Melissa Merli visits with Lisa Cerezo, of Psychic Joker Entertainment. Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Jan. 1 newspaper, a visit with Caitlin Caruso-Dobbs, winner of the ACE student award.
Q: How are your efforts going to establish Cafe Extraordinaire?
A: It's slow. Nobody has money. People are tight with lending. We're just kind of taking what we have now as far as sharing this space (SoDo Theatre) with Natalie (Ellis) and trying to raise awareness of the company's presence. We just had a lot of events over Halloween and this one Saturday (Dec. 17) for Christmas, so we're trying to get some attention.
Q: What did you do on Saturday?
A: It was a staged radio drama, an adaptation Orson Welles did of "A Christmas Carol" in 1939. Dickens himself took staged readings of that all over the place. I was actually working on an adaptation myself because I couldn't find one I liked and I wanted to tie it into the Psychic Joker Entertainment Company since we're producing it. Then I saw Orson Welles' adapation. He kind of fits our vibe.
Q: What is Psychic Joker Entertainment?
A: That's the parent company for Cafe Extraordinaire. Our main goal is to have more magic-related entertainment in the community. We've already had a couple of shows here at SoDo. We don't yet have a Cafe Extraordinaire space to do things and to get people used to the name and what we're trying to accomplish.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish?
A: We're trying to get more magic entertainment in the community. With Andy Dallas here, it's kind of silly that you can't find more going on with magicians performing their craft. There is kind of a trend going on around the country with smaller magic venues popping up. Magic shouldn't be relegated to Vegas or the Magic Castle in California.
Q: Are you a magician?
A: I'm not. One of our partners (Jace Hoppes) in Psychic Joker Entertainment is one. He's the one who inspired us to do this. My husband (Jason Cerezo) and I always wanted to open a coffee shop and cafe with a stage for open-stage entertainment, and then Jace became our partner. When we started paying attention to what he's doing, we realized there aren't any stages in town suitable to that kind of thing. Bars are too loud, and most of the stages are too big for an art form that's trying to rediscover its audience.
Q: What kind of art do you do?
A: I'm primarily a musician. I'll be doing some work with Champaign Urbana Theatre Company next season — I'll be doing the music direction for "The Producers," so that will be a good time. I hope to do more in the future with radio drama. The casts are enthusiastic about it. It's kind of low-risk because you don't need sets or costumes. All you need is good actors, and there are a lot of them in this town.
Q: Do you have a "day job"?
A: Currently, not a large one. I do some freelance writing, and I help my husband with his freelance graphic-design business.
Q: I saw on your resume that you went to Millikin University. Did you like it?
A: I loved it. It was probably one of the best experiences I've had. I actually worked at the Kirkland Fine Arts Center to put myself through school. It was my favorite job of all time. I've always loved the behind-the-scenes nature of live performance. I've been involved in live theater since I was a kid.
Q: How can people help you with Cafe Extraordinaire?
A: I'm watching what Sanford Hess is doing with his efforts to have a co-op take over the Art Theater. We're trying to make an all-access stage so it might not be a bad idea to ask the performers to help contribute money toward a stage they could call home. We're going to need a heavy hitter or two to get Cafe Extraordinaire going, or go the co-op way.