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Filament Theater Ensemble's 'Lifeboat' to Set Sail

 The Filament Theatre Ensemble will be the first American theater company to produce "Lifeboat."
The Filament Theatre Ensemble will be the first American theater company to produce "Lifeboat."
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Filament Theatre Ensemble

PORTAGE PARK — A story depicting the horror of World War II in Europe will be the second mainstage production of the Filament Theater Ensemble's spring season.

Starting May 23 and running through June 8, "Lifeboat" is based on the true story of Bess Walder and Beth Cummings, two teenage girls from England, one upper class and one working class, who flee Britain in the early days of World War II.

Heather Cherone chats about "Lifeboat" performed by the Filament Theater Ensemble:

Directed by Filament Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director Julie Ritchey, the play tells the story of the two 15-year-old girls who survived after a German U-boat attacked their ship, which sank.

Played by Filament Acting Company members Mara Dale and Molly Bunder, the girls endured 19 hours in an overturned lifeboat before being rescued.

The play, which has never before been produced by an American theater company, focuses on the girls' friendship as they are forced to rely on each other despite their differences, Ritchey said.

"It's a tour de force for these two actresses," Ritchey said. "Mara and Molly play 20 different roles between them, so it almost has that feel of a one-person show. It's all about the language and the characters, which are so vibrant. It's a tremendous emotional experience."

"Lifeboat" will be the third mainstage production at Filament's Six Corners home, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. The 6-year-old, formerly itinerant ensemble moved to Portage Park last year and has been working to transform the former furniture warehouse into a performance venue.

The group is about $3,000 short of its goal of raising $25,000 to complete the work, according to its website

The group hopes the theater will become a community hub in the Six Corners Shopping District, a desire shared by Ald. John Arena (45th), who has been working to turn the area around Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue and Irving Park Boulevard, which has struggled for decades, into an arts and entertainment district.

Performances of the 70-minute show will take place at 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $15 to $20 and are available at the group's website, filamenttheatre.org.