Smile Politely

Not exactly “kids’ stuff”

This weekend the 2nd Annual Pens to Lens Gala was held at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. The event celebrates student screenwriters in grades K-12 and allows their work to be filmed and critiqued by local filmmakers and area actors. It’s a great opportunity for all involved and a wonderful way to encourage budding young writers to create and explore their talents.

This year, married couple Katie and Mike Prosise participated in the fun, filming The Time Will Come, a short film written by Kiarra Hall-Brooks and directed by local filmmaker Bill Kephart. I know the Prosises through my years in theatre in C-U. Mike and I met in the Parkland College Theatre production of Cabaret, and Katie and I met in Randi Jennifer Collins Hard’s Acting II class at Parkland as well. Both are familiar faces with the C-U theatre community. Mike most recently played multiple roles in Parkland’s production of Spamalot and has appeared in countless other local productions for Parkland, CUTC, and the Station Theatre. Katie has appeared in prominent roles in a string of Station Theatre productions, most notably The Little Dog Laughed, The 39 Steps, Gruesome Playground Injuries, and Maritius. Both have also recently begun flexing their directing muscles for The Station with Katie directing this past season’s The Clean House and the upcoming A Kid Like Jake, and Mike directing Maritius and next spring’s Appropriate. Recently I did a virtual chat with the couple about their experience with Pens to Lens 2.

Smile Politely: How did you get involved with the Pens to Lens project?

Mike Prosise: I’ve met director Bill Kephart through various social circles, and he and I kept saying we should work on a project together. Both of our day jobs are at Krannert Center, and he dropped by my office to ask if I’d be in his film. I’d heard of the Pens to Lens project through some fellow theatre friends of mine and was honored to be asked to take part.

Katie Prosise: Bill Kephart (pictured, right) had been contacting me about various projects for a couple of years. I was finally available for this one! I always enjoy working with Mike, and I had seen the little girl in a movie at the Feminist Film Festival. I was really impressed with her work. Also, I grew up submitting to Young Authors as a writer and then performed kids’ pieces as a thespian in Urbana High School Drama Club. The Pens to Lens project reminds me of how great it felt to see my words performed by “grown ups.” 

SP: What is the film you participated in, and what is its theme?

KP: The Time Will Come is about life after death, if I can use a cliche. The father-daughter relationship that’s left to survive after losing someone is the main focus.

MP: It is a very simple yet astute perspective on the loss of a parent, as seen through a child’s eyes. Many children are stronger than we give them credit for when it comes to dealing with sadness and loss. I was really impressed by the maturity that’s evident in the screenplay, as well as the gravitas of the lead actress. They’re both “kids,” yet they’re already showing this wisdom beyond their years. It was a great experience. 

SP: Who do you play?

MP: I play the father of a young girl. Together, we’re working through the loss of her mother/my wife.

KP: I play Mary, the mother. Through a series of vignettes and flashbacks, we see her everyday life and the decline of her health.  

SP: Being a married couple, what was good about acting together?

MP: Thom, I can tell you, I love my wife more than I ever thought it would be possible to love another human being. The experience of just pretending she was suffering or gone was pretty painful. That being said, those feelings informed my choices as an actor. I knew we were making a good film as a result, but I always felt compelled to throw my arms around Katie after every shoot. 

Also, Katie and I are not (yet) parents. And Ellison is a great kid. She’s pretty much everything we want our children to be: smart, kind, conscientious, witty, present. “Playing” parents to a child like that made me embrace the role of sole caretaker even more vigorously. 

KP: There wasn’t any of that getting-to-know-you stuff. We didn’t have to worry about touching each other, acting natural, or any of those other things that make us self-conscious when working with someone new. 

SP: What was awkward about it?

KP: My suspicions about our roles with children were confirmed. I’m the nurturing one; he’s the fun one. He had Ellison cracking up the whole time. 

MP: Katie and I met through the theatre, yet somehow we rarely act together. That, plus the general awkwardness of a movie set probably made us fall back on the safe cadence of how we normally communicate in everyday life. So, for better or worse, I guess what you see on screen is pretty much her and me, as is. There isn’t much pretense. 

For more information on this film, as well as the other student-written movies from this year’s Pens to Lens competition, check out the Pens to Lens website.

Photos by Anna Zorn, movie still by Andrew Gleason.

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