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Homer Glen’s 31 years on stage fueled by a passion for the craft

“Just tell the story.”

These were recommendations from an actor friend of Laurie Videka Krizka’s every time she stepped onto the stage to perform with the Beverly Theater Guild or other Chicago-area community theater troupes.

And if industry recognition is any indication, it tells the story pretty well.

Krizka won the Beverly Theater Guild’s Best Performance Award twice; most recently as M’Lynn in “Steel Magnolias” this year. She was also honored for her role as Rosemary in “Picnic” in 2005 and was nominated for her role as Simone Pistache in “Can-Can” in 2003.

The theater’s website states that the award is given to “the player who delivers the most professional, flamboyant and most poignant or sensitive performance of the Annual Season to such an extent that it can enhance BTG’s reputation”.

Wayne Wendell, president of the Beverly Theater Association, said that Krizka has accomplished all of this.

“Laurie is fascinating as an actress. Absolutely stunning. Every time she does something, she gets attention,” she said. “He won the award twice, so his skills are obvious. He’s a very serious player, he’s developed his skills over the years and it’s a great talent to have him with us.”

Kriska is one of many talented people who prefer community theater to a professional acting career. It’s proof that those looking for a quality theater experience can find them in their neighborhood.

A South Side native, Krizka lives in Homer Glen with her husband, George Krizka. He has worked for Southwest Airlines for 31 years and currently manages customer service inquiries. All this time, he also had a secondary career on the Chicago stages, but he never considered acting professionally.

“Maybe I thought about it in the back of my mind, but I started it with a passion for what I really enjoy, namely singing, dancing and acting,” said Krizka.

Realistically, she knew she needed a job providing healthcare and a stable income, and she knew that additional work in community theater would allow her to choose her creative projects.

Krizka dabbled in acting at Queen of Peace High School, took drama classes at Northern Illinois University, and enrolled in voice classes at the Loop in the Fine Arts Building, but did not attend school until 1989 at the insistence of a relative. She auditioned for a role in the Beverly Theater Guild production.

“I auditioned for ‘Funny Girl’. I didn’t know anyone and I was very nervous,” said Krizka; “I was chosen as one of the four Keeney girls on the show, and that’s where my story begins, and I couldn’t stop doing it from that show and from then on.”

She took on the role of Velma Kelly in “Chicago” the following season. A review of this production stated that “this feat is consistently entertaining, thanks to the impeccable cast.” She has since appeared in many lead and ensemble roles.

Although he says, “Performing there is an adrenaline rush, a natural joy,” he also finds a deeper personal meaning in the experience.

“Our mother passed away when I was fourteen. As the only daughter in the family with five brothers, my life changed drastically at that time. My mother used to sing in the church choir and I think she was the one who inspired me to go to singing lessons and to the theatre. I think of him often. “Whether I’m off stage or on stage, it’s my strength,” said Krizka.

Now, she’s been working from home 10 hours a day, four days a week since the pandemic, and is more selective in the roles she considers while helping her 60-year-old father, 94, Krizka. He couldn’t pass up “Steel Magnolias”.

“I thought about getting a more secondary role, but when I read it for M’Lynn, I just felt the emotions. I knew it would be a big undertaking, but I also knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity because who knows what will happen in the future,” said Krizka, adding that the roles for older women are more limited.

Kriska said that her own life experiences inspired her performance as M’Lynn, who had never taken professional acting classes and who lost her daughter in the story.

When Krizka was recognized for her performance, she was “humble and utterly stunned.”

“I was surprised that it affected people in this way. I didn’t realize that I was leaving this effect,” he said.

Kriska said that another good experience in this production was connecting with other actors. Many lived close enough to Homer Glen that they could use Krizka’s home for rehearsals. Krizka admitted that he was quite worried about the role, especially as he memorized all the lines, but the actors began to “trust each other for comfort, support, and protection”.

They also had home amenities, such as homemade popcorn straight out of the theater-style popcorn machine, prepared by Krizka’s husband.

George Krizka fully supports his wife’s acting career and prefers golf over being on stage. He said humorously: “It’s great that someone is taking all the attention off you. I can sit in the back row and do whatever I want. My job is to make popcorn and host parties.

Krizka has worked with the Beverly group for so many years that she considers them her “second family” and in return, Wendell said it was great that she was a part of the group.

“It’s her energy, she’s so full of life, it adds a positive vibe to the room when she walks in,” she said.

Krizka doesn’t know if she’ll be auditioning for any role this season due to her work schedule and family commitments, “but if I’m not able to appear in a show, I’ll definitely make time to work behind the scenes or help out with the show in front of the house.”

This is also important because, according to Krizka, the most important thing is to ensure that the audience enjoys the story and their experience in the theatre.

Carol Flynn is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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