Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Muni’s New President, Diane Hoots

Getting to Know Her. Getting to Know All About Her…
The Muni’s New President, Diane Hoots

by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers

AG: Tell us about how you got started with The Muni…
DH: The first Muni show I saw was Evita (1985) with Nancy Diefenback. I was mesmerized. It was a beautiful show, visually and musically. I remember thinking, “I’d love to be part of that!” A few years later, Laurie and Dennis O’Brien gave me the opportunity to help backstage with The Wizard of Oz (1996). I’ve been backstage ever since.

AG: People often talk about The Muni Magic. What does that mean to you? Do you have a favorite Muni story that reflects that ideal?
DH: I think The Muni Magic comes from the people at The Muni. It is the collective talent, passion, and creativity harnessed to make imagination come alive on stage. Most of all, it is caring. The Muni people care about musical theatre and about those with whom they collaborate.

I have several favorite Muni stories, but the first one that always comes to mind is about a young woman who auditioned for the first time. She was so nervous that she froze and forgot the words to her song. One of the vocal directors smiled and started singing the song along with her to give her confidence. Before I knew it, the entire audience (this was back in the days of open auditions) was singing with the woman. When she finished, she got a standing ovation. Everyone in the room appreciated her courage.

AG: Speaking of auditions, as a former chair of the auditions committee, do you have any wisdom you’d like to impart for those gearing up to audition for The Muni’s 2015 Season?
DH: Just do it! The Muni is the most fun you will ever have… if you put your heart into it. I save vacation time every year just to be at The Muni. It’s a blast, and the 2015 Season promises to be one of our best!

AG: Describe your path to becoming President of The Muni.
DH: The Muni environment is all about mentoring and supporting each other and my list of mentors is extensive (too many to list them all.) Key to my involvement in the organization are (current and former Board members) Steve Kaplan, Laurie O’Brien, Marj Berchtold, Scott Viniard, Mike Rogers and Dennis O’Brien. I also owe a lot to Nancy Whalen, Marge Roth, and Tom Shrewsbury (all now deceased) for their encouragement and support. I miss them.

I don’t think anyone can be thoroughly versed in all aspects of a diverse organization like The Muni. We are constantly growing, changing, and improving. These are a few of our strengths and also our challenges. Fortunately, no one person has to know it all. We are a team effort, like a cast on the stage, with everyone playing his or her part and making a contribution. I will never know all there is to know about The Muni, but it’s a fascinating topic so I will keep trying! The biggest obstacle I had to overcome in becoming President was myself, being nervous that I wouldn’t do a good job. I’m not so sure I’m over that one yet. Maybe in a year . . .

AG: What plans do you have for your year as President? Any exciting new developments you can share?
DH: Some presidents come in with specific goals in mind, but I don’t think I have any particular ones that are revolutionary. I’d like to continue to grow the The Muni experience for our audience members, like reinstituting the opening night reception. I saw how much fun guests had during the picture-taking sessions after the show for Shrek The Musical (2014). The opening night reception at the top of the hill will allow us to capture some of that fun for every show.

I would also like to continue with our plans to improve the backstage area for cast. For the past couple years, The Muni’s Board of Managers and Trustees have been discussing possible ways to improve the site. Hopefully, I can help move those talks along to begin making them a reality. Our cast members generously give us so much of their time and talent; I’d like to make the backstage area as nice as we can to show our appreciation to them.

AG: As a volunteer organization, The Muni is always looking for new people to get involved in all aspects of the organization. What advice do you have to newcomers on how to get involved?
DH: There are so many ways to get involved with The Muni. You can find out about volunteer opportunities on our "Volunteer at The Muni" page and, if you find something that you’d like to do, complete our Volunteer Form to let us know of your interest. Also, during show season, don’t hesitate to walk up to the House Manager, Head Cashier or other Muni Board Member (identifiable by our purple Muni nametags) and tell us you want to get involved.

I have to tell you, volunteering to help out onsite during a show is fun! Come out to the site prepared to meet new people of all ages, and allow yourself to get caught up in the excitement and anticipation before the show begins. 

AG: The 2015 Season marks The Muni’s 50th Anniversary of its lakeside amphitheatre. Any stories you’d like to share about the theatre itself and what it has meant to you?
DH: We are still talking about what we can do to mark the 50th anniversary of uninterrupted seasons at our site, which is really a beautiful place, by the way. I recently talked to some Springfieldians who were seeing our site for the first time, and they were amazed at the lush, park-like setting.

We talk about Muni being a family, which harkens back to what I said earlier about The Muni being about the people who care about each other and the art they create at our site. We ARE a family, and that is what has meant the most to me. I don’t have a large family anymore but I do because I have my Muni family, and the site is our home-away-from-home. We play like family, work like family, care about each other like family, and, yes, we can even bicker and make up like family!

AG: As one of The Muni’s resident “Make-up Experts”, what goes in to planning the makeup design and execution for a show?
DH: The process for designing and doing makeup and hair depends on the show. Shows like The Wizard of Oz and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast involve more time and challenge that something more straightforward like State Fair.  Most of the challenges I face are common to any outdoor summer theatre venue, like getting makeup to stay on when performers are perspiring profusely!

One of my favorite memories involves Steve Williams who played the Beast (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 2005). We met every evening at the director’s air-conditioned house to apply Steve’s prosthetics and makeup. Then each of us drove our cars to The Muni to get him into costume for the show. One evening, I followed Steve and watched as a police car drew up in the lane beside his car. I was close enough at the stoplight to see the face of the officer as he casually glanced at the driver of the car next to him – and his eyes widen when he saw the face of that driver. I was still laughing when we finally arrived at The Muni!

AG: What is the one thing that most people don’t know about The Muni that you want them to know?
DH: Well, I hope most people know this already, but if they don’t… The Muni is important! The fine arts are important! I’ve seen so many young people grow up at The Muni. They start as young kids in a chorus and become accomplished, talented, confident, responsible adults before our eyes.

The “Muni kids” are special; they learn quickly about teamwork, dedication, hard work, persistence and goal-setting. They show courage when they come to auditions and they show commitment when they come to rehearsals every night when it sometimes might be more fun (but less productive) to hang out with their friends every night. They become part of something exciting and work as a team with the rest of the cast to share that excitement with strangers sitting in the audience. They work hard building sets and cleaning up the site; and they walk away at the end of the season with a new sense of accomplishment, new friends from all age groups and professions, and, hopefully, an awakened passion for the arts.

AG: Tell us a little about your life outside of The Muni.
DH: I keep pretty busy, but I have several passions that are my focus. One is, of course, The Muni. Another is my “job”. I use quotes because I really don’t think of it as work most of the time. I have a wonderful, rewarding job working for the State doing emergency management – planning for, preparing for, and responding to emergencies, such as tornadoes, floods, and winter storms. I’m not one of the heroes who go into the collapsed house or out into a blizzard (and those folks are true heroes, believe me). But I’m one of the people who stay in the background and make sure those heroes have the equipment they need. The job is so great because, when someone is having one of the worst days of their life, I can make a difference. In my spare time (what little of it there is), I also love to cook, do needlework, and design and make my own jewelry. 

The most important person in my life is my daughter. She makes it possible for me to stay as busy as I am because she holds down the fort at home – taking care of pets, doing laundry, dishes, etc. She is my cheerleader and confidence-builder. We are a team!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Muni Takes Home Top Honors in Illinois Times’ Best of Springfield 2014 - Theater Categories

You Like Us, You Really Like Us! (And We Like You Too!)

The Muni Takes Home Top Honors in Illinois Times’
Best of Springfield 2014 - Theater Categories

Congratulations to the staffs, casts, and crews for The Muni’s productions of All Shook Up and Shrek: The Musical, in taking home the Illinois Times’ Best of Springfield 2014 top honors for “BEST LIVE THEATER PRODUCTION” – Winner and Runner-up!

We also send our warmest congratulations to our very own Fiona – Hannah Siehr – for winning “BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: FEMALE” for her performance in Shrek: the Musical. Let your freak flag fly girl!

And to our friend over at STC, Jim Leach, for winning “BEST THEATER PERFORMANCE: MALE” for his performance as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie” – our hats are off to you as well!

We already knew that we had the best audience members around, but this just proves it. To everyone who shared in “The Muni Magic” to make this happen, thank you from the very bottom of our tippy-tap-shoes to the top of our wig-adorned-heads for your support this, and every, summer. We look forward to seeing you again in 2015 for our 50th Anniversary Celebration Season!

(Pardon our overuse of the exclamation point, but we are overjoyed with this exciting news!)

- Read more about these winning productions and actors on Illinois Times’ Best of Springfield 2014 website.

- Learn more about director Anna Bussing’s production of All Shook Up and director Craig Williams II’s production of Shrek: The Musical.

-View pictures from these productions on our Facebook page.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Muni names its 2014 Tom Shrewsbury Award Recipient and the Volunteers of the Year

The Muni names its 2014 Tom Shrewsbury Award Recipient and the Volunteers of the Year

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (October 16, 2014) – The Muni named its 2014 Tom Shrewsbury President’s Award Recipient and the Volunteers of the Year at its Annual Meeting at the Hoogland Center for the Arts on Thursday night.

Outgoing President Mac Warren recognized Connor McNamara with the President’s Award citing his dedication to the Muni over several years. Warren says McNamara is always willing to help with any project or any task.

Warren also named Jennifer Gronewold and Harvey Edwards the Volunteers of the Year.

Before passing the torch to incoming board president, Diane Hoots, Warren recognized directors from the 2014 season: Greg Donathan (The Sound of Music), Anna Bussing (All Shook Up), Craig Williams II (Shrek: The Musical) and Laurie O’Brien (Jekyll & Hyde). He also thanked retiring board members Tom Frost and Daniel Shelton for their service and welcomed new members onto the board.

Chairman of the Trustees, Steve Kaplan, completed the evening with a speech congratulating everyone who participated in the 2014 season for a wonderful year.

The Muni is a non-profit organization and its directors, board members, trustees, crew members, actors, ushers and concession workers are all volunteers. Support from volunteers, Springfield and the surrounding communities help make the Muni Magic happen year after year. Stay tuned to or Muni’s Facebook Page to get the latest news on the upcoming 2015 season.

Contact: Diane Hoots, 2015 Muni President,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Playing Both Good & Evil, Hero & Villain

Playing Both Good & Evil, Hero & Villain
5 Questions with DJ Shultz
Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers

AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
DJS: I’m married to my beautiful, supportive wife Karen with 2 awesome kids, Kinsley (8) and Kreston (4.)  I've been at Western Oaks Baptist Church for 14 years as the Music Minister and recently became the Executive Pastor at WOBC.  I also own a construction company, Lifestory Homes.

I enjoy spending time with my family, performing/directing local theatre, and golfing when I can squeeze it in. Unfortunately I'm also a long suffering Cubs fan.

AG: What's your Muni experience? 
DJS: My first experience with the Muni family was in 2002, when I played Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I've also served as musical director for All Shook Up and was most recently in Les Miserables, which was performed last year.

The best part of The Muni is the people. The Muni is a big family and it's all heightened and intensified every summer as we spend countless hours together; everyone working together toward a common goal of high quality musical theatre.

AG: In Jekyll & Hyde The Musical you get to portray both the hero and the villain, sometimes switching between both in the middle of a scene. What do you see as your greatest challenge in doing this realistically (without the assistance of makeup/effects), and how will you prepare?  
DJS: When I first learned that Muni was doing Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, I was pretty indifferent because I was not familiar with the show. Once I listened to the music and started digging into the story, I was really intrigued by the role and its many challenges.

I have been classically trained in vocal performance and I believe that foundation will be very important in this role. I've always had the God-given ability to change/modify my voice /tone to whatever genre of music I was singing. That will be critical to this role. Jekyll and Hyde not only switch in the middle of a scene but at one point every two measures in the “Confrontation” song towards the end of Act 2.  It will also be a stretch/challenge for me in the acting realm. Definitely the most challenging role I've played so far.

AG: Are there any themes from this show that speak to you in particular, given your background in the ministry/church or otherwise?  
DJS: Definitely, the theme of good and evil is the central theme to this show. It's a question that mankind has been dealing with since the beginning. We all are on a journey and each of us has a choice on how we try and live our lives. It's not a stretch for us to know what evil is. Mankind is fallen because of choices they made in the garden of Eden but God provided a way for good to prevail by sending His son, Jesus Christ. Good wins.

AG: Why should people come see Jekyll & Hyde The Musical?  

DJS: The haunting yet beautiful music itself is worth the ticket price. A talented cast, production crew, and staff will give their all to bring this Tony-nominated musical to life for the first time on the Muni stage.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bringing a Larger-Than-Life Movie Musical to the Stage

Bringing a Larger-Than-Life Movie Musical to the Stage
5 Questions with Craig Williams II
Director, Shrek The Musical

by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers

AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
CW: I have performed onstage since I have 4 years old. My mom would bribe me with toys and chocolate to sing at church or for her friends. Since then, I have been tuned onto the community theater scene; I audition and participate in as much as I can.  

Professionally, I started in public accounting in 2006 with Sikich LLP in Springfield, IL. For the past 2 years, I have been the Chief Internal Auditor for the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.

AG: What's your Muni experience? 
CW: I started performing and volunteering in Muni productions when I was in high school. My first Muni show was My Fair Lady in which I played in the Cockney Quartet. Since then, I have only been absent from “the magic” for 1 year while I was in college. I have been in many different productions, including Oklahoma, Miss Saigon and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.  

While performing, I had a growing interest in the creative process of theatre. In college, I began as an architecture major and designing was still something I enjoyed. So, I joined the staff of The Music Man as the Assistant Director and Stage Manager. Thereafter, I had the bug.  

The following year, I expressed my interest in directing Disney's High School Musical and my hope came true. With a vibrant staff behind me, we had a blast putting together my first Muni show. Since then, I have directed Hairspray, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and Dreamgirls.

Each year, I meet more new and talented individuals.  The people are what make “the Muni magic” happen and I try to surround myself with creative, fun and passionate individuals who aren't afraid of trying new things or having an opinion.

AG: You've produced multiple big ensemble, movie-to-musical shows at the Muni the past few years. What's the biggest challenge and greatest reward in producing this type of show?
CW: First, unlike original stage plays, movie-to-musical shows have a story that many people already know, so accounting for preconceived notions is a big part of the initial, creative process. I try to go through and determine what is iconic to the show, then design a new or modified production around it. On the other hand, because many people know the story and really enjoy it, they come expecting to be entertained and are usually easy to please!  

Also, the shows I have directed have been very popular on Broadway and draw a fun, energetic audience, which energizes the actors and boosts the performance to a new level. 

Lastly, each year, I learn something new, whether it is a better way of doing something or an innovative set design. Trying to surprise or amaze the audience in even the smallest way is a fun way to spice up a show that people might already know.

AG: What special costumes, sets, and/or effects can we expect to see at Shrek The Musical this summer?
CW: Being a fantasy, Shrek The Musical has lots of room for fun and over-the-top designs! At Muni, we have no ceiling, so sets can be large and detailed to draw the audience into the world of ogres, fairytale creatures and dragons.

This year, the stage will become a giant, green swamp. From his swampy home, Shrek, with his extensive prosthetic make-up, will emerge to fight a 30 foot long dragon that breathes smoke, flies around the stage and falls in love with a donkey, whose ears actually move. Also, we can't forget about Pinocchio and his nose that grows right in front of your eyes! Fantasy will become real in Shrek The Musical at The Muni. Our costumer and makeup artists have some work cut out for them, but there is lots of magic coming to the Muni stage.

AG: Why should people come see Shrek The Musical?
CW: Shrek The Musical has heart. It teaches the importance of being different and being proud of who or what you are. Not everyone fits into a cookie cutter world nor should we, and by standing out of the crowd, Shrek is able to lead the way for many others to be who they are and stand up for what they believe.

Just as important, you will enjoy the music. It's fun and contagious. You will toe tap and hum your way through the show and back home at the end of the night. It is the perfect show for a night under the stars at The Muni.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From Leading Lady to the Director’s Chair

From Leading Lady to the Director’s Chair
5 Questions with Anna Bussing
1st Time Muni Director, All Shook Up

by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers

AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
AB: I was born and raised in Springfield and went to SHG and the University of Illinois for undergrad and grad school.  I have my doctorate in audiology and currently work at SIU Audiology with pediatrics and adults. 

AG: What's your Muni experience?
AB: My first role at The Muni was in 1995 when I was 9 years old; I played Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis. My sister and I used to practice my song “Under the Bamboo Tree” on our fireplace. We can still do it together.

Favorite shows to date include Big and Grease. I was in the chorus for both shows. Favorite roles I’ve played are Wendy and Peter Pan in Peter Pan. It's my favorite show; I think the show is just magical.  

I started working behind the scenes on staff as a choreographer in 2010 for Disney’s High School Musical. I later also choreographed Hairspray, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  

This will be my 20th season at The Muni. I've never skipped a season. It's my summer home and I can't imagine being anywhere else on summer nights. People always ask how I can dedicate so much time and effort to shows but the people there have become like family. It's the most enjoyable thing I do. I want to be there every night. 

AG: What do you think your biggest challenges will be as a first time Muni director? What is different about directing a Muni show than other productions in town?
AB: The scariest thing is that I've been given this responsibility from people who have directed me and led me since I was a kid. I respect their opinion so much and I don't want to disappoint them. I often forget that I make the final decisions now. I'm so used to asking others for their permission and opinion. I have to make the final decision now and it's nerve racking. But it's comforting knowing that I have guidance from tons of people if I need it.

The Muni is different because the shows are so gigantic. There are big sets, a big cast and so much happening in each scene. It will be a challenge being responsible for so many people. 

AG: How did you make the transition from lead actress to director? Any advice for other aspiring directors?
AB: It seemed like a natural transition. As you do more shows and gain more experience, you formulate an opinion about things that work and things that don't. The biggest thing is to make sure that you decide to be on staff for shows for which you have a true passion. Do it wholeheartedly or don't do it. I'm trying to hold myself to that for both auditioning and being on staff.

AG: Why should people come see All Shook Up?

AB: This show is pure fun and rock-n-roll.  It has energetic choreography, a simple plot, familiar Elvis songs and high energy.  It’s good old fashioned theater that is pure entertainment and takes no effort to watch. It's cliché but a simple sit back and relax kinda’ show. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Captain’s Boatswain Call

The Captain’s Boatswain Call
5 Questions with John O’Connor
Captain von Trapp, The Sound of Music
by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers
AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
JOC: I've lived in Springfield for 20 years, currently with two dogs, Shadrach and Ginger, a permanent visitor. I'm a news reporter for The Associated Press, writing about government and politics at the Capitol. 
In addition to The Sound of Music this summer, I will reprise my role as the Union Captain in the musical The Civil War outdoors at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in July, and will take on the one-man show Mr. Lincoln at New Salem's Theatre in the Park in August.
AG: What’s your Muni experience?
JOC: The Sound of Music will be my 16th Muni show. On the Muni stage, I've played both Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, and both Daddy Warbucks and Rooster in Annie. Other favorite roles are Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun.
AG: The Sound of Music is one of theatre's most well-known and loved shows. What do you see as the challenges in taking on the role of the Captain? What are you most looking forward to in portraying this role?
JOC: Captain von Trapp offers one of those complex characters who is both outwardly tough, disciplined and wary of showing emotions, and inwardly loving, caring and sensitive. The challenge of portraying von Trapp is to accurately portray the range of emotions and the transformational arc he must wend through from tough captain to the loving father of seven children whom Maria brings forth.
It is difficult to bring subtlety to the role, for it would be rather two-dimensional to have him go from all-tough-guy to sensitive male.  Obviously, there's a lot of nuance, and some of both sides come out at various times, so that's a challenge. 
And a character such as von Trapp must not only rely on other characters, namely Maria, to help bring that change about, but to also be aware of the role he plays in helping other characters transform throughout the story. That's the beauty of theatre, the interconnectedness – no one exists in a vacuum, just like in life.
AG: What's your personal experience with The Sound of Music?
JOC: When I was a child, and it came on network television, my sister conducted a lottery to determine who in the family would get the best seats in the den, where the television was. It was a huge event for her. I didn't know what all the fuss was about. 
As an adult, and seeing it various places such as at the Muni in 2005, I developed a deep appreciation for the story, for it's far more than just the catchy, unforgettable tunes that Julie Andrews made famous. It's not only based on the true story of Maria and the von Trapps, but occurs during a pivotal time in world history, when people really had to make political choices that could mean life or death.
AG: Why should people come see The Sound of Music?
JOC: It's a show that is not all just happy-go-lucky, boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl predictability. It has some real meat to it. Captain von Trapp is an Austrian at the time of the Nazi annexation of Austria, and this emotional story plays out in front of a hellish time in world history. There's real substance to the story. The subplot – the Nazi takeover of Austria – has to be among the more chilling in musical theatre. And it really happened.
There's also no better place to spend a warm summer evening than at The Muni.  I've participated in 16 shows out there, but have probably attended five dozen more.  I have been amazed at the talent this community produces, and have often sat under the stars and taken it in; The Muni has come to define summer for me in Springfield.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

5 Questions with Mary Harmon

Maria von Trapp, The Sound of Music


by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers


AG: Tell us a little about yourself…

MH: I grew up in Chatham and graduated from SHG in 1989. I attended Millikin University on a musical theater scholarship, but realized my true calling was education.


I have been married to my husband Dave for 11 wonderful years. His job relocated us out-of-state for about 6 years. In 2009, we were fortunate enough to move back home to Springfield with our two children, Lucy (age 10) and Peter (age 9). 


Since then, I went back to teaching at my children's school, Christ the King, where I am blessed to teach 6th grade again. In fact, two of my current students and some former students will be in the production, as well. 


AG: What’s your Muni experience?

MH: My first Muni show was back in 1988 - Annie Get Your Gun. I auditioned for years and Paul Presney, the director, gave me my first opportunity to appear in the chorus at age 16. It was an amazing experience.

I was cast in a supporting role the following year in Fiddler on the Roof. I played Hodel, one of Tevye's daughters, and shared the stage with The Sound of Music's vocal director, Elizabeth Donathan. Since then, I have been in many other Muni shows, but my favorites were playing Rose in Bye Bye Birdie (1998), a storyteller in Children of Eden (2000), and most recently, a chorus member of Les Miserables (2013). 

Moving back home has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful Muni family again along with my daughter, Lucy, who has appeared in shows the past two summers and will be Baby Bear in Shrek this summer. 

AG: The Sound of Music is one of theatre's most well-known and loved shows. What do you see as the challenges in taking on the role of Maria? What are you most looking forward to in portraying this role?

MH: Oh my, there will be many challenges ahead of me in taking on the role of Maria! First of all, it is such an iconic musical and just about everyone imagines Julie Andrews playing Maria, as do I. She is not an easy actress to live up to, but I will do my best to bring her idea of Maria along with my own to the Muni stage.

I look forward to portraying a role that has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. The Sound of Music has always been one my favorite musicals because of the ideals and values the story brings to life. Both Maria and the Captain face difficult internal struggles that are not easy to bring to light on a stage, but it is my hope that both John and I will do them justice. 

Our director, Greg Donathan, has put together a phenomenal cast, and I am greatly anticipating working with all of them, especially my dear friend, Johna Keen, who will portray the Reverend Mother. If I can listen to her sing "Climb Every Mountain" on stage every night without crying it will be a miracle. 

AG: What's your personal experience with The Sound of Music?

MH: I remember watching The Sound of Music with my mom as a little girl and singing all the songs. Before the time of VCRs, DVDs and DVRs, we had to wait until it aired on TV, usually just once a year, to enjoy the beauty of it. 

Most little girls dream of being one of the children, usually Liesel, but not me. Julie Andrews as Maria was such an inspiration.  She was pure class, but very loveable and real. 

AG: Why should people come see The Sound of Music?

MH: Why not?  It's a lovely musical with a beautiful message of true love, sacrifice and unconditional faith. As Mother Abbess states, "You have to find the life you were born to live."  Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy a night of beautiful music under the stars at The Muni!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All Aboard for the ever popular, Senior Bus!

All Aboard for the ever popular, Senior Bus!

 Tulips are blooming, the days are getting warmer, May is right around the corner, and the exciting 2014 Muni Season will be here before we know it.  If you are a senior or you know a senior that would love an air-conditioned bus ride to some of the best shows in town, this is a wonderful program!

 The Senior Bus Program will be running on Thursdays, June 19 for Sound of Music, July 17 for All Shook Up, Aug. 14 for Shrek the Musical and Sept. 11 for Jekyll & Hyde.  The mailings went out last week to all in our mailing list; if you are not on our mailing list, you can get all the information and the forms to ride the bus by clicking here.

 We pick up at 8 different locations in Springfield, and new this year, a stop at the Villas in Chatham.  In addition seniors are dropped at the back gate near their seating and provided a popcorn and drink complete with an end of performance meet and greet with the cast on the way to board return buses.  The payment and paperwork are due, Wednesday, May 21.  If you have any questions, you can contact Gil Opferman at or call 217- 487-7342.

 There will also be a Senior Bus Fundraiser at Noodles and Company, 2575 Wabash Avenue, and Monday, May 12th from 4-9 pm with a portion of the cost of your meal to be donated to the Senior Bus Program.  Also you can meet the Muni representatives working with the Senior Bus Program. 
We hope to see you there!

This program is funded in part by a grant from the King’sDaughters Organization.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

All Shook Up Announces Cast

All Shook Up Announces Cast

The Staff of The All Shook Up would like to thank everyone who auditioned for the 2014 season. Casting decisions were difficult due to the many wonderful auditions that took place this year. The cast for The All Shook Up is listed below.  All cast members should watch emails closely for communications about cast pictures, workdays, and rehearsal schedules.  Thanks again to everyone who auditioned.

  • Chad - Gavin Gardner 
  •  Natalie Haller - Sophie Lanser
  • Dennis - Jacob Deters
  •  Sylvia - Katina Gude
  • Jim Haller - Rich Beans
  • Miss Sandra - Cami Kern
  • Lorraine  - Calia Cole
  • Dean Hyde - Ethan Fant
  • Mayor Matilda Hyde - Tamara Bivens
  • Sheriff Earl - Jim Leach
  • Henrietta  - Angelica Ikejiaku

  •   Chorus: Kathleen Brandt, Bailee Brinkman, Marissa Byers, Alex Clifton, Julie Conrad, Elissa Ealey, Erika Ealey, Ashley Eastman, Ryan Fisher, Jay Forness, Chloe Garcia, Briana Gude, Daniel Guttas, Jakob Hankins, Kendall Heuman, Sally Iocca, Dylan Leach, Lindsey Leach, Tori Londrigan,  Dennis O'Brien,  Pat Regan, Tiffany Riech, Lydia Tate,  Lexie Tyus, Kate VonDeBur, Rhett Warner,  Matt Woodson,  Zoey Zara 

Shrek The Musical Announces Adult Cast

Shrek the Musical

Shrek The Musical Announces Cast

The Staff of Shrek The Musical would like to thank everyone who auditioned for the 2014 season. Casting decisions were difficult due to the many wonderful auditions that took place this year. The cast for Shrek The Musical is listed below.  All cast members should watch emails closely for communications about cast pictures, workdays, and rehearsal schedules.  Thanks again to everyone who auditioned.
  • Shrek - Brad Barding
  • Fiona - Hannah Siehr
  • Donkey - Andrew Wheaton
  • Farquaad - Damien Kaplan
  • Dragon - Kasey Norman
  • Gingy/Sugar Plum Fairy - Liz Buttell
  • Pinocchio - Luke Petersen
  • 3 Little Pig - Bobby Herpel
  • 3 Little Pig - Lawrence Perko
  • 3 Little Pig - John Pickett
  • Teen Fiona - Ashton Burdell
  • Young Fiona - Cecilia Donathan
  • Mama Orge/Mama Bear - Kristin Wheeler
  • Papa Ogre/Papa Bear - Terry Schoppenhorst
  • Young Shrek - Alex Remolina
  • Queen Lillian/Fairy Godmother - Sherry Frachey
  • King Harold/Bishop - Dan Frachey
  • Guard - Gil Opferman
  • Ugly Duckling - Carys Fritz
  • Big Bad Wolf - Andrew Kinsel-Jones
  • Humpty Dumpty - Courtney Wick
  • Wicked Witch - Molly Heise
  • White Rabbit - Hope Quarles
  • 3 Blind Mice - Taylor Fishburn
  • 3 Blind Mice - Morgan Kaplan
  • 3 Blind Mice - Lizzie Wakelin
  • Baby Bear - Lucy Harmon
  • Mad Hatter - Jake Woodard
  • Elf - Iman Kamel
  • Captain of the Guard - Rich Kuschel
  • Tweedle Dee - Justin Brandon
  • Chorus: Jorie Clark, Jaclyn Conway, Nathaniel Ed, Megan Hart, Elizabeth Kelley, Allison Means, Andrew Minks, Olivia Pennell, Marlena Roate, Erica Snyder, Athena Try, Andrew Willmore, Carla Wilson
  • Children's Chorus - Lola Gehrke, Rayden Meyer, Caroline Mitchell, Ainslie Wilson, Brady Brinkman, Amalia Schneider, Matthew Donathan

Sound of Music Announces Cast

The Sound of Music
Sound of Music Announces Cast

The Staff of The Sound of Music would like to thank everyone who auditioned for the 2014 season. Casting decisions were difficult due to the many wonderful auditions that took place this year. The cast for The Sound of Music is listed below.  All cast members should watch emails closely for communications about cast pictures, workdays, and rehearsal schedules. Thanks again to everyone who auditioned.

  • Maria Rainer - Mary Harmon
  • Captain Georg von Trapp - John O'Connor 
  • Mother Abbess - Johna Keen 
  • Liesl - Anna Benoit 
  • Friedrich - Jake Woodard  
  • Louisa - Emily Ducaji
  • Kurt - Nick Arnberger
  • Brigitta  - Anna Hardy
  • Marta - Rachel Ducaji
  • Gretl - Caroline Dahlquist
  • Max Detweiler - Chuck McCue 
  • Baroness  (Elsa Schraeder) - Julie Staley  
  • Rolf Gruber - Riley McManus
  • Sister Bertha - Carly Shank 
  • Sister Margaretta - Tia Spencer 
  • Sister Sophia - Addie Gramelspacher 
  • Herr Zeller - Steven Woodard 
  • Frau Zeller & nun - Suzanne Moss 
  • Baron Elberfeld - Gil Opferman 
  • Baroness Elberfeld & nun  - Ann Opferman
  • Admiral von Schreiber - Stephen DePooter 
  • Franz - Dale Mason 
  • Frau Schmidt & nun - Linda Schneider 
  • Ursula & nun  - Bridget Ratz
  • Nun Chorus: Grace Conlon, Julie Finnell, Marissa Gilbert, Emma Hylin, Gabrielle Lynn, Ellen Mannion, Molly McCue, Jessica Polhemus, Caroline Schmidt, Kathy Sees, Jane Snyder, Tess Tyler, Tammy White, Sarah Yockey
  • Chorus: Dan Denney, Nicholas Gab, Adam Maletich, Will Myers, John Swofford 

Jekyll & Hyde Announces Cast

Jekyll & Hyde

Jekyll & Hyde Announces Cast

The Staff of The Jekyll & Hyde would like to thank everyone who auditioned for the 2014 season. Casting decisions were difficult due to the many wonderful auditions that took place this year. The cast for The Jekyll & Hyde is listed below.  All cast members should watch emails closely for communications about cast pictures, workdays, and rehearsal schedules.  Thanks again to everyone who auditioned.

  • Henry Jekyll/ Edward Hyde – D. J. Shultz
  • Emma Carew -  Alyssa Phinney
  • Lucy Harris – Anna Bussing
  • Gabriel  Utterson – Wesley Bridges
  • Sir Danvers Carew – Kevin Ford
  • Simon Stride – Zaxxson Nation
  • Sir Archibald Proops – Steve McCaffrey
  • Lord Savage – Greg Riddle
  • General Lord Glossop  - Mark Anderson
  • Lady Beaconsfield – Patty Noonan
  • Bishop of Basingstoke  - Richard Dunham
  • Spider – Adam Maletich
  • Nellie – Hope Cherry
  • Blisset – Jake Smith
  • Red Rat Dance Corps – Jenna Nickelson, Cami Kern, Mary Matheny, Anna McFarland
  • ENSEMBLE (Patients, orderly, policemen, minister, street people, aristocrats):            Emilie Heckenkamp, Lucy Dalton-Lackie, Matthew Franklin, Grace Gietl, Dorothy Hemmo, Carolyn Otten, Dennis O’Brien, Meredith Durall, Alex Edwards, Tom Heintzelman, Roger Streau

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A New Vocal Session at 5:00 Has Been Added for March 8 Adult Muni Auditions

A New Vocal Session at 5:00 Has Been Added for March 8 Adult Muni Auditions

If the auditionee interest is any indicator of the potential popularity of the 2014 Muni Season, this is going to a huge season.  All Audition slots for March 8 were filled today.  We have added another vocal session at 5:00 to meet demand.  If you are thinking about auditioning, please sign up as soon as you can so we can make additional plans to accommodate everyone.  In the event that it is impossible to be at the 5:00 session, your only other choice is to show up early in the day, and hope for a cancellation, which does happen.  With all sessions expanded to 20 auditionees, you can expect to be cut off from your song before the 2 minute time limit is reached, to allow time for readings and the movement audition.
For Audition Information Visit our Web Page.
To Register for an Audition Visit our Registration Page

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Only “ONE MORE DAY” of adult auditions

Only one more day of adult auditions for the exciting 2015 Muni Season

   After 2 days of Muni adult auditions, we have had 112 auditionees so far.  Only one more day remains, Saturday, March 14.  IT IS FILLING UP FAST!  We expanded all vocal sessions to 20 auditionees and all dance sessions to 50.  Please register and select your time slots as quickly as you can.  If all existing time slots fill up, we will do all that we can to make sure that everyone gets a chance to audition.  If you wait until Friday to register, it makes it very difficult to adapt the schedule on such short notice.  This season’s shows have roles for everyone, of all ages, sizes, cultures, and heritages.  To register and learn more about auditions, just go to, and click on auditions.  We hope to see you there.
For Audition Information Visit our Web Page.
To Register for an Audition Visit our Registration Page

Saturday, February 1, 2014


  Mac Warren    President, The Muni

Our Auditions Committee has been hard at work this year moving our (former) paper registration process to a (new) online registration process, allowing individuals to register for a vocal and dance audition through an online form. Auditionees will be able to manage their own vocal and dance audition registrations, update their contact information, and much more.  If you'd like to learn more about the online audition registration form, make sure to attend the Audition Workshop on February 15!
Adult Auditions for the 2014 Muni Season will take place March 1, 2 & 8 with call-backs on March 9. Chidren’s Auditions will take place on March 15 with call-backs on March 16. Learn more about auditions, including how to sign up, what to prepare, and what to expect on our Auditions page.

President's Message


 Mac Warren   President, The Muni

We have such an exciting line up of shows this summer – The Sound of Music, All Shook Up, Shrek-The Musical, and Jekyll & Hyde – and, based on your feedback, we've made an important new change to our schedule.

New in 2014... Patrons will now be able to enjoy each of our four Muni productions for THREE WEEKS instead of two!  We listened to your feedback and by eliminating our traditional Sunday and Wednesday performance days, we were able to extend the run of each production for a third weekend of Broadway Under the Stars

I’d also like to give special thanks to our season sponsors.  Organizations and individuals like Springfield Clinic, Paul Palazzolo County Auditor, McGladrey and Illini Bank are absolutely wonderful for supporting local theatre, and ensure there is plenty of Muni Magic each and every summer.

I look forward to seeing you at The Muni!


Our annual "Audition Workshop" is coming up on Saturday, February 15.  This is a great opportunity for individuals (new and veteran performers alike) to meet the production staffs, obtain information about auditions and volunteering at The Muni, and get first "dibs" on vocal and dance audition times/days.  The annual Audition Workshop is at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, and you'll find more information about it in


You've picked them up already, right?  If not, no worries, there's still time to make sure you are ready to enjoy fantastic shows this season like The Sound of Music, All Shook Up, Shrek-The Musical and Jekyll & HydeSeason tickets are a great way to save money and make a great gift for someone special.  So treat yourself or a friend to a slice of Muni magic!  Season tickets are available at local retailers in Springfield, Jacksonville, Sherman and Williamsville.


Do you have a special talent and need a great place to share that talent?  The Muni is an all-volunteer organization, and we'd love for you to share your talent with us.  Each year, The Muni is so grateful for the 1,000+ individuals who help with things like building sets, raking leaves, painting and scene art, repairs on the site, building special props, ushering during performances, and much more.  We can’t do it without them, and would appreciate your help too!  If you are interested in contributing to “The Muni Magic", please contact our Volunteers Chair, Julie Finnell at


There are many opportunities to become part of The Muni family, even if being on stage or part of a set crew isn't your cup of tea.  Each year, we are honored to have the support of a very special group of individuals called the "Backstagers".  The charitable contributions we receive from the Backstagers are an enormous help to the organization.  There are added benefits to being a Backstager … along with our sincere gratitude, Backstagers enjoy premiere parking and priority season ticketing.  Read more about becoming a Backstager.