Theatre of Western Springs Spotlight: Joe Mills

Joe Mills of Westchester | Submitted
Joe Mills of Westchester | Submitted

Get to know the community of Western Springs with our Theatre of Western Springs Spotlight feature!

This week, we meet Joe Mills of Westchester. He joined TWS in 2011.

Q. Why did you join TWS?

A. In my “real” life, I’m a pastor of a wonderful, but very busy middle-sized church. For years I have worked a seven day week long into the night. I needed something different and something to bring me life. I tried out for a role in a musical at another area theatre and was hooked. At a subsequent play, I met an incredibly skilled actor who was an active at TWS. He said to me – “You need to be at TWS” – so I came over and took Studio 1 and 2. I will never regret this. It may be a lot of hours, but it does not feel like work. I feel refreshed and have made so many wonderful friends.

Q. Go back in time. When did you discover you had an interest in theatre/drama? 

A. I know exactly when. It was two separate experiences. I was seven years old, and it was the day “Singing in the Rain” was on TV. I knew I wanted someday to sing and act. The second time was at the end of my senior year of high school. I loved watching Basil Rathbone in the Sherlock Holmes movies. Our local school was putting on “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” and, without any previous experience, I tried out for the role of Holmes. The new director at school didn’t have favorites and saw my excitement about the role and cast me. Although I hadn’t done theatre in years, these two experiences were formative for me.

Q. At TWS, do you work on crews, backstage and/or front of house?

A. I just love helping. Sometimes I’ll just stop by to see if I can help with something. I’ve helped with hospitality, some set construction, and the ever-famous table and chair breakdowns, but I love working on crews. For a personal stretch I helped with costumes (don’t ever ask me to sew anything…), but my main loves are working on sound and light crews and being an Assistant Stage Manager. There is always some new “wrinkle” or challenge to deal with – like the day in one rehearsal, where eight people were out. I had to sub in with six different roles, each with a different voice, run on and behind stage, and I had a blast.

Q. At TWS, do you act on stage?

A. I’ve been in a few roles and loved them all. In most ways, the most challenging was being Greg in “Sylvia.” I learned that it had been done before by a truly talented cast and felt some pressure to claim the role for myself. Fortunately the new cast was powerfully talented and wonderfully supportive. I don’t really have a favorite role; I have moments with each character that I celebrate: the looks and vocalizations I could give my “stage wife” as Abner Truckle in “Sly Fox;” being able to sing in voices I  have never tried as Boj in “The Snow Queen;” creating choreography for some “dancing” (I don’t dance – and there is one TWS person who will give me a hard time for saying this!) as Harsha in “Madeline’s Christmas;” and most recently, as part of the most awesome ensemble in the musical, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” Each has given me a challenge, and I love a good challenge!

Q. What do you love about TWS? What is it about TWS that motivates you?

A. As much as I love being on stage, it is getting to know such wonderful, talented and caring people that has made TWS a joy for me. Every time I turn around, I learn about a skill someone has; I am constantly learning from the other actives and volunteers. People truly care about each other at TWS and want others to grow in their skills and their on and behind the stage abilities. They expect accountability, but give you trust. It is the support others give that motivates me to want to work so hard to help support all the other wonderful people who work equally as hard.

Q. Tell about something at TWS that was, is, or will be a really big thrill for you.

A. I have three:  First was my first main stage role as Abner Truckle in “Sly Fox.” I think it was combination of the director, Jim Schneider, and the absolutely awesome cast. Second has been working with the Children’s Theatre in the last two Christmas productions – how can you go wrong with such wonderful children? And last is the trust given to me to develop sound for any production. I truly love a good challenge, and so many people have taught me so much.

Q. List three things you have given TWS.

A. Time, perseverance, caring.

Q. List three things TWS has given you.

A. Learning, laughter and friendships.

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