By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor (Courtesy photo/Cherish Parker)
Cherish Parker graduated with a bachelor in theatre arts from OBU in 2017 and currently stage manages for On the Spot Theatre Company in Chicago, IL.
According to their website, “On the Spot Theatre Company was created in 2003 by Mike Brayndick to develop and stage new plays for performance ‘on the spot’ in a variety of venues.”
The theatre company uses a variety of collaborative techniques to create the new works they perform in various spaces around Chicago.
According to On the Spot Theatre Company’s web-page, “The process sometimes involves improvisation to get at the quick of a scene, the backstory of a character, or the nub of a relationship.”
Parker has been working for On the Spot Theatre Company for the past several months.
“I was hired to be the stage manager for their production of Brick Wall before I even moved to Chicago,” Parker said.
“A little while after that, the stage manager fell through for their production of This, That and the Other Thing, which is running at the same time as Brick Wall. Because the director had already spoken with me about my previous experience, he offered me that job as well. So currently I am stage managing two shows at the same time. They open this weekend for a five-week run.”
The collaborative and improvisational nature of the company fits in well with Parker’s own approach to theatre.
“Improv has really shaped my scripted performances,” Parker said. “Something about being free on stage to say the first thing that comes to my mind really gave me the confidence to make bold and interesting choices on stage.”
Her interest in theatre and improvisation began early in life.
“I started doing theatre in high school,” Parker said. “I was a very shy kid. You know, one of the outcasts. My cousin recommended theatre as an elective, saying it could help get me out of my shell. I’ve loved improv since I was a kid. I would watch ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ and say, ‘One day, that’ll be me!’”
She became involved in an improv troupe while still in high school.
“I didn’t put much effort into comedy until my senior year of high school,” Parker said.“Homemade Fireworks, NSU’s improv group, was having auditions and my best friend and I decided to go together. Much to my surprise, they accepted me into the group as their first ever high school member.”
When she came to OBU, she found out that there was not an improv troupe on campus. This discovery led to the creation of Festival of Fools Improv Troupe.
“Starting Festival of Fools was honestly one of the most stressful, but rewarding experiences of my college career,” Parker said. “To be honest, I was definitely in over my head, and I wasn’t entirely sure it would be successful. It wasn’t until later, when more and more students started to attend our shows, that I realized we had created a pretty great team.”
Parker’s time at OBU gave her the tools she needed for a successful career after college.
“My experience at OBU taught me that theatre and improv are about community,” Parker said. “If you want to be successful, you have to work hard and treat people well. OBU really shaped my career because we had such a tiny theatre department. Everyone in the department played a major role in each production, whether it was design, management or public relations. So, because I had so much hands-on experience in stage management, I was able to confidently go after stage management jobs as soon as I was out of college.”
Parker’s love and enthusiasm for theatre is obvious.
“Theatre is a large part of my life because there’s just something special about it,” she said. “In a lot of ways, it’s the most inclusive art form. It connects people and brings awareness to things that many people may not otherwise discuss.”
These relationships and connections are what made her current work in Chicago possible.
“After graduating from OBU I really wanted to continue doing comedy, so I took some classes from OKC Improv,” she said. “Luckily, because of my previous experience, they let me start at Level 3. It was nice to learn other perspectives after I had been teaching improv at OBU for so long. Plus I met a lot of fantastic people, some of whom knew people in Chicago they connected me to.”
For Parker, the relationships she’s made and experiences she’s had, both at OBU and elsewhere, have allowed her to begin working successfully as a stage manager in the Chicago theatre market.