for more). We think our local audiences will thank us for introducing Mr. Henning to the Madison stage.

Five Questions for Di’Monte

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
What was the last role you played?
The last role I played was a member of the Tribe in Skylight Music Theatre‘s Hair. Prior to that, I played a Zulu teacher in Post-Apartheid South Africa in In Tandem Theatre Company‘s Burying The Bones.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
The most memorable trip I can remember was visiting L.A. because it has always been a dream of mine to visit such a large and exciting city.
What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?
What’s exciting in my mind about this show is allowing myself as an actor to be open-minded and vulnerable to the different characters I will be playing. I’m anxiously excited to discover new acting techniques that I know will stay with me throughout my career. Finally, it’s getting my hands on a new piece of material, no one has ever performed before, and then creating that experience with our cast.
Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?1.Phone 2.Food 3.Endless wrestling Magazines

The Suitcase Dreams actors Di’Monte Henning and Chelsea Anderson.


The Suitcase Dreams: Cast Profile: Amanda Connors

Amanda ConnorsLILA has been fortunate to have Amanda around over the summer, participating regularly in our Actors Lab 360, and we’re pleased she will be able to join us on stage for The Suitcase Dreams. We know she’s got big dreams, and LILA is a big supporter of dreamers!

A recent graduate of UW-Madison with theatre and journalism degrees, Amanda was last seen as Nellie in University Theatre’s Summer and Smoke. Some of her favorite roles include Swartzy in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Peter in Peter Pan and Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Along with acting, Amanda also directs. Recent directing credits includeSpace Voyage: The Musical Frontier and Broadcast for InterMission Theater. Over the summer she worked at the Guthrie as directing intern on Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike.

Five Questions for Amanda

Where did you grow up?
Appleton, Wisconsin
What was the last role you played?
Nellie in Summer and Smoke
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
Camping in the Rocky Mountains
What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?
I love collaborating and creating something out of organic movement. The writers and cast are great to work with and the subject matter is something everyone can relate to.
Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
A comfortable mattress, the Harry Potter Book Series, and a journal with pen to document the experience.

The Suitcase Dreams: Cast Profile: Mark Snowden

marksnowdenheadshotThe LILA family seems to be full of folks that have come home — or have found a place to call home. Mark Snowden was raised (mostly) in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, but spent many years as a working actor in the Twin Cities working for outfits like Plymouth Playhouse and History Theatre in the 1980’s. Since moving to Madison from Seattle in 2007, he has become a fixture in the Madison theatre community, appearing in productions with Four Seasons Theatre, Music Theatre of Madison, Children’s Theater of Madison, The Bricks, Madison Theatre Guild, Strollers Theatre, Mercury Players, and Broom Street. Mark joined Theatre LILA’s Actor’s Lab 360 in May, and we’re thrilled to have such a solid member of the arts community to work with.
Five Questions for Mark
Where did you grow up?
Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I also spent almost two years in Nigeria when I was 9-10.
What was the last role you played?
Henry Barrow, in Bonnie & Clyde, the Musical, for Music Theatre of Madison.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
When I lived overseas as a child, we took a long vacation and visited Cairo, Beirut, Athens, Geneva, Barcelona, and Lisbon. I was young, but I remember parts of it vividly.
What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?
Working on original material is always kind of a thrill ride, and Theatre LILA’s collaborative approach increases the stakes everyone has in the work. I think working with all the really talented people will make The Suitcase Dreams special. Most of the cast and writers are new to me, except for Jessica Witham, who is my oldest theater friend in Madison.
Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
I think I would need two good hats; one for sunny days, and one for cold days. Also, I’ve never had an iPad, but one of those with a decent connection would probably come in handy. I process this question far too literally.

The Suitcase Dreams: Collaborator Profile: Tyler Marchant


Tyler has known LILA Co-Artistic Director Jessica Lanius since they went to college together at UW-Stevens Point (about twenty five years ago).  The friendship and creative partnership they maintain is impressive, and LILA is fortunate to have Tyler on board as one of five collaborating writers creating The Suitcase Dreams.

Tyler worked in New York City as the Associate Artistic Director at the multiple award- winning Off-Broadway Theatre Primary Stages in NYC from 2000-2006, where he worked with playwrights such as Terrence McNally, Horton and Daisy Foote, Stephen Belber, John Henry Redwood, A.R. Gurney, Lee Blessing, Michele Lowe, Christopher Durang and many others. Other New York directing work includes several productions, workshops, and readings of new plays by Neil LaBute, Edwin Sanchez, Stephen Belber, Steven Dietz, Victor Ladato, Julia Jordan, Dan O’Brien, Anthony Clarvoe, and Lucy Thurber, among others.

During his tenure at Primary Stages, Tyler was the Director of the New American Writer’s Group where he worked with writers to develop and create new plays for the American Theatre. In addition to his work at Primary Stages, Tyler has worked at theatres such as Guthrie Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Trustus, with British playwright Gary Owen’s The Drowned World and Michael Wynne’s The People are Friendly as part of the Old Vic/New Voices international playwright exchange in conjunction with the Old Vic in London, and served as the Associate Director of the Broadway production of On Golden Pond starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams as well as the national tour starring Tom Bosley and Michael Learned. He directed the World Premiere of India Awaiting at the Samuel Beckett theatre in NYC and the World Premiere Prudence, at Connecticut Repertory Theatre. While at Primary Stages, Tyler has worked with some of the premiere actors working in NYC including Isabella Rossellini, Richard Thomas, Nathan Lane, Marian Seldes, Charles Kimbrough, Charles Grodin, Sandy Duncan, Mary Testa, Ellen MCClaughlin, George Grizzard, among others.

Tyler has received a commission from Williamstown Theatre Festival to co-conceive and direct a new play with playwright Dan O’Brien. Recent productions include Cloud 9 at Pennsylvania Center Stage, the World Premiere of the musical Anne of Green Gables (by Nancy Ford and Gretchen Cryer) at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in NYC, and Jeffrey Hatcher’s A Picasso at Barrington Stage Company and the the World Premiere of Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain which ran off-Broadway in New York City for two years. From 2001- 2006, Tyler served as the Vice-President of the Association of Non-Profit Theatre Companies (ANTC) in New York City. Tyler received the prestigious Doris Duke/Andrew W. Mellon/TCG New Generations Grant” to aid and assist his work in the non-profit theatre sector. Tyler received his M.F.A. in directing at the University of South Carolina, and is a member of SSDC.

Five Questions for Tyler

Where did you grow up?

Ripon, Wisconsin

What was the last role you played?
I last directed a production of the musical Next To Normal at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve ever taken?
My wife and I honeymooned on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. It was perfect.
What is exciting to you about The Suitcase Dreams?
To switch from my directing hat to my writing hat, which has been incredibly fun. I look forward to having someone look at my writing and put their unique spin on it, as I know Jessica will do. Lastly, I would say I value the opportunity to meet new collaborators and find our way towards the vision that Theatre LILA has placed before us.
Okay, last question: what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?

1. My wife. 2. A lifeboat. 3. Provisions (Perhaps I am missing the essence of this question, but one must be practical in times of trouble.)