MAY 29. My birthday and Jim Corti Day here in Aurora as proclaimed by our Mayor Richard Irvin last November. Tim Rater got his own day on his birthday too, December 30, as Paramount Theatre has become “a catalyst for the rebirth of the Arts in downtown Aurora.” Good wishes are flooding in, but my thoughts are with Rachel Rockwell and her family; husband Garth, son Jake, her mom Glory, dad Gary and brother Jeremy. Friends close to her, Bill Osetek and Roberta Duchak, no doubt have been by her side throughout this sad time. Yesterday afternoon, word quickly struck like lightning through our Chicago theatre community on Rachel’s passing.
Eyes well up, voices crack, texts, calls, everyone hit with this unspeakable sense of loss. Literally, no words. Can’t speak.
I’ve never sat at the computer screen for so long watching Facebook blow up with shockwaves and loss. Somewhat numb so as not to feel it all, kinda dazed, scrolling, hitting the keys for hearts and tears for hours. Hours. Then this morning, seemingly out of nowhere, at the kitchen sink rinsing the coffee mug, brought to my knees in sobs of grief never to see her again. To miss the intensity of her gaze, her strength, her laugh, how her eyes draw you in to her incredibly soulful depth, is a friendship I never got enough of. Couldn’t I have been a better friend? But she’d have none of that. I can just hear her, “Lighten up!”
Rachel had become a part of us; those that worked with her, touched by her and her influence.
Her passion, insight and pure skill led to bonding with countless young artists and friends including an old fart like me. Rachel directed and choreographed six extraordinary productions here at Paramount: Hair, Annie, The Music Man, In the Heights, 42nd Street and Mary Poppins. Each had at its core a fierce storytelling heart, a profound artistry and unmistakable universal appeal. She moved audiences. And as well, her actors, many of whom were giving the performance of their careers year after year. Our very first season closed with Hair, and that for me, I think, was the one that grabbed me the most. No 60’s tie-dyed cartoon for Rachel, this was a depiction of the youth movement, full of diversity and an unapologetic anti-war statement, revolutionary as it ever was intended. She pulled no punches and took no prisoners. The packed theatre sang with that remarkable cast “Let the Sun Shine In,” raising their voices to the rafters. The place filled with hope and light and that unforgettable cry for Peace and Love.
This is how Rachel will be celebrated; surrounded by Love and Light and the sounds of voices singing and dances full of her kind, warm, shining soul.
Our magnificent cast of Once completes their run starting tomorrow, ending on Sunday, June 3. You won’t believe your eyes and ears and the emotional connection these performances are making with our audiences. As if there won’t be enough heartache this week! Just eight more shows to go!
Love & thanks,