Even though she lives in the city, Lila Newman spends her days
in the dark abyss of a coal mine as a tour guide for the Museum of
Science and Industry.
The aspiring actress, who does improv at several theaters in
Chicago, didn't know anything about coal mining when she first
started working at MSI, but now she considers herself something of
an expert on the country's coal mining history.
Plus, every tour puts her in front of a new audience and one
more chance for a laugh from people who haven't heard her corny
Q:How did you end up working the coal
A: It's a very popular job with actors. One of my
friends works at the U-505 boat and I was looking for a job to be
on my feet and with people. … I'm really excited about the job and
the dynamics of working with adults and children of different
backgrounds. It's a chance to explore how to engage different
people. I'll tell a joke for the kids and one will be an in-joke
for the parents. I feel like I'm a Pixar film because I have to
cater to both audiences.
Q: It's awfully dark down there. Ever have anyone
suddenly realize they're claustrophobic and freak out?
A: If people get down there (and get freaked out),
we walk them out immediately. We're responsive to the fact that it
is dark and there are loud noises. I'll generally alert people with
young kids not to stand too close to machines when I'm going to
turn them on. … (The coal mine) is good for all ages, but not good
for all people.
Q: What's your workday like?
A: We give a good amount of tours in the day,
usually seven or eight. It's 25 people in each group and if you get
a loud group that you have to talk over, that's a lot of work. I've
learned to lower my voice to make people come closer when they
start shouting. I have to preserve my voice because who knows what
audition or show I have after.
Q:What's the best part of your job?
A: I'm much more engaged with the city and when I
walk around on the street, I can't turn the museum mode off. I make
eye contact, I greet people. … When I see a kid, 4 or 5 years old,
I wave at them now. … When I'm on the Blue Line, sometimes people
think that's weird though.
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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