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Actress stars on stage in Jackalope’s ‘The Casuals’

WHEATON – When she was a student at Wheaton North High School, Emily Casey caught “the acting bug.” Now she is starring in a new production called “The Casuals” at the Jackalope Theatre in Chicago.

The play follows Richard Hughes, a once-beloved military radio host who in 1955 must walk the “thin line between a past he’s spent 15 years covering up and a profession that demands ultimate secrecy.” Casey plays Marnie, Hughes’s doe-eyed and innocent secretary.

Reporter Nathan Lurz recently interviewed Casey to discuss her latest role.

Lurz: You spent some time in New York doing theater. What is the Chicago area scene like?

Casey: It’s very different. It’s different than New York, it’s different than L.A., it’s different than Minneapolis ... each city has a different scene and the Chicago theater culture is really exciting to me and it’s been really awesome to be a part of it. There’s a lot of cool work – some place like New York, you feel like people are doing some things to be famous or be the next big thing or get their names out there. That they’re using a show to get a break. In Chicago, companies like Jackalope Theatre are doing new, interesting work because they like it and no other reason than that.

Lurz: Why did you decide to do this production?

Casey: I actually got invited to do a workshop for the play. We met with the director and writers and ironed out some of the kinks, then I was invited to audition for the part I workshopped. It’s exciting to get something new. The show that I did before this with The Hypocrites company was “Pirates of Penzance,” which of course is a very old play. So it was fun to get to work on something completely new with these exciting new playwrights.

Lurz: So, what’s the play about? And what drove you to the play other than it being new?

Casey: The play is about secrets. It’s set in the 1950s and what drew me to it was this idea that secrets exist in many different relationships. This play specifically deals with the secrets the government keeps from us and the trickle-down effect of that. The question that it raises is if you are doing someone a service and protecting them by keeping secrets from them. It’s an interesting question for me – is full honesty always the best route? And this play explores that.

Lurz: Sounds a lot like some of the current national controversy with the National Security Agency and its seizure of phone records.

Casey: It’s amazing how scenes from decades before us are relevant today. I think a lot of times its easier for us to explore our current situation by way of these fictional situations.

Lurz: You mentioned catching the acting bug while in high school at Wheaton North. What makes acting so appealing to you?

Casey: I think what really appeals to me is the ability to tell a story. It’s something humans want to do – we want to connect, we want to share stories and hear stories and tell stories and being an actor is an opportunity to do that. I think it’s really special.

Lurz: What did your time in Wheaton growing up mean to you?

Casey: It was a great, fun place to grow up and really fortunate that Chicago is so close by. I still feel very connected to the place I grew up. The idea that somebody who inspired me, or taught me, or directed a play that I was in or was just a part of my journey in my career can come and see me in a play is really fun. I still have younger siblings in Wheaton North and I come back from time to time and go see a sports game or go see a play and it really brings back a lot of great memories.

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