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Meet Bec Willett of Bower Theatre Ensemble in North Side

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bec Willett.

Bec, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Just over six years ago, I was in Australia directing (and designing, and running, and marketing) a high school production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children. Having taught high school Drama, Art and English for some years, it was a big leap when my husband got a job in Chicago and we decided to make the move. As you probably guessed from my confidence in teens to conquer Brecht, I’ve always been ambitious. In 2017, after some years navigating the Chicago theatre landscape and so, so many immigration forms and scans and tests my husband and I started Bower Theatre Ensemble: a theatre ensemble dedicated to growing the artists of the Chicago theatre community and bringing a new approach to how we build theatre companies.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Bower is still in the teething stage so it feels like everything is a challenge! Of course, you’re aware that starting and maintaining a company is going to be a lot of work but you don’t know just how much until you do it. As we come out of our first production of Frankenstein, there are a lot of positive things keeping us going through the growing pains, like the couple who saw it as their first Chicago theatre experience and loved it. Of course, everyone likes it when someone likes their work, but this was particularly special because they weren’t regular theatre-goers but now they want to see more. It’s those experiences that really help to buoy you and fortify your confidence.

Please tell us about Bower Theatre Ensemble.
Bower Theatre Ensemble creates a place for artists to make and grow, making work that explores the humanity in the technology in a theatrical way.

Much of our focus is on creating an ensemble with a different structure to a traditional company. Instead of hiring artists on a show by show basis, we employ theatre artists for a one year stint where they are involved in two productions – one where they take on a role they may be more comfortable or experienced, the other where they take on a role to learn – something they may have some skills or interest in but have never taken on officially. As an artist and teacher, I’ve found that a great deal of learning happens through experiences where you have to solve problems and create a real-world situation. Bower not only provides that opportunity but also an environment where artists can support and draw on the knowledge and skill set of others. Although we have only completed one production, a great deal of learning has already happened. That we can create a space for that and use that to give back to the Chicago theatre community is something we’re very proud of.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
This probably comes as no surprise given my career, but my many of my favorite childhood memories involve making things, usually making things in which to dress up. I distinctly remember being in grade school and making a snail costume out of a cardboard box for a Bastille day parade. I even cut up silver tinsel and sprinkled it behind me to serve as a snail trail as I walked. I thought I was so darn clever. While I didn’t win first, I did win a prize (third maybe?) which made me feel so chuffed that I got someone to take photos of me posing in the school garden where I’m pretty certain I trampled all the school’s flowering zucchini plants.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cassnova Art, Nathaniel Andrew, Elaine C. Bell, Michelle E. Benda, Andrew Ganem, Xavier Lagunas, Nicole Nola, Tyler Anthony Smith, Elliott Sowards, Lizzy Sulkowski-Altman, Jenn M. Thompson, Alexander Utz, Chris Vanderark, Bec Willett, Lucas Willett, Leigh Yenrick

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