News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

October 11, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Lure of the stage gets in your veins

When I cast my memory back far enough, it seems as if I have always been stage struck.

As a first-grader, I was picked to play a child in the senior class play at Stockton High School. Maybe it was my pigtails? I only knew that I was excused from class early on several afternoons a week so that I could rehearse with the big kids.

Then, when I graduated to Yorkville Elementary School, I was cast as Daffy Down Dilly (and no, I don’t THINK it has anything to do with my being a bit daffy myself) in the grade school performance of something to do with Mother Goose.

And somewhere along the line I was cast as Dad’s granddaughter in a drama competition entered by the Yorkville Farmers’ Club.

I was primed by the time of my own senior class play and was cast as one of the murderous aunts in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Uncle Jim sent flowers! And I certainly remember the thrill of seeing my first professional theater performance in Chicago.

I just enjoy anything to do with theater and this past Sunday my Best Friend and I attended a production of Neil Simon’s “Prisoner of Second Avenue” on stage at Harmony Hall. Produced by Ted Compton, founder of On The Line Production Company, it was — sadly — almost a well-kept secret. It would have escaped our notice if Number Two son had not been in the cast.

Neil Simon is our modern master of comedy who manages to make a nervous breakdown as amusing as Woody Allen’s angst-ridden heroes. When a Simon play is well cast and well directed — Sandra Groves did the honors for “Prisoner” — it makes for a pleasant change from Sunday football. If you are determined not to miss Sunday performances on the gridiron, “Prisoner” was also performed both Friday and Saturday evenings.

I believe this was a second production of Compton’s company which is dedicated to keeping theater alive in Terre Haute. He also produced “The Diary of Anne Frank” last spring, which we missed, again thanks to little advance publicity. Even after a brief item in the “’Bash” a week or so ago, it was not included in the theater section of things to do this past weekend.

It was a performance well worth a couple of hours. As a stage-struck senior citizen I have learned there are few roles on offer for a senile ingenue, but a good play never disappoints.

Bravo, young Mr. Compton!

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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