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Local News

New Rialto Square Theatre board members look forward to challenge

JOLIET – The new Rialto Square Theatre board meets for the first time Monday.

It includes Joe Carlasare, Donnie Chestnutt, Jeff Pierson and Kathy Trizna – all of whom were appointed Tuesday by Mayor Bob O’Dekirk. They will join Robert Filotto, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier, and Jane Condon, who was just named to the board late Friday by the governor.

Below are profiles of the mayor’s appointees.

Joe Carlasare

Carlasare is an attorney specializing in commercial and corporate law. Dealing with financial problems is what he does for a living, and he thinks he has useful knowledge and skills for the Rialto board.

“When we get involved in litigation, most often there is a cash-flow issue,” Carlasare said. “The whole point is to get the facts, get people to agree, and to be a good negotiator.”

Carlasare said he already has been delving into the financial problems at the Rialto, including the outstanding bills that were close to $600,000 at the end of the year.

One goal, he said, is to establish a clear picture of the Rialto’s financial situation. Carlasare said he followed the Rialto issues closely and noticed there were conflicting versions of the theater’s condition.

“I think the first and foremost thing we need to focus on is transparency, accountability and better communication overall,” he said. “If you can’t agree on any common set of facts on something, that makes any conflict harder to resolve.”

Carlasare was born in Harvey, where his grandfather was a fire chief. He grew up in Frankfort and lives in Joliet. He is a lawyer for the firm Smith Amundsen in Chicago.

Donnie Chestnutt

Chestnutt is a banker who has been active in the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry, where she is a past board chairwoman, and the Will County Center for Economic Development.

She also is a past board chairwoman at the Joliet City Center Partnership, which promotes downtown Joliet.

“My goal in being part of this newly created team is to help make the Rialto self-sustaining so it can be a gem to attract people to Joliet,” she said. “It’s one of those places you can go to and feel transformed because it’s such a beautiful building.”

Chestnutt said it was early for her to offer an analysis of the Rialto’s problems.

“I want to be able to analyze everything that has taken place so we can map out a direction that we want to go,” she said.

A Joliet resident, Chestnutt has been in the banking business for 29 years, She currently is vice president of commercial services at the Providence Bank & Trust office in Lockport.

Jeff Pierson

Pierson is the one appointee currently serving on a government board. He is president of the Joliet Township High School District 204 board.

“I’ve been on the [school] board since 2001,” he said. “At that time, the school district was not in very good financial condition, and now we are.”

The school district in 2001 was operating in the red, which is the case at the Rialto now.

“Take care of our currently outstanding bills,” Pierson answered when asked what would be one of the first priorities of the new board.

Pierson is a financial adviser with the Voyager Group in Plainfield. He said the Rialto needs to “increase revenues by offering more programs, more shows and a greater variety for our residents.”

“I am very excited to work on this board,” he said. “I think we can do a lot of good and move the Rialto forward.”

He is the one mayoral appointee who does not live in Joliet. Pierson lives just outside the city in the Timberline neighborhood – across the street from Filotto.

Kathy Trizna

Trizna is co-owner of Chicago Street Bar & Grill in downtown Joliet, and she knows the difference a good night at the Rialto can make for downtown restaurants and bars.

“The better the Rialto does, the better it is for downtown,” Trizna said. “It is a showplace. It can be a drawing point for downtown. I’m obviously pro-Rialto. But I think you have to keep a level head.”

One way Trizna is keeping a level head is by not over-promising what she can do as a new board member.

“I don’t want to stick my neck out too far, because I don’t fully know what I’m walking into,” she said.

But Trizna does have experience on how to attract customers and audiences. Chicago Street Bar & Grill does bring in live bands. Also, Trizna and her husband, Mike Trizna, organize Hopstring Fest, a popular music festival held each summer at the Slammers stadium.

Kathy Trizna said she has learned a few things about the entertainment business.

“A lot of people get excited about certain bands, but you have to look at your venue and who you can draw,” she said. “At the end of the day, you have to make a profit.”

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