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Actress ‘retired’ — but still on stage

Ann Whitney, actress, resident of Westminster Place, performing at Next Theatre.

Ann Stevenson Whitney, a veteran Chicago actress, is a new resident at the Westminster Place retirement community in Evanston. But she's hardly retired —  performing five times a week in “Everything is Illuminated” at Evanston’s Next Theatre.

The show, which has drawn high praise from the Chicago Tribune, has had its run extended throughl April 14.

The production is semi-biographical and based on the first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. A young American Jewish writer, Jonathan, travels to the Ukraine in search of his roots and of the woman who may have saved his grandfather during the Holocaust.

Whitney’s character is “Old Woman.” Is she the old woman for whom he is searching? The play leaves the question unanswered, and Whitney thinks that mystery makes the play more intriguing.

Whitney has been acting for more than 35 years. “Many people who are retired from long careers ask me what I’d like to do next at this time in life,” she says. “I simply tell them I just want to do more of what I’ve been doing – acting. It’s what I love.”

“Acting allows you to create a whole new person for yourself,” Whitney says. “It’s a fabulous experience to perform in company with all of the talented designers, producers and directors. Live theatre is exciting because you tell the story from beginning to end and experience the immediate reaction of the audience.

She first appeared onstage at Next Theatre in 1982 in “A Different Moon.”  Other Chicago theater roles include Sister Lee in "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” at the Marriott Lincolnshire, Hecuba in “Trojan Women” at the Goodman Theater, Big Edie in “Grey Gardens” at the Northlight Theater, A in “Three Tall Women” at the Apple Tree, Mrs. Watts in “Trip to Bountiful” at the American Theatre Company and Mrs. Frasier in “Stepping Out” at Steppenwolf Theater.

She has several Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and was honored as a Chicago Leading Lady by the Sarah Siddons Society for her work in “Driving Miss Daisy.”  She has also performed in theaters in Indiana, California and Louisville.

Her motion picture career includes roles in “Sugar,” “Home Alone,” “The Fugitive,” and “While You Were Sleeping.” She's also the sister of the late actor McLean Stevenson who played Col. Blake in the television series “Mash” for many years.

Whitney says she and her husband, Bill, moved to Westminster Place to stay in their Evanston neighborhood where they have lived for more than 50 years. The location keeps them close to their children, church, and her alma mater, Northwestern University.

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