"The doors were all loosely boarded up and they led to all different
ways to escape the police when they raided the place," says Bryan.
"Definite signs of a speakeasy. You could escape into three different
storefronts, into the alley, down into the basement and then up the
steps into an apartment building. And from the balcony, which is now our
control booth, you could quietly ease into a hallway and head toward an
elevator in the same building as if you'd never been there."
So you are in an old ballroom, turned speakeasy, that over the years had
gone to seed and been forgotten --hidden inside a horseshoe-shaped
building. Now what? Besides a lot of hard work. "You have an adventure,"
Bryan answers, "in getting to know the place."
He had to convert the ballroom into a theater. He had to clean out the
labyrinth of a basement, which the troupe uses for prop storage and
"It took us a year and a half to clear out the basement and we are not
really done yet,' says Bryan. "Early in the clean-out we had a big work
party just before our first opening and we were making jokes that
`There's so much old junk down here, there's got to be a dead body
somewhere in this mess.'
"That was the standing joke, so one night late we were working and this
one girl was over in the corner, clearing out some very old, decaying
movie posters and she lifted some of it up and suddenly we heard her
scream. We ran over and she'd collapsed into a sitting position on the
floor staring at something--it was a human skull. Everyone stepped back
for a minute and then we slowly picked it up and one of the teeth fell
out and bounced on the floor.
"We all jumped. The rest of the night we spent looking for the rest of
the bones. Only later did we find a label on the back of the skull that
said `Property of Loyola University.' So we knew nobody got murdered--at
least there. We kept the skull and named her Betty. She was a prop in
our first play. Betty now resides in our office."
It really was once the theater got set up that Bryan felt the magic of
the place, an energy that perhaps stayed locked in all those ye
the presence of ghosts, as he claims. Merry ones, playful, who enjoy the
company during theater hours but have a better time when the place is
empty and they are left to their own devices. [continued]