It was in May of 2014 during the intermission of “Picture This,” a Dance Kaleidoscope concert at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Toby Theater, that this writer was introduced to dancer Chris Lingner and his father Terry Lingner.
During that brief conversation it was learned that Chris was a member of the Cincinnati Ballet company. That day, however, he was wearing his other hat as DK’s videographer; he was there to tape the performance. During that chat it was also determined that his training in the video business was overseen by his father, an Emmy Award winning ESPN producer and current president of Lingner Group Productions and co-owner of INNOVATIVE, a marketing company. Further piquing this writer’s interest was the discovery that Chris’s brother, Cory, at that time a student at the University of Oklahoma, was also a dancer.
Thus began a quest on the part of atombash.com to tell the stories of each member of this dynamic family which also includes mother and wife Louise Lingner, who left a career in retail to become an at home wife and mother. Chris was profiled in June and Cory in October of 2014.
Chris, 26, just completed his second season with Cincinnati Ballet while Cory, 24, is in the cast of the hit Broadway musical “On the Town,” which opened in October. Recently atombash.com sat down with Terry and Louise to discuss their backgrounds and combined influence on their sons.
Where are you both from?
LL: I am from Union City, Ind.
TL: I grew up on Indy’s south side. I went to Decatur Central High School and graduated in 1972.
LL: I graduated from Union City High School in 1974.
How did the two of you meet?
LL: At Ball State in 1974. We met at a fraternity party. I was in a sorority.
TL: It was instant attraction for sure. Still have it.
LL: We dated probably nine years before we got married.
What was the date of your wedding?
TL: Aug. 6, 1983.
What in your respective backgrounds caused you to support your boys’ interest in the performing arts?
LL: I grew up with a lot of music in our family and we did dance too. I was a cheerleader. I’m from Union City. I played the piano and my sisters and I sang together in a quartet. Also, my mom was in a trio. She also played the guitar. Her mother taught piano and choir. I did study dancing once a week and performed in a recital at the end of the year but nothing like what the boys did.
TL: Louise knows my ego. That I am fun loving—if I can show off generally I will (laughs).
TL: I had the most fun back in my fraternity days. I remember being in a talent contest when I was in 8th grade I came out front singing and started rocking. I like to dance (Laughs).
Were you in theater?
TL: A little bit in high school. I played more sports than theater. None in college.
Have you ever performed in community theater?
TL: No. But I would still like to do that. I would like to take some voice lessons and see if I could get a small role.
How about you, Louise?
LL: I did high school plays. I also did “Cabaret” in college.
When did you know that the boys had talent?
LL: As soon as they could start talking. They liked to watch Disney singalong tapes and they would sing and dance to them.
TL: They were always putting on puppet shows. Always wanting to entertain. Halloween was a big bit time in our house. We would completely turn our garage into a haunted garage. They were always theatrical and always good with a camera.
LL: Probably about middle school they made their own movie. They premiered it. We rented out a movie theater up on 86th and Ditch. We had a red carpet. We had a poster and programs. It was called “The Adventures of String Bean.”
Did you teach them video production?
TL: Yes and then actually Conrad; our partner at Innovative here is their godparent and he is really the one whose propelled them into learning the technical side.
So they are also skilled videographers and editors too?
TL: Yes. Chris actually has his own business. He has an LLC. He’s very industrious.
What accounts for the special dynamics of your family?
LL: I feel very fortunate that my husband worked so hard so that I was able to stay home with the boys. I always thought I would go back to work after I had Chris. I just loved being at home with them.
TL: So that’s a lot of it don’t you think? In our society, you are really fortunate if you are able to have the mother present at home to nurture. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Louise. We see it and witness it. Kindness can be passed on. That’s nine tenths of it.
So you were there to pass those values on and model?
LL: I hope so.
TL: When I was around, I would go to a dance recital. I would go this afternoon if I could. I don’t know why but I almost feel like I can pick up creativity from the students. I always wanted my sons to know that what they were doing was important. Not a lot of fathers go to dance recitals and I was definitely comfortable doing that. It was fun for me to go.
What is it about your background that makes you so comfortable with your boys being dancers?
TL: My parents had to work. I never heard them argue. They both came from big families. They were just so subtle with who they were. They always supported me and my dad was a WWII veteran. He was at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He was right out of Brokaw’s book (“The Greatest Generation”)—very soft spoken.
Tell me what it has meant to you to have your son come right out of college and be cast in a Broadway show and “On The Town” in particular?
LL: I am so happy for Cory for all the hard work and all the time he spent preparing for it. He has just been totally focused. I am so happy for him and proud of him and I feel very lucky because I know how competitive the field is.
TL: Yes. I think Louise put the sweat and the miles into both boys’ careers so that was a good bit of teamwork. They showed the interest and it’s just been wonderful to see it pay off. I always told them “If you see it clearly in your mind then it’s going to happen.” Cory especially had the vision of where he was going to be and right now he is enjoying every minute of it. Chris evolved some especially after he got the “Movin’ Out” tour after graduating from high school. The smile and the joy on his face when he got that job is just burnt into my memory.
How is it that you two and Chris became producers of “On The Town?”
LL: Cory was already cast in the show and Terry always had an interest in learning about that sort of production. Cory called and said they were looking for a few more investors so Terry called Howard Kagan, the show’s lead producer, and had several phone conversations with him. He just wanted to learn more about what was involved. Howard was very convincing and he actually even talked us into more than we really wanted to invest but it’s all been worth it. Terry has been to more of the production meetings that I have been to but he’s gone in and shared lots of creative ideas.
Since “On the Town” was nominated (but did not win) for some Tony awards you were at the recent awards ceremony. What was it like?
LL: It was very fun. We got all dressed up. We didn’t feel any pressure at all. We were just excited to see Cory perform and people watch and be ready if we got called on stage (laughs).
Do you have the producing bug now?
LL: We are interested because that’s what our kids are into. We want to know more about it. I think both of us feel that it would have to be probably a musical with a lot of dancing in it because that is what we like (laughs).
What advice would you give to parents whose kids are interested in performing?
TL: I think the best advice is just to show interest and to nurture. I find it so incredibly satisfying to say “I saw this clip…” or “I saw this guy do that line” or “did you see that nuance that made that very special.” Maybe it has to do with my background but just the fact that I was interested or a parent taking an interest in what my kids were showing passion for was really the bottom line. Then, be willing to help get them there. Most success stories, by and large, occur because parents are involved or taking pride in what their kids are doing.
When it comes to children do you agree as a parent with the sentiment that “if they are happy, I am happy”?
LL: You are only as unhappy as your most unhappy child.
For information about the 2015-2016 Cincinnati Ballet season visit www.cballet.org. For tickets and information about “One The Town” in New York City, visit www.onthetownbroadway.com.