Aly Amidei is one of the busiest, most sought-after women in show business and we are honored that she accepted our invitation to join the Lifeline artistic ensemble. Aly is both a writer and a designer and has designed costumes for Lifeline productions of Watership Down, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Woman in White and (upcoming this spring) The Three Musketeers. She is also a company member at Strawdog Theatre, the artistic director of WildClaw Theater and is the Costume and Makeup Coordinator for student theater and dance productions at the College of DuPage, where she also teaches part-time (classes in makeup and in theater appreciation).
Aly’s first show at Lifeline was in 2011, but we have been following her career for years prior — and she’s been aware of Lifeline for too. The first show she saw here was The Mark of Zorro, but she has heard many Lifeline tales from her husband Brian who appeared in The Killer Angels, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King at Lifeline before she had met him.
Aly’s path to theater could be viewed as random coincidence…or perhaps as destiny. Aly grew up in the northwest suburbs. Her family spent every weekend at the go-cart track, where her dad and sister raced go-carts and she and her mom worked at the track. Aly was interested in science, played sports and began sewing at the age of four. Aly is tall, her sister is taller and they required clothes for tall, athletic girls. “Forget about buying a prom dress,” Aly explains, “we would just ‘Hulk, smash!’ store-bought clothes. So we just made our own.”
Aly was exposed to Chicago theater in high school. In her sophomore year, Aly worked at the Dairy Queen with a comic book store next door. Trading ice cream for comic books, she became an avid fan of the horror genre and particularly of Clive Barker. Imagine her ecstasy when she learned that the Organic Theater in Chicago would produce In the Flesh, a Clive Barker adaptation. She couldn’t drive yet, but wrangled a friend’s dad into driving them to see the preview benefit hosted by Clive Barker himself. This was the first show Aly had ever paid to see — and she still has the signed poster.
It turns out that In the Flesh was an important production in many ways. It was the genesis for the eventual founding of WildClaw Theatre. It featured Ray Wild in the cast (the actor for whom WildClaw is named) and fellow WildClaw ensemble members Charley Sherman, Steve Herson, Paul Foster and Aly’s now-husband Brian Amidei were all involved in that production. Aly’s Chicago family was already waiting for her and she didn’t know it yet.
Aly intended to be a scientist when she grew up and in her junior year was in a small AP Bio class which got to take a lot of field trips with their science teacher — who was also a theater geek. So when AP Bio took a trip to Chicago to tour a Water Reclamation Plant, they also stayed to see The Man of La Mancha, or paired a morning at Fermi-lab with an afternoon matinee of Annie Warbucks (the sequel to Annie… you heard me). Her interest in theater (as an audience member) continued to grow. But the idea of participating creatively had still not occurred to her.
Aly went to Knox College, three hours from Chicago with an eye to their science programs. Since she’d AP-ed out of all the freshman classes, Aly was left with little to do in her freshman year so she took some electives, one of which was painting. She liked art and thought perhaps she could combine her science and art interests and become a medical illustrator. But fate once again raised its hand. The resident assistant in Aly’s dorm was a costume designer in the theater department. When she discovered that Aly could sew, she got her a job in the costume shop. This was the first time it occurred to Aly that there were jobs in theater. And since she wasn’t taking any major classes her freshman year, she was absorbed into the theater department and then never left it. She tried acting and did not find it exciting. But the costume stuff? The tech stuff? All her interests converged here — her science geek passion for problem-solving, for using materials in new ways — these were muscles she could flex in theater.
Aly almost went to Champaign-Urbana instead of Knox and marvels at how her life might have been different. It feels unlikely that she’d have stumbled into theater at such a large school. “Would I have been happy as a biologist?” she asks herself. “I do still love science, but . . . now I can write about it!”
Aly writes a lot. About ten years ago she started writing some Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction. Then Hank Boland at Strawdog began a program called Wireless and Aly helped generate content for that, creating radio plays with Chris Hainsworth, Anita Deely, Sean Mallary, Andy Lawfer, John Henry Roberts and Mike Dailey in what became known as The Hit Factory. Aly created a comic book character, Stella Stargirl (whom she also featured in some radio plays as well as her comic books). Her first full-length adaptation was Carmilla with WildClaw, which was chosen for production in early 2011 at the Department of Cultural Affairs Storefront Theater where it received glowing reviews.
Aly looks forward to writing for Lifeline. She is eyeballing our KidSeries as a first foray and is excited about participating in Lifeline’s script development process, which she has closely observed as a designer here. She also looks forward to continuing to design. She finds designing for an adaptation particularly fun because you have access to all this extra information from the book, rather than having just the script alone to mine. As the designer she can pick and choose where she wants to put her own stamp on things and fight against people’s expectations — and where she has the opportunity to make fans happy with little insider touches that no one who hasn’t read the books would know. For The Count of Monte Cristo it was fun to exactly replicate the description of Edmond Dantes’ costume from the book. But it was also thrilling to struggle through the interpretive challenges of Watership Down, which she names as the hardest and most exciting thing she did all last year.
On a personal note, Aly met her future husband, Brian, at Strawdog Theatre in 2005. She was hired as an emergency last minute replacement costume designer for Impossible Marriage and Brian was an emergency last minute replacement to play the part of the randy Reverend. They bonded over the Chicago Bears, author James Lee Burke (the Dave Robicheaux series) and New Orleans. Brian made a pass on opening night and the rest, as they say, is history.
Aly’s next project at Lifeline will be the costume design for this spring’s The Three Musketeers. We are proud and happy to welcome her as a new ensemble member of Lifeline Theatre.