By Amanda Stoll / Photography by Craig Stocks
Charles Killen has had a passion for the stage for as long as he can remember, beginning when he was only five years old in a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” From the time of his first stage performance until now, Charles has continued and strengthened his involvement in theatre wherever life takes him.
Originally from Springfield, Illinois, Charles was involved in theatre through his youth and high school years. Charles appeared in another production of the “Wizard of Oz,” playing the part of the Cowardly Lion. He also participated in shows such as “Peter Pan”, “The Wiz,” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at The Muni, an outdoor theatre in Springfield.
Double majoring in business finance as well as speech communications and theatre arts during his time at Eureka College allowed Charles to strengthen his knowledge of theatre as well as become more intimately involved with productions. He was involved with every show possible in his four years there and took classes on all aspects of theatre, including directing.
After graduation, Charles moved to Chicago for a short time to pursue a job with the Social Security Administration, and continued to be involved in community theatre. His job then brought him back to central Illinois, where he works as a work-in-centers coordinator in Peoria.
Getting immediately involved in local theatre at the Pekin Playhouse, Charles continued to follow his passion for theatre. His involvement in numerous local theatre groups has continued for over 20 years. He has been serving on the board of directors at Peoria Players for the past six years, and continues to be active on and off stage. “I just really enjoy all different aspects of it,” he said. “I really like to invest myself in a project and help in any way I can.”
“We have a lot of talent in the Peoria area,” said Charles. “There’s community theatre for the children, Bradley theatre, and ICC theatre. And the community supports it. It’s a great place to be doing community theatre.”
As a director, Charles relies on the local artists and builders with whom he works to make his productions come to life. “They put my vision together,” he said. “It’s difficult to have the concept for a production, and then not have a compatible set.”
Set design has become an integral part of his work in local community theatre, working with carpenters and local artists to make the sets come alive. During some shows he is on stage and some he is behind the scenes, but he has found his true passion in directing. “The stage is my canvas,” he said.
“I like directing the most because my hand touches every single part of it,” Charles explained. “And I’m able to, once the show opens, sit back and just relax. Like painting a picture and then just looking at it.”
Charles plans to continue his involvement with theatre wherever life brings him. “One way or another I’m going to continue this,” he said. “I know it will always be my passion, and that’s really what’s important to me anyway.”
Most of his work in community theatre is as a volunteer, putting in countless hours for each and every show in which he is involved. “You’re not going to get rich doing it, but you are enriched by doing it, and that’s what’s important I think.”
Learn more about the upcoming productions at the various theatre websites, including www.peoriaplayers.org, www.cornstocktheatre.com, eastlighttheatre.com and www.barn2.com. Also, be sure to visit www.artspartners.net and sign up for their free newsletter to keep informed about all of the productions coming to Central Illinois.