Our newest Board member is also an Emeritus Ensemble Member with a long history at SLT. Melissa Lindberg is currently an administrator at the University of Chicago. She worked on her first show with Stage Left in 1985. She was an original cast member of the Neo-Futurists’ show “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” She has a PhD from Tufts University in Theatre History, Literature, and Criticism. She volunteered for Northside Democracy for America for many years, serving as both Chair and Co-Chair.
She sat down for a chat with us about what Stage Left means to her.
SLT: What did you know about SLT before joining?
ML: My first show with Stage Left was with SLT’s first Artistic Director, Anne Fournier, when I was stage manager for “The Member of the Wedding.” I got the gig as stage manager shortly after moving to the city after college. Stage Left became my theatrical home. I was a member of the company when we went through our first artistic leadership change, and was a member on and off for 20 years, until leaving to focus on work, raising a small child, and politics. At that point, I became a subscriber, and enjoyed watching the work SLT continued to produce.
SLT: What drew you to Stage Left?
ML: I love the mission. I love producing plays that inspire debate about political and social issues, work that has meaning in today’s environment. Stage Left is primarily focused on producing new work, which I find invigorating and much needed in this world. Dead white male playwrights are fine, but it is the exploration of new and different voices in today’s world that is fascinating. After 36 years producing theater, I think Stage Left is a survivor, and still has much meaningful work to produce.
SLT: What impact has Stage Left had on your life?
ML: Stage Left has been interwoven with my life in Chicago. So many friends and so many wonderful productions, so much joy has been brought into my life because of Stage Left. I learned so much about what makes good theater, and what kinds of theater are meaningful to me, through my work with Stage Left, and my later experience as an audience member.
SLT: Can you name your most impactful SLT moment/favorite memory?
ML: Just one?!
SLT: What for you have been the most memorable Stage Left Productions?
ML: There are so many … “Burying the Bones,” by M.E.H. Lewis is one I always loved. “Leander Stillwell” and “Police Deaf Near Far” really resonated. From way back, and shows I worked on, “A Bright Room Called Day” and “TEECHERS” were among my favorites. “Never in my Lifetime” is one I still think about. “Out of Spite: Tales of Survival in Sarajevo” was one of my favorites - the acting and directing were wonderful. Mia McCullough’s “Chagrin Falls” was a beautiful show. More recently, I really enjoyed “Firestorm,” “The Coward,” and the brilliant and wonderful “Insurrection: Holding History.”
SLT: What is your “dream production”?
ML: Changes constantly as we move forward in time. I like work that messes with time and space, and that opens us up to new and different perspectives. I like work that emphasizes what is great about seeing a live show, and that brings a sense of community to the audience. I am in awe when I see a new show where the writer and director and actors and designers have combined to show me something extraordinary that pushes me to be more aware of the world around me.
SLT: What do you hope to accomplish as Board Member?
ML: Oh, boy. That’s a big one :) I hope to aid in this transitional period we’re through, work with the Ensemble to find a new artistic director, and help raise money for the theatre to put us on a sound financial footing.
SLT: What do you look forward to most about your (increasing?) involvement in the Chicago theatre scene/community?
ML: I like being around artists, and one of the wonderful things about theater is it is a collaborative art form that calls on people to work together as a community to create art. I love being part of that community.