© 2019 by Parker Playhouse

ARTISTIC DIRECTORS

Dan Thake

Executive Director

I was five years old, standing in my voice teacher/children choir director’s living room, singing a song I had spent two months learning. Familiar and strange faces alike, staring at me with bright wide eyes, glistening smiles and edge-of-your-chair posture, a captivated audience. The musical sounds from the piano begin to set the stage for what is about to become the world premiere of the next Mario Lanza or Luciano Pavarotti. I open my mouth. I fill my lungs with air and at the appropriate moment I begin to sing; “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow….the corn is as high….Oh, what a beautiful mornin’” My performing debut. Those who listened were kind and applauded with enthusiasm. I even remember hearing someone say, “Isn’t he so darling?” What I most remember... I got to eat an ice cream cone on my way back home in the back seat of my dad’s “56” orange and white Buick. Kids

Over the past sixty plus years I have had countless opportunities to sing; in church, at weddings, at funerals, anniversary celebrations, in and assortment of community choirs. Singing has taken me to so many places: the open air of a national park amphitheater, to Carnegie Hall in New York, to Orchestra Hall in Chicago, to magnificent cathedrals in Europe, to the Parker Playhouse in Barrington and to all those places in-between.  Through all these experiences I have learned three important lessons. First, you must constantly develop, train, and perfect your gift. Rarely does it just happen. Second, it takes a lot of people to help you; from voice teachers, to parents, to other choir members, to spouses, to other singers. It is always a collaborative effort. Third, it is never about you. It is always about the sound, the product, the effect it has on others, the experience that you have been blessed to help create. 

These three lessons guide our approach in how we do theater: to diligently work at our craft in all of its facets, to combine our collective gifts and talents in all creative enterprises, so that you might be engaged emotionally and intellectually in any production that we humbly place before you.

On behalf of the Artistic Team, the Board of Directors and me, we are The Parker Players. Welcome to your theater.

Jennifer McHugh

Artistic Director

Jennifer McHugh loves to share stories. An avid reader and 'pretender' Jennifer gravitated naturally  to performing arts. Whether acting, singing, dancing or directing, Jennifer is most comfortable in the theater. Recently, she directed Love, Loss and What I Wore by Nora Ephron and performed as Rose Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie for Parker Playhouse.

 

Jennifer has also performed with Highland Park Players and Fremont Street Theater Co. and is a company member of Palatine's Family Friendly Theater group. Jennifer will be performing as Athena Sinclair in Suite Surrender for Elgin Theater Co. in January and February this coming winter, 2020.

Jennifer brings a unique perspective to the artistic team because she also has a background in business. She worked in the production department at Steppenwolf Theater, went on to earn her MBA from The University of Chicago and then spent a few years working in advertising at Leo Burnett. Jennifer believes that her combination of strategic thinking and creative vision is ideal in directing a theater company.

Jennifer is married to Dan and has three daughters who are all involved in the performing and fine arts in Barrington. Jennifer is thrilled to work with the rest of the Parker Players team to establish the company as a permanent part of Barrington's arts culture.

Ron Arden

Music Director

Ron Arden received his musical training at Butler University in Indianapolis, a Masters from the University of Nebraska in viola performance, and did doctoral work at the University of Houston in voice and viola.  A “renaissance man” in the truest sense, for over 30 years he has performed, taught, and conducted as an artist marked by excellence and passion.

 

Professional viola experience includes the Omaha Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, Lincoln Symphony, Houston Bach Society, Houston Grand Opera, The Florida Philharmonic, and Symphony of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale, and Green Bay Symphony, Wisconsin Philharmonic, and Kenosha Symphony. Vocal/acting experience includes performance as a free-lance artist in Omaha, with Houston Grand Opera, Class Act Broadway touring company of South Florida, and free lancing in the greater Chicagoland area.

 

Ron taught private voice and viola in each of the cities mentioned and is a featured teacher for Road Scholar Continuing Education programs annually since 1985.  He is the owner and director of the Allegro String Quartet, presently teaches voice at Barrington High School, and adult classes on Vocal Freedom in Speech and Presentation. 

 

He and his wife toured the country for over 25 years and have three professional recordings from a concert ministry Ron created called A Cross Between. They presently reside in Zion, Illinois where Ron spent five years as Minister of Music, Worship, and Drama at Christ Community Church.  Besides orchestrating worship there, he was the artistic director of the Zion Passion Play, Dean of the Zion Conservatory, and music director of the Zion Chamber Orchestra.

 

In 2003 Ron reentered the free-lance music world and helped found, as conductor and artistic director, The Lake County Symphony Orchestra - an ensemble of professional on Chicago’s North Shore. The LCSO was the first orchestra invited to the renovated Genesee Theater in Waukegan to accompany national artists there. It is a self-run, self-governed professional orchestra boasting a roster of players from Milwaukee to Chicago and specializing in fostering students and nonprofessionals in a high-quality environment.

 

Ron is widely sought as a music director and works as consultant on the arts in worship.  Enjoying a diversity of performing and conducting experience, his reputation for instilling excellence and artistry into musicians is his deepest passion. From classical to Broadway, barbershop to gospel, Ron comfortably communicates the beauty of great music. In November of 2016, he released his first solo album “Voice of Love” to critical acclaim. It is an original commissioned collection of vocal stylings with jazz sextet.

 

Maestro Arden was music director/conductor of the Lake Forest Civic Orchestra in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, Illinois until 2014.  In his 7 seasons with the LFCO audiences grew, orchestra members increased, and the overall life of the orchestra was greatly rejuvenated. With both the Lake County Symphony Orchestra and the LFCO, Ron has celebrated the gifts of local artists and partnerships with student ensembles and churches. In these celebrations he has been and continues to be an ambassador for music making that enlivens and educates the lives of others.

Ray Harris

Techincal Director

Ray began learning all stage crafts while a student at Barrington High School. He gained further expertise working at a Lighting House in L.A., providing equipment to theaters and concert venues. In 2002, while taking an improv class at Second City in Chicago, Ray heard his teacher mention that Second City needed a 'light guy' for a show. Ray volunteered and spent the next decade designing and running light boards for improv shows throughout Chicagoland. Ray is also a founding member of Parker Playhouse and helped design the entire technical program for the theater. Ray now looks forward to designing for Parker Players.

Sharon Schmidt

Costume Director

Sharon Schmidt combines experience in music, business and art. She spent high school boarding at Interlochen Arts Academy studying music, then majored in Retailing, Clothing and Textiles at Michigan State University and finally went on to earn an MBA at Indiana University. 

Sharon is a true artist with an artist's eye for detail. She works in chalk pastels on her own paintings and teaches classes in pottery and fibers at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Sharon is a skilled seamstress and carries an almost encyclopedic knowledge of costume design in her head. She's worked with BHS productions as well as community and professional productions to sew, build and borrow whatever was necessary to complete each wardrobe. Sharon was instrumental in the founding of Parker Playhouse and is looking forward to its next chapter as Parker Players.