I’ve been cleaning a lot the past few weeks and I came by this journal that my friend Audrey Wasilewski gave me for my birthday in 1995. It’s a record of the unofficial first meeting of TimeLine. It happened at Glasscott’s Bar (or Glassgott’s as I wrote) on Tuesday, April 1, 1997, with Lily Shaw.
Anyone who knows Lily will understand why I wanted to talk to her first. She was and is a smart, tough woman, and I knew she’d either talk me out of starting a company, or help me to make it happen.
Her first response was that I shouldn’t create another Chicago theatre that primarily wants to service its own artists. Chicago doesn’t need that. It had to be something unique. She was right, and sadly I didn’t know anything except that I wanted work and to have a say in the work I was directing and producing. But I had no idea what could set our theatre company apart from others. Then she asked me one simple question that honestly changed my life forever: “What else are you passionate about?”
I know this sounds simple. But if you love the theatre like me, you sometimes forget that there are other things! The first and only word that came to mind was “antiques,” but that didn’t seem to make any sense. So Lily asked me why I love antiques.
Since I was a kid I have loved antique shopping with my mom and unearthing gems from the past and learning about the history behind them—why they were created and why they were forgotten or changed, and finding a way to give them a purpose or beauty again. Lily turned to me and said, “There’s your theatre company.” That’s all I can remember honestly. Those words, “There’s your theatre company.” I got it … a theatre company exploring history. I was finally ready to start on the journey that has lasted 20 years. I still can’t get over it.
So if you look below the date with Lily, you will find the names of the five other people who I thought would be the best artists to get on that ride—the original Company Members. We met 8 days later in the basement of my friends, Susan Leigh and Stephen Gray. Pat (Tiedemann) Hofmann, PJ Powers, Juliet Hart, Kevin Hagan and Brock Goldberg were there. Plus a couple of amazing, supportive friends, Renee and Tom Zipprich.
Since I was a kid I have loved antique shopping with my mom and unearthing gems from the past and learning about the history behind them—why they were created and why they were forgotten or changed, and finding a way to give them a purpose or beauty again.
And at the bottom you’ll see the one note I wrote for the meeting, “What are you willing to give up?” This was the question I asked all of them that night, because I knew that if we did what I was hoping we’d do, it would alter all our lives significantly. It would affect families, careers, vacations, evenings and weekends, and everything that came after.
To my great joy and surprise they all said yes. (Except Lily, who knew she wasn’t long for Chicago but who had already given us a tremendous gift.) From that day forward, these five people were a part of my history, and three of us (PJ, Juliet and I) are still on the ride. And Renee is now a Board member!
Next weekend on April 9, 2017, we will celebrate the 20 year anniversary of that first official meeting of TimeLine’s founding Company Members. It’s also the closing performance of the latest production I have directed for the company, A Disappearing Number. I know most of you won’t be there to help us commemorate this milestone, but we will be thinking about all of you who’ve jumped aboard and been a part of that history on our stage, behind the scenes or in the audience. Thanks to all of you who said yes.
Nick Bowling was TimeLine’s Founding Artistic Director and is now a Company Member and Associate Artistic Director, as well as the driving artistic force behind many of the company’s most successful productions.