By Leeanne Seaver
It was a fateful time for Faithful, the play Mark Liermann was directing at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre in 1993. Amy Bash, the new stage manager for Liermann’s acting company, Renegade Theatre, joined Mark in a creative partnership that would eventually lead to an even more important role. More than 20 years later, the couple’s wedding rings are inscribed with the word Faithful. In their lovely Vicksburg Victorian home, they have made a life that remains focused on creativity and their love of the arts.
The Bash-Liermann collaboration has produced a number of successful endeavors over the years: a restaurant in Colorado; a custom furniture business in Michigan and Illinois; and theatre faculty appointments for Mark at Colorado State University, his alma mater and, currently, at Western Michigan University (WMU) where he is an associate professor. Although he didn’t set out to be a teacher, “It’s in his blood,” Amy points out.
Mark is very much to the manner born—a third-generation professor from a family of teachers. “My love of teaching is in great part due to the encouragement of my wife. I thought I was done with theater when we left Chicago and disbanded the company. But as it often happens, life proves us wrong.” Colorado State recruited him to cover some acting classes. That grew into full-time faculty status. Teaching came easy to Mark, but it was never anything he thought he would have a passion for. “When I started teaching and directing, I discovered that what I love is the rehearsal process. For me, teaching is about making those connections and discoveries with the actors,” he explained.
For Mark and Amy, their favorite collaboration has been parenting sons Alex and Kaleb. Both boys have inherited their parents’ artistic natures and are pursuing film and theatre studies. Alex is a third year communications student at WMU with his sights set on film school. In May, Kaleb will graduate a year early from Vicksburg High School. He’s already signed up for WMU’s “New Play Project” that will be taught this summer by his dad.
When she’s not directing the Tobey Elementary Kid’s Club, a before- and after-school program, Amy Liermann can usually be found with a paintbrush in her hand. Her custom furniture painting business, The Cobblestone Market & Zillion Acres Furniture, is an online business. They also have retail space inside Consigned Design, located across from Erbelli’s on Portage Road. Along with friend Sheree Beardslee and sister Meghan Bash, who runs their Illinois store, Amy designs and custom paints all kinds of furniture. “I’m not doing theater anymore,” Amy explained. “I was in it for years and studied it in grad school, but what I’m doing now is also a different kind of creative outlet. I love it.”
Amy’s unique style is apparent throughout the house they bought in Vicksburg in 2005. When they moved here from Colorado, Mark and Amy wanted a solid education for the boys, and then “it came down to where we’d find the right house,” Amy said. Vicksburg was an ideal fit—great schools that came with a big bonus: the Big Red Machine. Mark is grateful for what the VHS band experience did for their sons. “For me, that’s the number one thing our boys got from high school. Alex got to go to New Orleans and Kaleb traveled to Orlando with the band. They worked hard, and I watched how they changed and became young men in that process.”
Kaleb nods—his experience with the band gave him friends who were there for him during some hard times. Amy said, “The band kids made a safety line around him” that kept Kaleb going. “I was a bit of a nobody,” he explained. A seminal event came when he was tutoring another student in math—the same kid who had once posted “Who the H#ll is Kaleb Liermann?” on Facebook. Wrapping up their final session, Kaleb declared, “By the way, I am Kaleb Liermann.”
There can be no mistake that the Liermanns have made a name for themselves. Mark’s most recent WMU production, “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” was staged at the Epic Center to sold-out crowds. “We’ve been able to be our artistic selves here. We feel very connected and have found good people,” Amy said. Mark agrees. “I certainly have grown to appreciate the things that are around us. We have fantastic neighbors. The house is a lot of work but it’s been a good important holding place. This town is full of the memory of our children growing up. It will always be that for me. Vicksburg has served us well.”