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Lorraine Devon Wilke

Lorraine Devon Wilke

Actress/singer | Huff Post contributor

She arrived at Illinois a wide-eyed freshman overwhelmed by the “scope and grandeur” of the building she’d spend most of her time at.

She departed Illinois confident she could make it big in the entertainment industry, which is precisely what happened not long after Lorraine Devon Wilkin joined it for a living.

"There can be no mention of the University of Illinois to me that does not bring to mind the Krannert Center," says Wilke, an actress, singer and author who now calls home Playa dey Ray, Calif. "Arriving as a smalltown freshman ... to realize this was where I’d be spending my time as a theater major turned college into the magical, creative, transformative rite-of-passage it became.

"When Dr. John Ahart cast me in his original piece, 'Head of State,' which went on to win the National College Theater Festival and perform at the Kennedy Center that year, the particular process of that show — played out on various stages of Krannert — gave me a sense of who I was as a person, an artist; it allowed me to see what was possible creatively, what could be brought to life; what could both entertain and educate. 

“I left Illinois not long after to follow my dreams west, but when I returned to campus in August 2016 — for a 50th anniversary event for the Red Lion, a Campustown club where I often performed as a singer — the very top of my to-do list included a visit to Krannert.

"My friends and I were lucky enough to find Sam Smith, the engagement director at the time, available to show us around — even below to the rehearsal halls and backstage areas, which, for me, were church — and the flooding memories of this place and that time were transcendental.

"A life-changing, unforgettable venue.”