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Q-and-A with Abby Vombrack: Friends of the Arts grant opens up opportunities for actress, ISU

Abby Vombrack

Abby Vombrack plays Mother Courage in a performance of Mother Courage and Her Children in fall 2012 at Westhoff Theatre. (Photo by Peter Guither)

A Friends of the Arts grant helped acting and theatre education senior Abby Vombrack unlock opportunities for herself and Illinois State University’s theatre program.

Vombrack and fellow acting major David Fisch received the grant in order to take their production of Bertolt Brecht’s play Mother Courage and Her Children to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (Region 3) held in January in Michigan.

Vombrack, a Buffalo Grove native, recently spoke about why she chose theater, the festival, and her burgeoning acting career.

Why did you get into theater?

When I was 5 my sister (Kara Vombrack ’10) decided she was going to try out for a production of The Music Man around our neighborhood in the summer. And I never liked The Music Man; I had never done anything with it. But because she was doing it, I decided I was going to try out too, even though I was like three years under their age limit. So I just went to the audition. I messed up my audition song and I blew raspberries and started over. And I got in. And since then I’ve just been doing theater.

Why did you come to Illinois State University?

Initially (I came to ISU) because they have pretty much the best theater education program in the nation. And it just happened that I decided my freshman year to add on a double major with acting so that I could be trained as an actor so I could train my students as actors. But what has come out of it is all of these different options in terms of if I want to be a teacher in a school setting, if I want to teach in a theater setting, if I want to do acting as my full-time job. But ultimately it started because they are so well-known for theater education.

Tell me a little bit about the project for which you got the Friends of the Arts grant, your role in the project, and what was the forum for the project?

We did Mother Courage and Her Children, and I was lucky enough to play Mother Courage, which was super exciting, almost unbelievable. Luckily we got accepted to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). And every year there are universities who bring their plays or musicals and do them so everyone at the festival has an opportunity to see them. And I know Illinois State hasn’t done it for a really long time, so this was a really good opportunity for us to get out there. I think we were the final performance in the festival, which is a really good slot, and it’s very flattering.

Why did you choose Mother Courage and Her Children?

We had talked about it a little with our director because it was just such a great opportunity. Our show just felt like something really unique and really special. We had all originally composed music. And it’s a really hard show, and we really worked a lot on it. And it seemed like a great time to bring ISU back to doing our shows at KCACTF. We thought, What a great opportunity for people to see ISU, see the theater. Because we have an amazing theater program and I don’t think everyone is always aware of that as much as we would want them to be. But definitely, I’m 100 percent sure of it that going to Michigan and doing this project there has been beneficial to us who were in it, to those involved, and also to everyone who watched it. Now they know about the play; they know about our program. We are on the map in a new way.

Why was the Friends of the Arts grant important?

Well, honestly without it, I don’t think we would have been able to take this project and reap all the benefits and get ISU’s name out there and build a community around this project.

What projects are you working on now?

What is really funny is because we did Mother Courage in Michigan I’ve personally had a lot cool projects stem from it. I won an award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress for my work in it. Also, afterwards, the director of the festival—his name is Gregg Henry—asked me to come to Washington, D.C., to be an actor in their playwrights’ workshop festival. So I don’t know if that would have happened if I didn’t get to go. Besides that, I’m going to head back to ISU in the fall. And I’m going to be auditioning for some of the shows. Along with I’ll be directing a one-act at University High School as part of the capstone for my major.

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