We are overjoyed to announce the hiring of Lifeline’s new production manager, Ben Dawson. Ben comes to us from The Goodman Theatre where he served as Scene Shop Foreman for the past two years. He is also a company member and production manager at Sideshow Theater Company and the technical director at American Theater Company.
Ben grew up in southeastern Massachussetts, where his family still lives. His interest in carpentry began with his grandfather and he learned to build at a young age, but did not anticipate how this would eventually be applied. In high school, the big guys were occasionally asked to go over to the theater department to move the heavy scenery around, but this was Ben’s only intersection with theater.
Enter Ms. Starkie, whom Ben describes as a great English teacher (who also happened to be the drama teacher). Ms. Starkie often gave her students a choice between writing papers and producing videos. From the videos, she identified talent and in this way Ben found himself playing Mr. Mushnik in the high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Ben planned to be a marine biologist and he chose the University of Rhode Island for its strength in this department. Once there, he was required to get a fine arts credit as part of his general education and he chose theater because he enjoyed his high school experience. Soon, Ben was at the theater department all the time – either in the play or building the play – as well as getting work- study jobs in the costume shop and in the box office. As much as he liked marine biology, Ben wanted the culture of theater – and the gratification that comes with creating a product that someone is coming to pay to see. Chemistry classes were interesting – but they didn’t seem fruitful in comparison. He finished with a double major in Theater (performance and technical), with a minor in Marine Biology.
After graduation, Ben moved to Sarasota Florida with a friend and worked at Florida Studio Theater and numerous other theaters in the area as well as serving as technical director for the local high school theater program. Deciding to further improve his marketability, Ben went to grad school at Florida State while spending summers at Utah Shakespeare Festival and later Santa Fe Opera. Post grad school, Ben put his tiny Florida convertible in the back of a moving truck with his other belongings and moved to Los Angeles, where he spent a couple years in television. He started as a production assistant, moved up to carpenter…to lead carpenter…to assistant art directing and was soon art directing his own TV shows. Among his favorites was Worst Case Scenario with Bear Grylls, for which he got to ride on top of an elevator, blow up a UPS truck, simulate an earthquake and work with (very well trained) attack dogs.
This was fun too. But after awhile, Ben missed theater. He had numerous friends in Chicago (coming here from both Rhode Island and Florida), he’s a big baseball fan and he had enjoyed his visits here. Ben’s been in Chicago for two years now and is still marveling at what a small world it is as he reconnects with more and more people from his past lives in other theater locations. We are thrilled to have Ben and his many talents join the team at Lifeline Theatre.