Mount Carroll—Timber Lake Playhouse hosted its annual donor appreciation dinner on Saturday, November 8th at the Plumtree Lodge at Lake Carroll. Since 2008, the event has included the induction of notable members of the TLP family into the company’s Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees included film and television actress, Jennifer Garner, three-time board member and former president, Diane Olds, original company member and former managing & artistic director, Gary Vitale, and longtime benefactors, Drs. Norman and Carmelita Teeter.
Robin Wilhems Saar, TLP board president, hosted the evening, which included a surprise video message from Ms. Garner for the TLP sponsors. Speaking of the family dynamic, Mrs. Olds, who served as board president in 2006 and 2007, spoke first, talking about the positive influence Timber Lake had on her children and thousands more in the Northwest Illinois region.
Artistic Director, James Beaudry spoke for the Teeters, who are residents of Tennessee. In a phone conversation, Dr. Norman Teeter—a native of Mount Carroll--mentioned that it wasn’t until he was living in London and became an avid theatre goer that he realized the significance of TLP to the cultural and economic life of the region. The Teeters have made significant gifts to the playhouse over the years, underwriting living spaces for the actors, a new sound system, and upgrades to the public areas.
Mr. Vitale spoke poignantly of the fact that, after 54 years, TLP is still here. Recently retired as a professor from Benedictine University at Springfield, Mr. Vitale discussed a litany of theatres and theatre schools from his distinguished career that are no long in existence. With pride beaming from his face, as he acknowledged founding artistic director Andrew Bro and founding board member Dorthea Rahn in attendance, he affirmed with a smile, “But Timber Lake Playhouse is still here!”
Jennifer Garner began her career at TLP while still a student at Denison University in Ohio, performing in shows like Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? and Fiddler on the Roof. Her recorded video message was a surprise for those in attendance.
Board member Mike Shore of Freeport, who planned the event, was among those surprised attendees. He said, “It was a lovely gesture on the part of Jennifer to record a special video for the evening. As a former company member, myself, I thought it was great for our contributors to hear her stories about her first professional job at TLP.”
“She said something that I think hits home with most of our performers. Comparing the experience of working at TLP to a residency in medicine, she explained that it takes you to a new level when you have to open a new show every two weeks. You have to get over your fears and just do it. And there’s nothing better,” Shore recalled. “Speaking from the heart, she mentioned the ways TLP helped her grow as a young actress, and she reminded all us why TLP is important for audiences--but also for the company members who start their careers at this special place each summer.”
Beaudry added, “All of our inductees spoke of the importance of TLP in one way or another—to the region, to families, to artists. And both Jennifer and Gary said that our survival as a professional theatre company for 54 years is something of a miracle in itself. But, yes, we’re still here!”
The evening also included a look back at last summer’s shows, financial reports from the board of directors and a preview of 2015’s “big” season. In addition to some special events, the 54th Season at Timber Lake Playhouse includes Peter Pan, Hairspray, Big Fish, Greater Tuna, Big River and The Big Meal, as well as Pinocchio and James and The Giant Peach for kids.
TLP is currently selling “I Made Peter Fly” shirts through indiegogo.com to fund the flying effects in Peter Pan. 2015 subscriptions, gift certificates and sponsorships are available. More information can be found at www.timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the office at 815-244-2035.