|Katie Cheely, MFA '10|
A native of Chicago, Katherine Cheely was thankful to be back in her hometown for the holidays, where she and her family usually enjoy some of their annual holiday traditions: an old-fashioned caroling party with friends and family who go around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and singing Christmas favorites on doorsteps. They also usually collaborate on an annual Christmas Day dinner adventure inspired by a different country for its theme. This year, however, was dramatically different.
Two weeks before Christmas, the family suffered the excruciating heartbreak of the sudden and unexpected death of Katie's two-year-old nephew. Living and suffering through this mystery brought new dimensions to the existential questions of the human condition—which have always been important to theater—and how the Christian message is really the only answer to the most profound needs of mankind. Although Katie and her family had to spend a lot of time with God contemplating these questions over the holidays, Katie’s schedule remains very full. As an actor, singer, teacher and playwright, she's a busy woman forging a future in an industry not often open to Christian values. Despite having a lot on her plate, Katie seeks to handle just one thing at a time. “If I think of too much at once, I get overwhelmed, and feel like staying in bed!”
While at Regent, where she graduated in 2010 with an MFA in Acting, Katie and some fellow graduate students started the UnCovered Theatre Company, a collaborative team of artists (actors, directors, playwrights, and teachers) who have produced works across the United States. The company's founders have come together with a common desire: create thought-provoking and artful theatre that challenges, enlightens and entertains. Uncovered’s mission is “To offer hope, shed light on the human condition, and uncover goodness, truth and beauty.” In uncovering truth, UnCovered Theatre reveals life for what it is. “We never deny the pain and suffering in life," Katie says. "But we show that hope and redemption can always be found in the midst of it.”
Since she was an undergrad, Katie wanted to start a theatre company. But she never found the right people to share her vision. Because of their dynamic work environment and how they all met, Katie considers it a blessing to be where she is, doing what she is doing with the people she now considers family. When asked what is most rewarding about her job, Katie replies, “Hearing how our work is resonating with audience members, how they value and appreciate our work and are inspired by it in different ways, how it prompts them to think about life, people, situations [and] their faith in new and deeper ways. Also, I love working together with people, all of us using our unique gifts to create something beautiful for God, that we hope will touch others subtly with His Spirit.”
Not only did Regent provide lifelong friends for Katie, but it was also a place where she found support to dream big and grow in her confidence and faith, knowing that she could indeed reach those dreams. One specific dream of hers is to “have a theatre company focused on producing artistically excellent productions that offer hope.” For Katie, the fact that her colleagues are excellent artists with a deep love for God, committed to developing their talents and to following His will is priceless.
Advice comes in many forms, but for Katie, one key piece of advice she would like to pass along is: “Do what you can, and give it to God. Trust that He will take care of the rest and will take care of you in the way that is best. Also, love and help those around you.” Despite facing hardships and rejection within the industry, Katie trusts in the fact that God can do anything. As unique as each School of Communications & the Arts alumnus is, all are a part of a brotherhood from which they can draw a little encouragement to continue to strive in the race. Despite struggles, they can find joy, humor, hope, and love in them. “If we focus on trying to follow His will, and try to love Him and our peers each day, He will fill in the rest." Katie adds, "He can make anything happen. Pray for increased faith, hope, and trust. and don’t get discouraged. God knows how small and humble we are.”
In ten years, Katie “hopes for her company to be more established—producing work that encourages, provokes deeper thought and discussion, entertains and inspires, plants seeds of hope in audiences that there really is a wonderful meaning, purpose and joy in life, [which is] available to everyone.” Regent is extremely excited about Katie’s future and that of the UnCovered Theatre Company. We wish them all continued good health and success in their endeavors. If you want to learn more about UnCovered, please visit their website.
Catch an UnCovered Production...
UnCovered's next production will be the Chicago premiere of The Disorientation of Butterflies, by Regent's own artists, Christy Vance (MFA, 2010) and Nathan Schmidt (MFA, 2011). The Disorientation of Butterflies, an original six-person musical drama, was produced at Regent's own lab space in 2010 AND at the 2011 NYC International Fringe Festival, a production of The Present Company.
Disorientation's main character struggles with a powerful obsession: death. No one understands why; including her math teacher-husband, her loving mother, her type-A twin and even herself. The musical boldly lifts the veil on depression and probes the mystery of death.
The Disorientation of Butterflies will be performed at Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago from Jan. 24 - Feb. 19, 2012. The cast includes three Regent alumni: Adam Hurst (MFA, 2007), Kelly Helgeson (MFA, 2008) and Katie Cheely (MFA, 2010). It's directed by Kelly Levander (MFA, 2009).