By Kristin Boza
The 2022-2023 Beverly Theatre Guild (BTG) season marks 60 years of remarkable productions encouraging acting and stage careers and delighting audiences.
BTG was formed to promote talent development and community interest in theatre. Over the last 60 years, more than 150 full-scale productions were assembled. As the first community theatre group in Chicago, BTG is proud to be one of the most diverse theatre groups in the city.
BTG is based out of the Baer Theater at Morgan Park Academy (MPA), 2153 W. 111th St.
The first BTG production this season is “Grease,” book, music, and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, on Fri., Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m., Sat., Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Sun., Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale now; $22 for BTG members, and $24 for non-members. Discounted rates are available for seniors, students, and groups.
Current BTG Board President Wayne Wendell has been with the group in various capacities for more than 30 years.
“I started as a performer and was in quite a few musicals during my first 10 years with BTG,” he said. “Then I became a Board member and have been working as a volunteer with BTG ever since.” Wendell leads the Board and numerous committees, including the Selection Committee and Playreading Committee.
“The Playreading Committee consists of three BTG members who are asked to look for shows that would work within our financial capacity and resources,” Wendell said. “We have quite a bit of storage at MPA, including various sets. The committee thinks about what sets we have, if we’ve done the play before, and if anyone else in the area is doing it this season.”
Once a play is selected, the Board works with the play’s licensing company to purchase the rights to advertise and perform the production.
The production of “Grease” will cost about $25,000. Wendell said each BTG department is given a budget by the Board, and the Ticket Committee works to sell tickets and promote the show. The Ad Committee seeks advertisers for the playbook, which also helps to offset the cost of the production.
Wendell said that the long-standing success of the BTG is due to their bylaws and rules as a 501c3 non-profit organization.
“There are certain guidelines we need to follow, and if you do so you should be successful,” he said. “We also have the most passionate people working with us, and everyone except for the artistic staff, which includes the director, choreographer, and musical director, are volunteers. Even the actors are volunteers.”
BTG rolls through its season and produces three shows a year, always including two musicals and one drama play. After “Grease,” BTG will perform “Steel Magnolias” in February and “The Wizard of Oz” musical in April.
“We have a big talent pool to pull from in Beverly/Morgan Park, and we have a reputation for doing some great shows. We go as big as we can without breaking the bank. Our reputation is that we are fun to work with and we consider one another family,” Wendell said. “We are especially proud that we are a diverse theater group and everyone is welcome. We encourage everyone to come out and see us and have fun; BTG is the place to be.”
Wendell notes that the Board and other BTG members do more than just put on amazing productions. They actively get involved in the community, including BAPA events, food pantries, the Beverly Art Walk, and more. “We truly ‘love where you live’. There’s so much going on with our productions each year, but we look to volunteer for other organizations in the community,” he said.
Wendell expressed thanks to the BTC Board of Directors for working so diligently. They include Meg Massaro, Diane Pojedynski, Emil Zbella, Sharon Mason, Camilla Joe-O’Keefe, and Julie L. Zebleckis. “It really takes a village, and our Board is outstanding.”
Buy tickets for performances, become a member, and learn more at BeverlyTheatreGuild.org.
A Brief History of BTG
Chicago’s oldest community theatre company, the Beverly Theatre Guild’s root go back to 1929 when the group was a program of the Chicago Park District, performing at the Ridge Park Field House.
In 1963, a group of regulars decided to see whether they could and prosper independently. On May 17, 1963, the new Beverly Theatre Guild was launched with the production of “The Desk Set” at Saint Xavier College (now Saint Xavier University). In the early years, BTG productions were staged at schools and restaurants as the group looked for a permanent home.
In the late 1960’s, Beverly Theatre Guild joined other community organizations to support the creation of the original Beverly Art Center on the campus of Morgan Park Academy. BTG’s 1969 production of “Light Up the Sky” was the first production at the Beverly Art Center. When the new Beverly Arts Center of Chicago was built in 2002, BTG shows charmed audiences there for six seasons. In 2008, BTG returned to their original home stage in the Baer Theatre at Morgan Park Academy.