Theater director ‘livin’ the life’
Updated: October 1, 2012 9:14AM
GLENVIEW — Keith Gerth, a 10-year Northbrook resident, appreciates his college accounting degree, but today he finds himself loving life as executive and artistic director of Oil Lamp Theater, which opens its fall season Sept. 27 in downtown Glenview.
“I’m livin’ the dream,” said Gerth, who has three children with his wife Carole. “It can’t be any better than it is.”
Becca, 21, and Sara, 17, are both in college. Maddy, 14, is a Glenbrook North High School freshman.
The Sept. 27 opening run of “Sylvia,” a romantic comedy about a man and his dog, by A.R. Gurney, follows sell-out nights of the “Summertime Livin’ Easy” production.
It’s this kind of theater that lights Gerth’s world, (not counting the umpteen candles superseding footlights).
“We probably go through about 60-70 tea candles a night and about a dozen tapers,” said Gerth.
Homemade cookies are famous here at 1723 Glenview Road.
“The cookies are so important because they enhance the intimacy of the experience,” he said. “It’s good comfort. Chocolate cookies go great with red wine …”
Speaking of deep reds, the historic space is decorated for autumn with Gerth anticipating the holidays when the deep burgundy décor will winter sparkle.
“I love the glow it (candlelight) provides,” said Gerth.
“It just makes for a warm, soothing, comforting environment.”
Gerth, who attended Streator High School, was a carpenter who took community college courses.
In the early 1990s, an accounting degree from Illinois State University seemed like a good idea, after first pursuing a history major.
After serving as an auditor for 15 years, in a “very challenging environment, I found it did not satisfy my creative desires. So around 2000, I start acting at night.” Gerth dabbled in local theater, leading to the basis of Oil Lamp Theater in 2005.
“Not a lot of companies produce the theater I really love, so I decided with some friends that we would just start doing theater and that’s how it got started. The road has been a challenge at times, but in all, it’s been rewarding.”
The theatrical vision was rooted in Gerth’s childhood when he would watch the Dick Van Dyke show, in which Rob and Laura Petrie would entertain friends at home with skits and improvised dialogue.
“That’s the whole idea of a shared and intimate experience in a home setting,” said Gerth of early sitcom inspirations. “You’re not just an anonymous presence.”
With Jay Cook, Oil Lamp Theater’s managing director, Gerth has welcomed local performers, including Elizabeth Rude of Northbrook who starred in “The Actor’s Nightmare.”