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Tom & Susie Beck - PASTA

Tom Susue Beck Pasta edit feature

Tom & Susie Beck
PASTA (Performing Arts Student Theater Academy)


Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce: How long has PASTA been around and what was the inspiration behind starting the organization?

Tom Beck: We started PASTA in 2005 as a summer camp only…well, I started it, and as we grew, I needed Susie’s help! We gradually added classes during the school year because of the demand. At first it was one in the fall and one in the spring, and then two, and then three! Susie came on in 2007. There was quite a lot of demand, because at the time there were not many theater summer camps in the area. We’ve sold out over the last ten years within minutes. We hear some funny stories about whole families logging on to try to register one kid the minute registrations open, just trying to get a spot!

Susie Beck: We were teachers earlier in our lives, so we love to work with kids. I taught high school art and Tom taught elementary school art and drama in Lake Bluff.


LFLBC: What’s the one thing you want people to know about PASTA?

TB: We love to provide kids the opportunity to gain experience on stage. Most summers, we have about 50 kids with 25 primary roles and 25 chorus roles, and we put on four performances, so all the kids get to experience both types of roles. Because of COVID, we had to alter those numbers for 2020 and 2021, but we still make sure all the kids get to experience performing both roles.

SB: We have a lot of kids that come back year after year—about 75 to 80 percent are returning alums. It’s like a summer family and each year it’s a bit like a family reunion when we start. Many of these kids go to different schools in the area, and they get really close to one another during camp. Last year was hard, because they all wanted to hug their friends they hadn’t seen, but we had to keep everyone 6 feet apart.


LFLBC: How has the pandemic affected your organization?

TB: We had to get really creative! Last year the kids wore masks, and we kept everyone socially distant. The marks on the stage were six feet apart, and kids couldn’t really interact physically the same way while rehearsing and performing. And we had lunch outside.  For the performance, we made a movie—a series of video scenes that were edited together, with all the music recorded in advance. It was hard in that we’d shoot the scene, and then we were done with it. Normally, we’d get four chances to perform it live.

SB: The kids really rose to the occasion, they were great. We just wish they could have had a live audience—they really deserved that. This summer we’re hoping to have a socially distanced audience. We’ll follow the guidelines and figure out what’s possible as it gets closer.


LFLBC: Is there anything else you would like to share?

TB: We’re all booked up this summer for our production of The Wizard of Oz, but in the fall, we’re offering Charlie Brown Christmas for kids 12 and up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for 7 to 14 year-olds, and Halloween One-Acts for 6 to 12 year-olds. Signups start July 16.

All our information is on the Gorton Center’s website.