I first came to the IRT in order to expose my daughters to theater. We came to The Turn of the Screw in 2003. During the post-show discussion one of the cast members was kind enough to answer a question from one of my daughters, and we have been season ticket holders ever since. The ability to engage with the art and the artists is one of the opportunities we have come to enjoy. Several years ago, we had the opportunity to go on a tour with Janet Allen before a performance of The Unexpected Guest. The tour was a pretty special experience. Most recently, I had the joy of seeing one of my daughter's in a walk-on role in A Christmas Carol, which is an opportunity available in the Celebrity Radio Show silent auction.
Indianapolis is a thriving community and the city should have a quality theater. This is one of the reasons that I became a donor to the IRT — to help ensure that Indianapolis would continue to have the opportunity to see quality stage productions. Live people like live performances (at least, I do) and we want to make sure that access to the arts is always available.
The IRT's commitment to community outreach — providing the opportunity for people to see professional theater that might not otherwise have that chance — is what sparked my desire to support the IRT.
Each season, the IRT strives to produce top-quality theatre consisting of shows that will challenge, surprise, and entertain our audiences. With every production, from William Shakespeare to James Still, our goal is to stretch ourselves artistically and bring something truly unique to our stages. Instrumental to that goal is the generous support of The Margot L. Eccles Arts & Culture Fund, a fund of CICF. This extraordinary fund, managed by Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), exists to carry on the legacy of Margot L. Eccles, who served with distinction on the IRT Board of Directors from 1996-2001. Each year, grants are awarded to organizations and projects that were important to Mrs. Eccles during her lifetime and to new opportunities that would match her passions and priorities.
Mrs. Eccles' purpose for this fund was to support the cultural community with grants that make organizations "dream big” — for projects that would extend cultural arts activities that build bridges across Indianapolis and engage all members of the community. This involves projects that require organizational risk, building new audiences, and seizing opportunities that the organization would not otherwise be able to, all ultimately leading to increased organizational stability in the future.
And dreaming big is exactly what we've done! Over the past four seasons, the Eccles Fund has played a vital role in launching our Exploring Stages programing, bringing theatre to a new generation with shows specifically designed for children ages 3-8. It allowed us to honor the Indiana Bicentennial with the creation of Finding Home: Indiana at 200, which paired the music of Tim Grimm with the work of an astonishing twenty-nine writers from across the state and vibrantly brought two centuries of history to life. In our current season, the fund is instrumental in recognizing James Still's remarkable 20-season tenure as the IRT's Playwright-in-Residence, which is celebrated through public readings of James's work, special behind-the-scenes events, and fully realized productions of Looking Over the President's Shoulder and Appoggiatura.
The Margot L. Eccles Arts & Culture Fund has allowed us to serve our audience with heightened innovation, increased scale, and a tremendous amount of heart. As we plan the IRT's 2018-2019 season, and our next "big dream," we offer our most sincere thanks to the Eccles Fund and CICF for their encouragement, support, and leadership in raising the bar for the Indiana arts community!
We first met Mehry Eslaminia earlier this season in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and she will return to the IRT stage this spring in our season-closing production of Noises Off. Read on to learn more about Mehry!
What has been your favorite role to play, so far?
I have two on opposite ends of the spectrum: the first was Adelaide in Guys and Dolls with Creede Repertory Theater in Southern Colorado. I have never had as much fun playing a character! It was an exciting challenge to meld larger-than-life humor with genuine vulnerability, desperation...and belting.
My second was Sharnush in Quiara Alegria Hudes' The Happiest Song Plays Last, with Curious Theatre in Denver, CO. She was an Arab-American film actress with a beautiful monologue about living up to the name you are given. My father is from Iran, and from a very early age I learned that with my name, (which is not pronounced "Mary"!) I had to speak up if I wanted people to truly know me. My name gave me the power of my voice, yet because of its difficulty to pronounce for most people, it also taught me the power of patience. In the same show I also had the opportunity to portray a Puerto Rican musician. My mother is from El Salvador, and a number of songs I got to sing/play guitar for were songs that I grew up loving. Never in my life have I come so close to playing my ethnicity (what I lovingly have coined, "El Salranian") on stage! It was incredibly special.
What is a dream role you hope to play someday?
Velma Kelly in Chicago, (I miss musicals!) Any variation of Medea, Queen Titania in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and stay with me here, any character in The Prince of Egypt musical if that ever becomes a thing. It has to. And I want in it so, so badly.
If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?
I've always had a very special place in my heart for children. If I wasn't an actor, I probably would have become some sort of an art therapist for children who have been through trauma. Honestly, it's still a dream in the back of my mind to combine theater arts and therapy for children who need to step out of their own shoes in order to express themselves and thusly, begin to heal.
If you could eat dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
My great-grandmother on my father's side, Mehri, whom I was named after. She was born in 1919, and lived life alongside some of the most powerful people in Iran. She knew Iran before the revolution, before war, before all the hatred. My father always encouraged me to sit down and ask her all my questions about what Iran was like then, what her life was like living in palaces, going to the Shah's parties, traveling internationally, living through and escaping during the revolution—but I never did. She passed away in 2011. I would have asked her what advice she would have given to her younger self, knowing what she knew in her last years. I would have asked her what the happiest moments were, the saddest, the scariest. I don't know if I'll regret anything as much as I regret losing the opportunity to hear those answers.
What super power do you most wish you had?
Teleportation for the sake of traveling the world at the blink of an eye, or visiting a lover that lives far too far away. Also invisibility to go see all of the expensive plays I can't afford.
Our thanks to Mehry Eslaminia for answering our questions this issue!
Is there an IRT artist you would like to see featured, or have a specific question for? Drop us a line! Email Maggie Barrett Schlake at firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line: Ask the Artist.
The IRT is thrilled to welcome Benjamin Hanna as our new Associate Artistic Director! He recently made his IRT directing debut with The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, this season's Exploring Stages production for children 3-8 years old. You will be hearing a lot more from Benjamin in the future, but for now, read on to learn about our newest staff member!
What's been your favorite play to direct?
By leaps and bounds directing the world premiere of Ivy and Bean has been my favorite play to direct. The story explores the unlikely friendship and adventures of two girls and their colorful neighborhood. Bringing to life the wildly successful childrens series was a true joy.
What play do you want to direct someday?
I would love to direct any play by Chicago-based playwright Philip Dawkins.
If you were not working in the theatre, what would you be doing?
If I did not work in the theatre I think I would be an educator.
If you could eat dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Michelle Obama. I would, of course, invite Barack also.
What are you reading/watching for artistic inspiration these days?
I have been watching two series lately, Transparent and The Handmaid's Tale.
What super power do you wish you had?
I wish I could fly. I have a phobia of airplanes—I would love to just be able to fly myself.
Have you ever wondered what goes on inside the walls of the IRT in the summer when we don’t have performances? The building may seem quiet from the outside, but there is a bustle of activity happening as we prepare to greet audiences with a new season in September. Here are a few of the things happening at the IRT this summer:
The Indiana Theatre building that we call home is celebrating 90 years this summer. We are marking the occasion with a few improvements:
SUMMER YOUTH WORKSHOPS
Over 70 students, ages 8-18, will take advantage of learning opportunities that immerse them in the world of theatre during June and July. Students will work alongside professional IRT artists.
NEW IRT BOARD CHAIR
Tom Froehle, Chief Operating Partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, assumes the role of IRT Board Chair in July.
JANET ALLEN NAMED LIVING LEGEND BY THE INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
On July 28, we will celebrate with the Indiana Historical Society naming Janet Allen, Executive Artistic Director, a Living Legend.
CASTING AND DESIGN CONFERENCES
The creative teams that bring our productions to life are meeting regarding the concepts for the productions, and auditions and casting are in full swing.
IRT SHOPS START BUILDING THE FIRST SHOWS OF THE SEASON
The artisans in our IRT production shops will return to the building starting in mid-July to begin working on next season’s productions.
FROM THE WINGS
From the Wings is a biannual newsletter exclusively for donors to the Indiana Repertory Theatre.
Did you know that more than 7% of all charitable giving is now done online? You can support the IRT in less than five minutes!
Have an idea for a future article, an artist you want to see featured, or just have a question or comment? Contact us at email@example.com