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In January of 2018, I applied for the NIU Interdisciplinary Student Projects in Artistry and Research (ISPAR) grant sponsored by Paul Kassel, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. I was awarded a $1,000 grant to direct and produce The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks holds a very special place in my heart. It is a story that has withstood the test of time. It is a beautiful and poetic story of true love. I've always believed its strength was in its simplicity. And I believed our Meisner training at NIU could serve well the text, the music, and the story.

NIU does not typically produce musicals, so our performing arts departments don't often have the opportunity to collaborate. I wanted to bring together a group of artists who've never worked together-- who maybe even have never created a musical before.

In addition to collaborating with other student artists, I wanted to make our production as accessible to the public as possible. When I considered the barriers many folks face when it comes to the arts, I saw that money and access to transportation were some of the biggies. So I decided to offer pay-what-you-can tickets on all performances, as well as tour the production to several locations in the community. We toured to the local Hopkins Park outdoor bandshell, the DeKalb Area Women's Center, Barb City Manor Retirement Home, and Kishwaukee Community College.

This project asked me to reach way beyond my comfort zones, take risks, and have a lot of faith. I learned everything from securing performance rights to recruiting an artistic team. From crafting props to drafting programs. And from creating schedules to renting performance venues. And from all this, ALLSWELL Artist Ensemble came into existence.

Producing The Fantasticks has been an incredibly rich experience, as a student, a theatre artist, and a community member. I look forward to the next opportunity to work on something that lights up my spirit the way this musical does.

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