The play of the new graduate from Trier will benefit a charity association

Trenton Rothbard had known for a long time that he wanted to direct a play or a musical but thought it would be someone else’s work.

This weekend, New Trier’s recent grad — he just graduated on Sunday — is finally directing that production.

But it is his own work that the actors will play.

Trenton, 18, from Glencoe has been acting since grade four. He first got involved “because my mum told me to,” he laughed, adding that he tended not to be “sporty” as a child.

“Once I shot the wrong basket,” he said. “And after shooting the wrong basket, I still missed.”

The defeat for basketball turned out to be a victory for the theater.

He acted and also directed. He always loved writing, he says, but hadn’t found a project he wanted to complete.

“Like everyone else, I would write a few chapters of a book and put them aside,” he said.

Then he took an acting class at New Trier where he learned to write 10-minute plays, and the writing bug was a little tough.

“I wanted it to be different, he said. “I wanted to finish.”


He therefore began to write and edit whenever he had the opportunity, while continuing to attend school and participate in school activities.

“I vividly remember I had a dance gig and, when we weren’t rehearsing, I was on the side putting on Act II,” he said. “I edited it occasionally whenever I could over the next few weeks.”

In all, it took about two months

“Writing something long – that was something I really wanted to do,” Trenton said.

“The writing process and the decision to (do the play) came at two different times. I knew I had wanted to do a play or a musical for a long time. At first I thought it would be something someone someone else would have written. But after I wrote my own and edited a lot, I felt good saying ‘why am I not doing this one?'”

The result was “Nuclear Family,” which runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday June 3 and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday June 4 and 5 at the Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Road, Lake Forest.

The play examines what might have happened if the Cold War had continued and the nuclear bomb had been dropped on the United States.

“The play takes place with that in the background, in a nuclear bunker that was built a long time ago,” Trenton said.

“There’s a family in there together and they don’t know when they can come out. One of the kids hasn’t spoken to the family in years but they all got together for a wedding and then the new of the bomb fell. . (The play) is about family tension, how the dynamics work inside the bunker and what it’s going through.”

Not only did Trenton write the play, but he also paid for it to be produced and performed by working as a busboy at a Winnetka cafe during the summer.

“It was pretty exhausting, being outside and running in the heat,” he said with a laugh.

“But I wouldn’t be here if other people weren’t doing their best to help me. I’m very grateful for that. We’re all working together to make this happen, and I’m really proud of that.

Some of that help came from Citadel staff members, who helped him with all aspects of the play in what Trenton described as an “ideal” location for his play.

Proceeds from ticket sales and direct donations benefit NAMI-Chicago, a non-profit organization that provides mental health advocacy, education and support services.

It’s relevant because the play examines mental health issues, of course, but it’s also an important cause for Trenton himself.

“All my life I’ve had anxiety and dealt with mental health issues,” Trenton said. “What’s great about the show is that a lot of things that I’ve been able to take from my own experiences and things that I’ve been through are my way of reaching out to people.

“There’s no way I’m the only one feeling this, so if I can use something I know, in this case sanity, and express how I felt through these characters, then I want to have that effect on the This is the best tool I have at my disposal to help people feel heard.

Tickets are $10; proceeds benefit NAMI-Chicago, a non-profit organization.

Info and tickets: citadellethéâ

Donate directly to NAMI-Chicago:

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