By: Seth Johnson

From Nov. 30-Dec. 1, ISBVI students and staff traveled to Chicago as part of the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza — a trip made possible by the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF). Now, thanks to the wonderful work of 12 Stars Media, you can relive the magic of this engaging theater excursion through a digital photo journal recapping each and every part of the adventure.

ISBVI students mingle in front of “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.A multi-faceted theater adventure, the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza fit several theater experiences into a limited amount of time, as ISBVI students took part in a half-day improvisational workshop at Second City Chicago, attended an accessible Broadway Chicago production of The Lion King, and toured DePaul University’s Theatre School. Over the course of the trip, the group of high school students had a multitude of “Ah ha” moments, as they learned more about expressing themselves and pursuing their creative interests.

“Our students are awesome, and I know that each of them has a bright future,” says ISBVI teacher Janelle Pivec, who imagined the Chicago theater experience along with ISBVI teacher Josh Baxter. “This experience opened up a whole new world of possibilities for them to seize new adventures because they now can understand how people make their career in theater a reality. Our students have shown great depth in their acting since the trip, and I have seen more creativity and talent emerge.”

An easy-to-digest and fully accessible digital product, the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza photo journal serves as a great way to commemorate the first-ever TOCAF grant experience, explains the TOCAF grant’s namesake.

“As you read through the journal that was created, you will understand the importance of the experience that the students had and the impact it had on them,” says Toula Oberlies. “The fund not only supported the project that was created by the teachers but motivated the creation of a new theater program at ISBVI. This coming year will be the second project, and I’m very, very excited to see what that turns out to be.”

In the coming months, IBCF will provide teachers with a TOCAF presentation that includes updates on the 2022 grant award and experience, while also talking through the 2023 TOCAF application process. Applications will launch in March with the TOCAF committee reviewing applications in April. The 2023 TOCAF grant award will then be announced in May.




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