Updated: Jun 20, 2019
Our second summer production is upon us, and I am overwhelmed by gratitude to the men and women who helped start it all last year. In honor of how far we've come, and how far we are going, I felt inspired to share the story of how Goodly all began.
A promotional photo of our original cast featured in the Daily Herald in 2018. From left to right: Aaron Hoge, Johnny Hohman, Joe Guritz, Ian Samsami, Cam Tucker, Rachel Stevens, and Katrina Plonczynksi
“Johnny needed an internship.”
That is the short answer I provide when asked why I founded Goodly Creatures Theatre. If you had asked me three years ago if I would become an entrepreneur I would have laughed and said “No way!” The responsibility was daunting, the capital was sparse, and I had nowhere near the confidence I have today to even imagine such a venture possible. But, a lot changes in three short years.
I was raised by a village of artists. From the age of 11 onward, I left children’s theatre to star in community theatre shows. After a decade, I had performed and directed for several different theatre companies. Growing up, theatre was my life-blood, but I led a double-life, working in a variety of jobs after I graduated with my BA. I had relegated myself to the idea that theatre would be a hobby, but no means to earn a living, settling for “conventional” and “secure” gigs to earn a paycheck, and putting my passions to the side.
In that time, I learned hard lessons, namely that in our current climate, there is no “secure” means of making a living anymore. In my time, working traditional jobs, I found myself capped at limited hours and hourly pay, and yet faced with promotions with extra responsibility. And, as an artist, I experienced firsthand being offered pay that never came, and shrugged it off because I loved it so much I’d do it for free. It wasn’t until a friend of mine was stiffed by a company that my blood began to boil. I paid her out of my own pocket, with the little money my Millennial hands held, to thank her for her work done for the company that mislead us both.
Then Johnny needed an internship. I had been directing for a small theatre in the suburbs, that inevitably folded when the producers retired. It was an unexpected change to our plans, and I had already promised him an internship for the planned summer production. It was, no doubt, too late for him to secure another internship to meet his deadline, and I felt responsible.
At the time I was working for a startup as a freelancer, and when I got the news of the end for this theatre, at least for the foreseeable future, I stared down at my latte across from my boss and said “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She said simply: “Start your own company.” Could I do that? How would that be possible? Then I remembered what my parents always taught me: Never make a decision out of fear. Fear of failure was no excuse. So, I scrambled up my savings, originally slated for a Master’s Degree, and started Goodly Creatures Theatre.
In one year we have performed in Elgin and Chicago, for two local festivals, and now have a full season of shows as we grow our roots in Elgin, IL, with a mission to bring experimental theatre to the suburbs. Every time I face a challenge, I think of my ensemble, their confidence in me, and their dedication. In direct opposition to my experiences, I compensate every member of my team, and I provide young and driven artists the independence and opportunity to take the lead and share their work with the world, a world who might otherwise underestimate and ignore us.
I’m not just building a theatre, I’m building a company that values its people first and foremost. Their faces, our memories, and their passion stoke the fire that first began while I stared at a latte for answers.
They are my answer. They are my fire. And, every day, I move onward for all of us.
By Katrina Syrris
Founder and Owner of Goodly Creatures Theatre
Copyright 2019 Katrina Syrris