Photo is courtesy of LaJuana Taylor/CityPulse Columbus.
Fully aware that it can sometimes be tough to make a living in theatre, Lane Schlicher, Wittenberg class of 2017, found the perfect blend.
Working at Nationwide Insurance during the day, Schlicher took on a part-time gig as an assistant producer at the Evolution Theatre Company in Columbus, Ohio. Originally from Springfield, Schlicher has a passion for theatre and took it on as a major at Wittenberg.
“I knew I wanted to get more experience in theatre after graduating, but wanted to make a stable living while doing so,” he said. “When I moved to Columbus, I became a manager at a mental health facility, and now I am a claims associate at Nationwide. My passion led me to the Evolution Theatre Company. When I first graduated, I attempted to move out to L.A. and become a full-time actor. Unfortunately, it just wasn't a good time for me, so I ended up moving to Columbus instead. For me, Columbus is the best mix between theatre and work life.”
Schlicher has acted in two productions for the Evolution Theatre Company and for other companies in the area. Most recently, he was one of two directors for the Rainbow Wave, Local Playwrights Festival that was supposed to run from April 15-25 at the Van Fleet Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center. The event was later cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, most of his theatre projects are currently on hold due to the health crisis as with most arts-related endeavors nationally.
“Being a production assistant means overseeing every aspect in a theatrical production,” said Schlicher, who was a resident advisor, a member of both the East Asian Studies Club, and the Anime Club at Wittenberg. “The cast and crew rely on you for almost everything. It can be a daunting task, but luckily, the theatre community in Columbus is filled with some of the most hard-working people I've ever met in my life, so it feels like a collaborative effort rather than a dictatorship. I have acted in many shows since moving to Columbus. Mostly, at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, and MadLab Theatre. Being able to act alongside such amazing professionals is so encouraging. I would like to move into being a full-time actor eventually, but this suits me for right now.”
Schlicher was going to be directing The President’s Son by Lucien Munroe and The Body Politic by Cory Skurdal in the Rainbow Wave, Local Playwrights Festival, a festival of plays about LGBTQ+ in politics and government.
“The Rainbow Wave Playwrights Festival was a concept that my executive director, Mark Phillips Schwamberger, came up with,” Schlicher said. “He wanted to showcase more local playwright talent from the Columbus community. I also directed another locally written play called Beneath the Stars by Meghan Tarney at MadLab's high school playwright's festival. Working on locally written shows is amazing to me, because you are always able to bring in the playwright for more feedback. I had a similar experience at Wittenberg when I acted in a show called Careless Love.”
In his first professional show, Schlicher was asked to play a half-naked alien. In most cases, being half-naked on stage would have frightened him, but because of Wittenberg, he was not intimidated.
“Luckily, I performed in my underwear during a show at Wittenberg called Asylum, directed by theatre grad Dylan George, and became more comfortable with my body as a result,” he said. “The show was a comedy and took place in the early 1900s. It explored the idea of learning to accept those that are different than you.
“Wittenberg was very beneficial to me,” he added. “I learned more about the craft of acting, and how to maneuver in the professional theatre world in terms of getting auditions and making the right connections. With the liberal arts mindset, I had the knowledge of other areas of study that I could incorporate into my craft. Playing a scientist that needs to know science is much easier now that I've taken Bio 180, but for the sanity of the science professors at Witt, I promise to never take a science class again. Learning about social issues in the classes of professors Brooke Wagner and Nancy McHugh, encouraged me to tell more stories of those discriminated against, and usually not performed on a stage.”
Schlicher’s second professional show was Who Killed Joan Crawford?, a comedy/murder mystery, where he had to wear a dress and walk in heels for the first time. He enjoyed working with such local actors as Ralph Scott, David Vargo, Frank Barnhart, and David Bahgat.
“Working on this show was a dream come true; it was made up of some of the most talented actors in Columbus,” he said. “It was was so well received that many audience members would recognize me out in public and want my autograph, or they would buy drinks for me at the bar. I've played a couple of minor roles here and there in various theatres across Columbus, but those two roles have been my favorite outside of Wittenberg so far.
Wittenberg’s program “left the biggest impact on me, not only as a career choice, but also personally,” he added. “I would not be where I am today without Corwin Georges, Patrick Reynolds, Jason Podplesky, Debbie Henderson, the dancing instruction of Shih-Ming Li Chang and Christeen Stridsberg, and the incredible Jimmy Humphries.
“Theatre connects every major at Wittenberg in one form or another....You learn about your insecurities and how to overcome them. You learn about how theatre has always played a role throughout history as we know it, and how it can be used to combat social injustice today. You would only get this kind of well-rounded education at Wittenberg. So much talent has come through that little black box and will continue to do so. Everything you see on that stage: the lights, the set, the costumes, the choreography, and makeup are all done by students under the amazing leadership of the faculty. Every professional I've come across in my life has some kind of history with the arts, and it can lead to a great networking conversation. In no other area of study, can you truly learn what it means to be yourself.”