North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

Niles North High School | Skokie, IL

North Star News

David Solotke, Auditorium manager

Photo credited to David Solotke
Photo credited to David Solotke

Where did you go to college? I went to Illinois State University. And I got my degree in theater education there. And then I did grad school at Roosevelt University in the city

What started your love for theatre? I’ve always loved storytelling. When I was growing up, I, you know, I just liked telling stories, making jokes, doing impressions, all that stuff. When I was in eighth grade, I had a couple of friends who were taking classes at Pitt in theater. And then they invited me to their, like, final showcase day. And I thought it was cool. So I immediately signed up for classes and fell in love with it. And then I started taking acting classes in high school, worked on shows, and auditioned for shows and my love grew from there.

What is your job at Niles North? I am the auditorium manager here at North. And so what that means is, for all of the theater productions, and Aurorus, I oversee the auditorium, and I lead the stage crew in set construction. I’m working with Miss Baskin, who is the director, and with the other people that we’ve brought in, to be designers, you know, whether it’s for lights, sound, costumes, props. So I work with all of them and make sure that everything is done on time, make sure that everything is done. on budget, right, and making sure that everybody’s needs are met. Outside of that, you know, anytime there’s an event in the auditorium, whether it’s a music concert, college meeting, assembly, anything that happens in there, it’s my job to make sure that it happens, right? So, between scheduling between making sure that the space is put paired, and making sure that the lights turn on. Right, making sure that the microphone works. It’s my job to do all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Favorite part about your job? My favorite part is crew and getting to work with students. And I’m not just saying that because you’re sitting right here. You know, my degree is in theater education, right? So I knew when I went to college, and when I started working, that I ultimately wanted to be working with students. And so school time is sacred for me because it’s time to actually connect with students and work on a project together

Which part of theatre do you love working with the most? Lighting, sound, scenic, costumes, etc. So I love everything for different reasons. I love the lighting. And using this abstract concept, to evoke a feeling or bring about specific imagery that moves an audience. I love set construction. I also like playing with mics, EQing, and all of that stuff. I was a stage manager professionally for a little bit out of college. And so that has a special place in my heart too. If you couldn’t tell I love everything. 

Favourite show? So my favorite show is Our Town. It’s arguably the greatest American play ever written. It takes place at the turn of the 20th century in a small town called Grover’s Corners in New Hampshire. Act one is a day in the life in this town. And so it’s all of these ordinary activities, right? No big deal, just a regular average day. Act Two is a wedding of two characters that we saw in Act One who have a connection with each other. Right? So we juxtapose the most basic normal day with this incredibly important day. And then act three. The wife has passed away and it is the day of her funeral. And so we see the funeral. And then she, in the afterlife, is not ready to break her connection with the world around her. And so she wants to go back and relive a moment in her life. And there’s a character ironically named the stage manager, who functions like a narrator and a guide through everything. The stage manager advises her against it, and all of the other souls do. But she decides to go back anyway. And is devastated by the reality that she threw her life away by not taking the time to appreciate the little things. And, you know, has this discovery that life moves so incredibly quickly. And yet, we spend so much of our time in misery, the misery of our own making, by choosing to dwell on the negative by choosing to be upset about the things that aren’t right. That in the moment, feels like they’re the end of the world, but in the grand scheme of things nothing, right? So that would be my favorite play. Also, it has no set no props. It’s and it’s specifically written that way. So that you focus on this idea of the characters and the interactions and just appreciate the simplicity of what that is and the depth of what that is.

Favourite musical? Hamilton. I was a history minor, and I also studied history education. So the fact that this story of the founding of our nation has become such, like a cultural touchstone. And that so many people have learned so much about the founding of the United States. And its infancy from this show. makes me happy. I think that the way that the story is told, through movement through lyrics through lighting through the light, the overall construction of the story is phenomenal. I, when I went in, I went in not knowing anything, like I knew, I knew that the show was about Alexander Hamilton. But I purposefully avoided listening to any of the music. And at this point, it was already like a huge deal. And I sat there. And I just was like jaw dropped the entire time. Because moment after moment, after moment after moment, it absolutely blew me away. And the whole notion of legacy. And the whole notion of who tells your story and what your story means when you’re gone. is so deep. And frankly, it’s something that I think a lot more people need to be thinking about. Right? And when we’re making choices, not just routing those choices in the immediate Quick Fix satisfaction at this moment, but how are the choices that I’m making, actually impacting people around me? Not just in this moment, but for days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Favourite show you have worked on? The first show I stage-managed in the city, was a solo show called I Am My Own Wife. And it’s about a German trans woman who survives both the Nazis and the Soviets and creates this kind of haven for the LGBTQ community in these incredibly repressive regimes. I had such a strong connection with the director and with the one actor and it was such an intimate show, you know, the theater we did it in had 30 seats. Yeah. And so it was special. It was, I mean, the show did very well. And it was a cool experience to be a part of, one of my favorite shows I’ve worked on.

How was your experience at Niles North in the first weeks here? Working on Auroris, I feel welcome, the students in Auroris and crew are fantastic and I’m excited to be here and dig into everything. It’s wonderful being here and getting to know everybody and seeing the love that everyone has both for each other and for the work because that makes a huge difference.

Other cool places/theatres you’ve worked at? Did some summer stock at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, which was fun. And it’s a completely different environment because you have three shows that are rotating with each other. And so as the stage manager for one show, you know, I’m working hard when we’re in rehearsal, and we’re balancing everything. And then once we get to performances, I have two performances a week. Because the other shows are in rotation. And so getting to be with a company for that long and be with the same group of people who are all you know, we’re all like, condensed in this one area, we’re all sharing housing, we’re all we’re all living the same life. That was fun. And then, for the same company that I did, or my wife, we did a big river, which is the musical version of Huck Finn. And we did it again, in a theater that helped like 30 people. So trying to do a full musical in a space like that. You know, we had to pay things back. The scenery was pretty minimal. The band was a banjo player, an upright bass player, a horn player, and a fiddle, and they were on stage. And just like the way that everybody works together to tell the story, it was really powerful.

Favourite food, and favorite dish to cook? You know, I’m gonna be really basic. I love pizza. I love pizza so much that I could live off of pizza. I don’t cook very often, I find cooking stressful. But if I were to make something I would love to make a Mexican dish, probably something like enchiladas or serve up stuff like a taco bar or something like that.

Do you have an artist statement? My job is to illuminate the world. Entertainingly and compassionately. So that others can learn more about themselves and the world around them.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Working in the storefront theater scene in Chicago, you learn how to do a lot with very limited resources. And it is really, like a lot of people can look at and be like, well, I can’t do anything in this space. Right. But really, it’s an invitation to creativity. Like there’s no such thing as a problem. There’s only a creative solution. My high school theater teacher taught me that and those are words that I’ve lived by. Limits force creativity. You know, if I were to say you could design anything that you wanted to, and I just left it at that, it would be really easy to get lost in like, oh my god, is this the right choice? Is this the right choice? But if I do this, that I get rid of this, right, and but if you’re already given those constraints, then it becomes about telling the story, the most effective in the most effective way that you can, knowing what your limitations are, knowing what your resources are.

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About the Contributor
Ivan Shalaev, Reporter
Ivan is a senior at Niles North. Ivan is a part of six music ensembles at school and is also involved in theater.

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