Once upon a time on the North Shore, if you wanted to see a nonprofit, professional Equity production, you needed to go to Chicago. But thanks to the work of Scott and Ellen Phelps, co-founders of Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, high quality performances are being produced right here in our own back yard.
What started 15 years ago as a small group of visionary actors working in the basement of Gorton Community Center has blossomed into a professional Equity theater company. With a founding principle to “produce powerful works of insight and complexity that illuminate the challenges and joys of the human experience,” today Citadel Theatre has three components—producing Main Stage plays at a 144-seat theater, running a Citadel Theater Education program for children, and the Citadel Theatre On Tour program that brings performances outside the theater building.
It’s an impressive trajectory, even by Chicago standards.
However, Scott and Ellen Phelps say this growth could never have happened without the enthusiasm and support of some of Lake Forest’s most esteemed theater patrons—including Nancy Smith and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis, who will serve as honorary chair of Citadel’s summer gala on Saturday, July 15.
“Having people like Nancy help us learn how to think big with our events has been invaluable for our success,” says Ellen Phelps, explaining how Smith once turned what started as a small “picnic” fundraiser into a spectacular gala at her lake house for
more than 200 people.
In that same spirit, when it came time to plan the 4th annual summer gala for 2017, Citadel made no small plans.
This year’s event, “Big Band Vintage Glam,” will be held at the Highland Park Country Club and will include 1940s-era music with The Stanley Paul Orchestra
“The 1940s-supper club concept was the brainchild of Ellen and myself, with committee members collectively coming up with the tag line,” says Scott Phelps, adding that the theme will invoke the vintage glamour of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, and Carmen Miranda. “Those who love their sound won’t be able to stop themselves from dancing the night away.”
A local dance troupe will be on hand to recreate some of the hot numbers of the day, swinging, be-bopping, Lindy-hopping, and jitterbugging to get everyone moving on the dance floor. Guests are also expected to get into the act with glitzy attire from the period.
The summer gala has become Citadel’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and the one they count on to keep salaries and operations on target with their long-term goals.
Managing Director Kevin Sherman says proceeds also support community outreach events and activities, including a free showing of Citadel’s World Premiere production of Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits for USO families and veteran’s groups and other programs for low-income families and people with disabilities.
“Citadel is one of the only nonprofit Equity theatres on the North Shore,” Sherman adds. “We are always grateful to our sponsors and underwriters who make this gala possible. Proceeds allow us to continue doing what we do—from providing acting classes and camps for kids to creating theater education scholarships for children from low income families.”
Ellen Phelps says this summer’s “Big Band Vintage Glam” gala will be one to remember, resurrecting all the glamour of a forgotten age. “It’s going to be nothing short of fabulous,” she says.
Lemonis, of CNBC’s The Profit and The Partner, is also excited. “I can’t wait to see it all unfold,” he says. “It’s going to be an unforgettable event.”
“Big Band Vintage Glam” will be held from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, July 15, at the Highland Park Country Club, 1201 Park Avenue West, in Highland Park. For tickets and information, visit citadeltheatre.org/gala or call 847-735-8554.