From The Top: Julie Kornak, BrightSide Theatre
By David Sharos For The Sun December 13, 2012 6:04PM
Naperville resident Julie Kornak is the co-founder of the BrightSide Theatre, a relatively new nonprofit group that was incorporated in 2009 and began performances in 2010. | Submitted
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:23AM
Few would argue that the world is a better place thanks to those who can sing and dance and entertain us. But for Naperville resident Julie Kornak, her mission and focus as a performer goes a whole lot further.
Co-founder of the BrightSide Theatre, a relatively new nonprofit group that was incorporated in 2009 and began performances in 2010, Kornak says the mission of the theater group “is to educate, entertain and enlighten.”
“We really felt that having a professional theater group in downtown Naperville was something that was needed, and we feel like we’re filling a niche,” the 40-year-old mother of three children said. “We’re fortunate to be able to rent space from North Central College and planning to expand our programs over time.”
Kornak said she grew up in Chicago’s North Riverside area and moved to Naperville 15 years ago.
A graduate of the University of Illinois-Chicago with a degree in psychology and an emphasis on human resources, Kornak went to work in human resources until 2007.
But since childhood, she’s been developing the skills to entertain us.
“Everyone in my family is musical, and my mother played the organ, so when it was time for me to go and learn an instrument, that’s where I started, but I didn’t like it,” Kornak recalled. “My grandmother pointed out I was always singing, whether it was some song or a commercial and said maybe I should try that.
“A woman down the street that sang taught me ‘Edelweiss’ to see if I had any sense of melody and pitch, and from there, I started voice lessons at age 8 until I was 18 years old.”
A self-proclaimed professional singer who has appeared at churches and semi-professional theater productions, Kornak calls herself “a singer who acted.”
“Some people just act, but as time went on, I wanted to do both,” she said.
The first season of BrightSide Theatre productions featured three shows, with the same number to follow this season. A new children’s group known as the BrightSide Theatre Youth Project is scheduled to launch with tryouts this January followed by a production in March.
The theater group also has chosen to give back to the community by partnering with other nonprofit groups whose mission relates in some way to one of its productions.
“Last year, we did a situational comedy known as ‘Dinner Party,’ and we collected canned goods and donations, which we gave to the local Loaves & Fishes group,” Kornak said. “This spring, we’re doing the musical ‘Rent,’ and we’re partnering with 360 Youth Services.”
Tin Penavic, 40, another founding member of BrightSide and a college buddy of Kornak’s, said his friend’s experiences before opening the theater has helped her succeed.
“Julie brings great organizational knowledge and human resources skills to our group, and she’s really great at assembling a talent pool and knows how to contract people and then treat them like professionals,” Penavic said. “She helps us obtain grants and knows the ins and outs of a small business.”
Kornak, who lives in Naperville with her husband, two 5-year-old twins and a 7-year-old, said that the local environment is already “culturally rich” and believes that the BrightSide Theatre only adds to what is already here.
“Giving people an option for some good theater without having to go downtown to the city was one of the things Tin and I set out to do,” she said.
“We’re lucky to be able to rent space here at North Central, which means we have affordable theater being performed in a topnotch facility.”
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