Uptown Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Kristie Koehler Vuocolo
Three years ago, Kristie Koehler Vuocolo moved home to Westerville after spending 20 years in Chicago.
One of the first things she noticed about her hometown was that it was missing something near and dear to her heart: a theatrical performance company. So what did she do? She created one.
In May 2016, Vuocolo founded Good Medicine Productions, a nonprofit theatrical performance company rooted in improv and comedy. Her company’s mission is simple but powerful: to bring transformative joy to children and adults through improvisation, comedic performance and innovative storytelling, and to delight the soul.
Though some of Good Medicine Productions’ performances are in an actual theater, many happen in public places. Good Medicine’s philosophy is that live theater has the power to delight the soul when it is an active experience, rather than something to sit back and passively observe.
“Our performances are engaging creations of theater that involve improvisation with the audience, comedic performance and innovative storytelling,” says Vuocolo. “Rarely will you see us performing in a theater. Instead, we embrace the live component of theater. That means it’s interactive and acknowledges everyone in the room, street or cubicle.”
Photo by Wes Kroninger
Vuocolo is artistic director of Good Medicine, in addition to founder.
After growing up in Westerville, Vuocolo took off to Chicago to attend college at Northwestern University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism, then started her career in Chicago as a TV producer during the day while pursuing theater at night. Since 1997, Vuocolo has been performing, creating and teaching theater.
After moving back to Westerville to be closer to family, Vuocolo, mother of two young children, put her heart and soul into creating Good Medicine.
In summer 2016, Vuocolo began writing the script for Good Medicine’s first performance: Uptown Scrooge. In August and September, she held auditions to find the perfect people for various roles. Then came rehearsals.
“I wear many hats,” Vuocolo says with a laugh.
Uptown Scrooge, adapted from Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol, was an interactive tour through Uptown Westerville that took place during the four weekends leading up to Christmas.
Guided through the streets and shops of uptown Westerville by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, audience members went on Scrooge’s journey with him. Many Uptown attractions were seamlessly integrated into the story, allowing the audience to interact with the cast, enjoy Westerville favorites and experience the magic of the holiday.
Uptown Scrooge was the perfect way to get integrated into the Westerville community, Vuocolo says.
Uptown Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Kristie Koehler Vuocolo
“Uptown Scrooge was not only a really fun holiday activity to do with your family, but for us, it was a great way to open up some doors and make some connections in Westerville,” she says. “Everyone in Uptown was so gracious in allowing us to incorporate our theater into their businesses.”
Not only did Uptown Scrooge help Good Medicine get its name out in Westerville, it also helped give back to the community. Vuocolo wrote a volunteer from the Westerville Area Resource Ministry into the script, which moved the audience to donate a total of $700 to the organization.
As Uptown Scrooge came to a close, Vuocolo was thrilled about its success.
“Five hundred people came through for Uptown Scrooge,” Vuocolo says. “Our opening day was the day of the OSU/Michigan game, but we sold out despite that. We were so pleasantly surprised and thankful. Because of its success, we plan to do it again in 2017 on those same four weekends.”
Before then, however, Vuocolo says Good Medicine plans to do a few smaller performances in Uptown. She’ll also hold educational workshops and classes for both children and adults who enjoy improvisation, comedic performance and storytelling. These workshops and classes are rooted in theater games and play, creating an environment that allows participants’ imaginations to soar.
But Vuocolo’s main focus right now is to develop a pediatric and senior living component to her company. This addition will serve pediatric facilities and nursing homes in central Ohio.
Photo courtesy of Kristie Koehler Vuocolo
Professional comedic performers from Good Medicine will work to provide one-on-one entertainment to children and elderly people. The endeavor has one overarching goal: to empower patients in places where they often feel powerless, while using humor to reduce anxiety, sadness and isolation.
Vuocolo is passionate about this next step of her journey.
“This is life-changing work. It’s an honor and a gift to be able to do this. It’s a way to bring artistry to places that really need it, so we can remind people of our inherent nature of play and serve the well spirit of the child and senior,” she says. “It has the power to bring joy everywhere, and I’m so excited to make it happen here in central Ohio.”
To raise money for the new pediatric and senior living program, Good Medicine offers Good Grams, which allow people to hire the theater troupe to perform at birthday parties, deliver singing telegrams and more. All Good Grams performances are rooted in larger-than-life characters and improvisation.
As Vuocolo develops Good Medicine into a bigger and bigger company, she looks forward to the future.
“Being an artist is part of who I am,” she says. “I have to find a way to create this kind of theater wherever I go.”
For more information about Good Medicine Productions, Uptown Scrooge, workshops and classes, the pediatric and senior living program and more, visit www.goodmedicineproductions.org.
Ann Poirier is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.