By Amanda Stoll / Photography by Craig Stocks
For Mike Reams, acting has been a hobby and a passion since his first show as a child. Despite school and work he has always found a way to fill his extra time with productions.
Mike was born and raised in Peoria and attended college at Bradley University. He got involved as a young child in a production of “Oliver” with The Youth Theatre, a community children’s theatre group at the time.
He stayed involved in community theatre throughout middle and high school. In high school he was part of multiple productions, including “Anything Goes” and “Dames at Sea.” Between shows and during summers he acted in shows at Corn Stock Theatre and Peoria Players Theatre.
While attending Bradley University as an English major, Mike was very involved with the Bradley Theatre program. At the time, the BU theatre worked alongside Opera Illinois and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra to put on large shows, which provided college students the opportunity to work with professionals in shows like “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Sound of Music.”
After graduation, Mike worked as a catalogue editor at Foster & Gallagher doing catalogue editing and later at Peoria Zoo as a visitor services coordinator. He later moved to Chicago, only to return 2 years later to be close to his friends and family.
One of his two brothers lives in the area as well as his parents. He enjoys spending time with them and taking bicycle rides on the Rock Island Trail in his free time.
Most of Mike’s time is spent at his job as an insurance underwriter for The Wyman Group and doing productions. He has performed in around 150 shows including “The Producers” and “Next to Normal,” which were two of his favorite shows.
He described his role as Max in “The Producers” as the most fun because it was “such a funny and high energy show.” In contrast, his most challenging role was in “Next to Normal,” which was a very serious show full of emotion for both the cast and the audience.
“I like the idea that it takes a group of people all working together in their own respective fields,” said Mike. “It’s a whole group of people coming together to put on a show, to put on something that is happening right now.”
“You’re putting on a show for that group of people in that auditorium at that moment in time, and I think that’s the beauty of live theatre,” he said.
Mike said he loves the spontaneity, control and flexibility of live performance and the ability to feed off energy and “tailor your performance to the audience.”
Describing the relationship with the people he works with on shows as “family-like”, Mike enjoys both the new faces and familiar ones. He knows the amount of time and energy each and every one of them put into shows outside of their own lives and jobs and knows “they are doing it just for the fun of it.”
Mike has also dabbled in directing, having done about a dozen shows including “Dames at Sea” at Corn Stock Theatre and “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Peoria Players Theatre, which was his favorite show to direct.
Look for Mike in the upcoming production of “The Musical of Musicals,” which will open March 8th at The Waterhouse in downtown Peoria.