Theater On The Move, a subsidiary of Better Entertainment Enterprises, (BEE) celebrates over 30 years of providing entertainment in the Southwest area,
Productions are under the direction of Susan Pagels (Beverly) who began her professional theater career at age 10 performing at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park. After securing a degree from ISU to teach theater arts she returned to the Chicago area working the professional dinner theater circuit. Recognizing the need for a professional training center for children in the arts on Chicago’s Southside, she founded, Better Entertainment Enterprises (BEE) in 1977 and incorporated it not-for-profit in 1978. BEE operated as a touring company until 1984 when a performance and training center (Bethel Performing Art Center) was established in Evergreen Park. Catherine Kogut-Simon, from the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Lithuanian Opera and Lira Singers, came on board to offer her musical expertise to the training center. The space was a four room parochial school building, about to be demolished, when BEE took it over. Untold hours of volunteer labor and contributions brought it up to fire code and made it a cozy black box theater. After 10 years of continuous productions, BEE found it was bursting at the seams and with the kind support from its members and numerous area businesses moved to "Struggles Dinner Playhouse", a much larger space in Merrionette Park.
The ink was not dry on the lease when pipes bursts in the building, flooding the basement and causing several weeks delay in construction. Despite this obstacle, volunteers worked day and night to create a 300 seat dinner-theater with food services provided by their top supporter, Papa Joe’s restaurant in Oak Lawn. BEE, operated successfully for several years as Struggles Dinner Playhouse until once again, BEE incurred a name change, and became, “Theater On The Move”, traveling to spaces in Crestwood, Alsip, Blue Island and for the past number of years Morgan Park Academy’s stage and Smith Village Senior Center. Since its inception, BEE has provided an opportunity for people in the Chicago metropolitan area to partake in live theater programs.
The Company has produced over two hundred full-scale comedies, dramas and musicals. Two original educational children’s productions were also performed for over six hundred Chicago and suburban public schools and the theater also sponsored two citywide talent competitions and workshops in the theater arts to local Girl Scout Troops. During its thirty years of operation, it has trained 1000 area children with varying abilities and diverse backgrounds, many of whom have gone on to perform professionally and even on Broadway,
In addition to seeking the truly talented artist, youths that are emotionally, physically and socially disadvantaged have been given the opportunity to work in a theater environment by BEE. Students from the Pride Alternative School in Oak Lawn and Aunt Martha’s in Chicago are among the groups that have been targeted in the past. Senior citizens have also been welcomed members of many casts and stage crews. Through their training with BEE, these members gained a sense of fulfillment and the confidence to perform in other theaters in the Chicago area. Theater On The Move wishes to say a special thank you to all the small businesses in the area that have so graciously sponsored the program and made it possible for it to survive for area children for so many years.