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A & E

Orland Park/Will County chapter of youth theater puts glorifying God first

Orland Park/Will County chapter of youth theater puts glorifying God first

SHOREWOOD – “The show must go on” and “break a leg” rang true for 11-year-old Audrey Bittermann of Minooka, after falling off stage and breaking her ankle minutes after the curtain closed on opening night of the play “Narnia.”

But her director, Rachel Waterman, and choreographer wrapped her crutches in flowers so she could still participate in scenes in subsequent performances, although her dancing part had to be recast.

“Audrey was in a lot of pain after the show, and thought her directors would be upset if she didn’t perform in the last show,” said her mother, Nicole Bittermann. “Rachel knelt down in front of her and said how impressed she was about her determination to still perform, and hugged her letting her know it was OK. I love that this group cares about the children, not just the show.”

The Spotlight mission is “reflecting Christ throughout the performing arts.”

Art, fellowship, God

According to, Spotlight Youth Theater is a nonprofit arts education program for kids ages 5 to 18, offering three 10-week sessions of classes in areas across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Students between the ages of 8 to 18 who are enrolled in classes are eligible to audition for one of the full-scale, professional-quality musicals produced each session in each area.

The local chapter is the Orland Park/Will County Chapter, which began just as an Orland Park chapter four years ago. A year later, Will County was included in the territory, making it the newest and southernmost of the 12 chapters.

Classes are held at Trinity Christian School in Shorewood; auditions and play practice are at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Joliet; and the performance is held at Southwest Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights.

The group is willing to expand to other theaters in the local area if an offer was made. This new chapter is hoping to grow – having two area coordinators, instead of one, in hopes of planting in other southern counties.

One area coordinator, Kristen Ozinga of Palos Heights said “we want to grow because this is a mission and an outreach.

“We want to magnify and glorify God through theater,” Ozinga said. “We want to introduce God. We are not here to rake in the bucks, and we are on a mission.”

Brenna Baker of Midlothian, also an area coordinator, said each class opens with prayer, and includes praying before snack time and before leaving class for the evening. The first half hour of Saturday show rehearsal is a student-led worship time. Prayer also is part of opening and closing rehearsals.

At the end of each show, the kids on stage point up to show they are performing for God. Spotlight Youth Theater is “a nice balance between theater and a youth group,” Baker said.

“Whether kids are at the beginning of their journey, or someone set in their faith, everyone is welcomed,” Baker said. “We help to grow their faith as they are with other kids who believe in the same thing.”

That certainly proved true for Audrey. Months prior to her accident, Audrey, a practicing Christian, pushed past her quiet comfort zone and registered for classes with the Orland/Will chapter of Spotlight Youth Theater group.

“My favorite part of this experience has been getting to know some awesome friends and making true heart to heart connections, everyone is open with each other,” Audrey said.

The upcoming production

The Orland Park/Will group will perform “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” from Oct. 15 to 17. Auditions for the 80 parts in the play are Friday.

Only enrolled students may audition for a part, as the classes coincide with what will take place in the performance. However, walk-ins are welcome, but must register for classes and fill out forms before auditioning.

Directing “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is former Spotlight performer/student Melissa Crabtree of Oak Park, who has degrees in music theater performance and applied theater, and is currently acting as well.

Assistant director is Wendy DePhillips of Plainfield, who has been a instructor/director as well as a mother of performers, having been through 20 shows with her children.

Crabtree said there are 73 children enrolled in classes and with 80 parts, the kids need to “call your friends.”

She said auditions will be one minute per child in order to keep a steady pace. Children will introduce themselves, sing one minute of a song and exit. Call-backs are Saturday, and the material for call-backs is online to study.



WHAT: Auditions for Spotlight Youth Theater’s October production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1910 Black Road, Joliet

CONTACT: Brenna Baker and Kristen Ozinga at

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