Revue bringing laughs back to town

'Artificial Hinstelligence' parodies Hinsdale's social algorithms, all for a good cause

Opening night is in less than two weeks, and the cast of "Artificial Hinstelligence" is rehearsing at The Community House.

Bags of high-heeled shoes, pairs of sequined gloves and a sack of Santa outfits are strewn about the room, raising some questions about what crazy plot twists this year's show will take.

Choreographer Amanda Snooks is leading a group through a dance number on stage while Hinsdale's Tim Fowler works through an Elton John song with help from music director Gail Mangurten and director Dave Heilmann. This is Fowler's third appearance in the biannual Community Revue show, which raises funds for The Community House.

"I've always loved participating in the revue and helping to raise money for The Community House and just trying to put smiles on people's faces in the middle of winter," Fowler said.

He will play multiple roles in the revue, including a guy trying to figure out what artificial Hinstelligence is all about and the Hinsdale Little League commissioner.

"I enjoy that one because I get to play, in essence, my neighbors or people from town and make fun of that," he said of the latter character.

In addition to 11 veterans, this year's cast welcomed five new members, including Emily Campbell of Hinsdale.

"I saw the show for the first time two years ago and thought it was a hoot," she said. "I love singing and dancing and performing, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to join such an incredibly talented

cast and crew."

Campbell brings the credentials. She was a voice major in college, performs with two local rock bands, sings in two acoustic groups and is a preschool music teacher and vocal coach. She said she's enjoying her role.

"She is a bit of a ditzy character, so it's fun to play a role that is an easy target," Campbell said.

Fellow newcomer Maria Ziemer also has experience performing in middle school, high school and college shows. And she's a neighbor of returning cast member Allison Peters.

"Allison knew that I had a background in theater," Ziemer said. "She asked me if I could sing - and then I got scared - and said, 'Yes, I can carry a tune.' It was a casual conversation on the sidewalk, and I really didn't know what I was saying yes to."

Despite all the costumes she's had to order online ("I think we should put something in the program that the show is sponsored by Amazon," she said), she's enjoyed being part of the revue.

"Oh my gosh, it has been so, so fun. I forgot how fun performing is, how fun it is to be part of a show, how fun it is to be on stage, how silly the rehearsal process can be. There's a reason why people love acting and performing. It lights a fire inside you," she said.

The show, as always, is written by a group of veteran cast members, including Susan O'Byrne of Hinsdale. This will be the seventh show she has been in and the fourth she has produced. She is happy with this year's script.

"I think for some reason we picked topics that are even more timely than we anticipated," she said. "We were almost prescient in our writing in a couple of different aspects. That makes it kind of hilarious."

Heilmann agreed.

"I'd like to think that we're grabbing the humor from the most topical events. I can't disclose any of them, of course, but it's what people are talking about that we then have fun with," he said.

The revue has traditionally relied on Broadway songs, rewritten with Hinsdale-specific lyrics, but this year's list of numbers includes more popular pieces, including one by Travis Kelce's girlfriend.

"We're hoping we draw the same crowds that Taylor Swift does," Heilmann quipped. "She's

been invited."

O'Byrne said the cast is lucky to have so many new talented members, but she misses some of "stalwart regulars" who had work conflicts, moved away or are not part of the cast for other reasons. That group includes Teri Goudie, who passed away in July 2022, four months after the last revue.

"It's been tough, but we know if there's one thing we've learned from being in revue is that laughter keeps us going and theater brings us all together," O'Byrne said.

Heilmann, who has directed the revue since the first one in 1997, said the show provides

a needed outlet.

"I have always come back because it's getting away from everything else in life - whether it's three or four nights a week for a few months - where you're laughing and you're letting everything else go," he said. "That's needed now more than ever."

He praised the cast for the hard work each one is putting into the show.

"I'm really proud of what they're doing and I think they're going to be excited on opening night when people enjoy all the work they put in," he said.

Performances are March 8-9 and 15-16. For details on show times and tickets, turn to Page 26.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean