PandemicMoraine Valley Community College
Academic Theater Department

Nov. 11-14, 2021

Dorothy Menker Theater

Co-conceived by Jenni Lamb and Dr. Craig Rosen
Created by the ensemble
Directed by Dr. Craig Rosen
Writing consultant Jenni Lamb

Note from the Director

Why How to Survive a Pandemic?
As we thought about this year’s Academic Theater Season, we kept getting stuck. No one knew if anyone would enroll in live theater classes, let alone audition for shows or attend them. We kicked around various ideas and kept returning to a devised piece which is collaborative theater work that the cast and design team collectively create.

The last thing we wanted to do was talk about Covid-19 feeling like everyone is sick of the topic.  We also had to decide if there was anything new that we had to say about it. In the end we decided to focus on Covid but try to do so in a light-hearted manner. Was there a way to create a show about Covid that respected all who have been affected by it, yet still make it entertaining for an audience? We settled on the idea of a satirical survival guide as a starting point.

The cast brought their experiences to the work by creating the bulk of our scenes through improvisational work. We knew that as much as we wanted to, we couldn’t just look at the pandemic through a lighthearted lens. We certainly don’t want to disrespect everyone’s trials for the past 1.5 years, so we decided to intersperse our own stories, some of which are a bit more sobering.

The past year-and-a-half has seen so many other challenges and events. We challenged ourselves to focus exclusively on Covid and not overtly discuss the election or other specific political events and social justice campaigns. These are all things that we weighed during the creation of the piece and made some very deliberate choices.

Due to the collaborative process, our show evolved. One of the exciting parts of devising a show is that it often takes twists and turns. Sometimes a show wants to write itself, and we have to go along for the ride.

Dr. Craig Rosen

Note from the Writing Consultant

The last year has changed the way we look at so much in this country, from health care to racial inequities to climate change. Reality is shifting, the rules are changing, and we are all trying desperately to grasp onto “the new normal.” This is true for all of us, but I believe this is especially true for young people who are getting ready to make their way in this chaotic world.

It’s been said that all drama is “a protagonist pursuing a goal despite obstacles,” but our process in making this show has been slightly different. What you’ll see tonight has been created by our cast of actors in collaboration with Dr. Rosen and myself. Rather than following a single character, our story is a kaleidoscope with multiple viewpoints to communicate our collective experience. You’ll see comedic and dramatic scenes that might be earnest or even sarcastic. The rollercoaster nature of last year requires more than one tone, or one viewpoint to tell the story.

Theater has tremendous power to help us process our experiences as a community. Thank you for coming back to witness what we’ve created, and supporting our fantastic ensemble and theater department.

Jenni Lamb

Ensemble

Genesis Aranda

Genesis Aranda is thrilled to be making her Moraine Valley Community College Theater debut. Her most recent acting credits include Queen Titania/Hippolyta (A Midsummer Night's Dream at MPTG), Heather McNamara (Heathers at MPTG), and Patty Simcox (Grease at Tinley Park High School). Genesis is excited to get back to acting.

Emaly Culich

Emaly Culich is a student at Moraine Valley Community College, and she is thrilled to participate in creating and performing How to Survive a Pandemic. Emaly acted in a variety of plays prior to high school and is ready to get back on the stage this fall!

Bernadette “Bernie” Gillard

Bernadette “Bernie” Gillard is a mother of four and grandmother of nine. How to Survive a Pandemic is her acting debut, and she is excited to be “out of her comfort zone.” She would like to thank Ken and her family for their support.

Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez - Joe Gomez’s most recent acting credits include The Cop/Bobby/The Bike Messenger (The Bombitty of Errors at Moraine Valley) and Jenkins/TV Announcer/Steve (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at The Drama Group Theater of Chicago Heights). Aside from being an actor, he is also the CEO of Gomez Grass Goons, a lawn maintenance company operating in the Palos and Orland area since 2019.

Natalie Light

Natalie Light is extremely proud to be joining the cast of How to Survive a Pandemic. While stepping away from the theater as a busy mom raising three fabulous children, Natalie is certainly not a stranger to the stage. Leading roles in Ordinary People and Our Town were what developed her love for acting. Today, as a kindergarten teacher, Natalie feels like every day is an opportunity to act through engaging storytelling and enthusiastic and fun teaching. She is so grateful for this opportunity and thankful to Dr. Rosen and Jenni Lamb for allowing her to participate in this amazing experience. Natalie is also extremely blessed and thankful for her supportive husband and grown children for encouraging her to get back to the things she once loved.

Ashanti Norals

Ashanti Norals - This is Ashanti's second performance since the pandemic began. She has previously performed in Seussical, Chicago and The Wizard of Oz as part of her OLCHS theatrical productions. She received her first lead role as the Fairy Godmother at the Orland Park Cultural Center. She played the Abbess/C-Fake/Backup Dancer in her previous summer production, The Bombity of Errors. This is her last MVCC performance as a student, but it is far from over. She's just getting started!

Gracie Polchan

Gracie Polchan is a freshman at Moraine Valley and recently graduated from Argo Community High School, where she was captain of the speech team. She has been in many productions, such as Mary Poppins, The Wolves, Waiting for Godot, Addams Family and The Wizard of Oz. Gracie is extremely excited to be a part of this show!

Jason Suwaidan

Jason Suwaidan has really enjoyed being a part of the How to Survive a Pandemic cast. He previously participated in shows like 26 Pebbles; The Wheel, The Stick and The Diamond; Shrek; 10 Ways to Survive Quarantine; The Office: A Zoom Parody; and Urinetown. He would like to thank his parents for their support as well as the directors for giving him this opportunity. Jason is looking forward to creating his own reality with faith, patience, love and hope.

Lucy West

Lucy West is a student at Moraine Valley Community College, and this will be her first production here. She was an active participant in performing arts in middle and high school, including shows like Into the Woods, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and annual madrigal dinner shows. Lucy is a history major and plans to move to Chicago to teach high school students, while still pursuing theater and photography on the side. She is very excited to be performing in front of a live audience again and hopes you enjoy the show!

View a virtual scrapbook on Instagram with snapshots of people's pictures and experiences throughout the pandemic.

Production Staff

Natalia Bednarczyk - Stage Manager
Natalia Bednarczyk is very excited to stage manage again at Moraine Valley Community College. Natalia graduated from Lewis University in 2020 with a B.A. in elementary education and is now a fourth grade teacher in Bridgeview. During her time at Lewis, Natalia was an active member in their theater program and stage managed many productions there, such as Young Frankenstein, The Little Mermaid, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and Leading Ladies. At Moraine Valley, Natalia stage managed the summer Shakespeare production of The Bomb-itty of Errors. Natalia's current goals are centered around exploring the ways in which academics and the arts can be used to establish safe, collaborative, and equitable spaces for students within and outside the classroom.

Page Domikaitis - Costume Coordinator

Amanda Hantson - Assistant Technical Director
Amanda Hantson received her Associate in Arts from Moraine Valley and her Bachelor of Arts in theater at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has worked on Moraine Valley’s production team since 2007. Previous credits include stage managing for Avenue Q, Machinal, Hand to God, Evil Dead: The Musical ‘09 and ’18, and many more at Moraine Valley. She just finished her second tour with Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet of The Nutcracker. Hantson also has been working at other venues such as The Paramount in Aurora, Joe’s Live in Rosemont and the College of DuPage. She has enjoyed taking on the role of assistant technical director and the opportunities that have come with the job.

Jennifer Kules and Collin Helou - Lighting Designers
Jennifer Kules and Collin Helou (TVL) boast an extensive list of design credits for theatre, dance, and music both domestically and internationally. Selected credits at Moraine Valley include Hair, American Griot, Heathers and Trust. Chicagoland credits include Lysistrata Jones, Disaster!, Little Miss Sunshine, CREATIVES and The Rosenkrantiz Mysteries. Regional credits include JUST TOO BIG!, A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder, and SHOUT! The Mod Musical. Jen and Collin will drink to that.

Jenni Lamb - Writing Consultant
Jenni Lamb is a Chicago-based playwright and a former improviser. Currently, she is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, and her plays include Jumble of Bones, Breaking Point, Waterway, Mother Lode, Quiver, Candy Store and Memento Polonia. Jenni’s plays have been featured on stages nationally with Pivot Arts, The Road Theatre (LA), The Goodman Theatre, Route 66, The Gift, American Theatre Company, Stage Left Theatre, Project Y (NY), Links Hall, Flint Repertory (MI), Broken Nose, Wordsmyth Theatre (Houston), Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago Dramatists. Jenni's play Quiver was cited by the Kilroy List, and she has been a member of the Goodman Playwrights Unit. Jenni has worked on several commissions including a Zoom play about science in the pandemic for eTopia at Northwestern University and a short audio play for Flint Repertory for their summer festival in 2021.

Sean McIntosh - Technical Director/ Scenic Designer
Sean McIntosh has been the technical director at Moraine Valley since 2012. He also works as a freelance scenic and lighting designer in the Chicago area and has worked with Oak Park Theater Festival and Citadel Theater. McIntosh received his M.F.A. in scenic design from Boston University. He would like to thank the outstanding work and dedication of the technical crew at the Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Dr. Craig Rosen - Director
Dr. Rosen has been head of the Moraine Valley Theater Program since 2002 after teaching at University of Colorado in Boulder and University of Wisconsin La Crosse. He has directed over 50 plays in his 20 years at Moraine Valley, including Machinal, Avenue Q, Cabaret and King Lear. His production of American Griot was selected for production at the 2019 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In 2017, Dr. Rosen was elected Moraine Valley's Professor of the Year. Dr. Rosen also initiated "Shakespeare Under the Stars," an annual outdoor Shakespearean production on the Moraine Campus.

Fine and Performing Arts Center Staff

Managing Director

Technical Director

Assistant Technical Director

Secretary

Art Gallery Coordinator

Front-of-House Staff

Technical Crew

Tommy Hensel

Sean McIntosh

Amanda Hantson

MaryAnn Luciano-Smith

Cecilia Vargas

Ramsey Bauer, Karen Datro, Page Domikaitis, Tom Gerez, Robin Kmiec, Jim Novak, David Roczkowski, Lisa Rock, Sujith Saju

Jaclyn Bobbitt, Nathan Carpenter, Alex Craig, Samm Hilger, Jessica Miller, Tom Schoenbeck, Guadalupe Sosa, Quintin Turnbow

By attending this performance, you acknowledge that you have granted permission to appear in photographs, video capture and capture by other media in all public spaces in the Fine and Performing Arts Center. Your image may be used by Moraine Valley Community College for promotional purposes. This blanket permission releases and  waives any claim against the college and its employees arising from the use of such images in any medium.