The first time Jessica Redish choreographed anything was when she was organizing Student Theatre Under No Teacher Supervisions (STUNTS) as a senior at Highland Park High School.
She made sure to put her friend Elana Ernst Silverstein front and center.
"She always had the leads," Redish said about Silverstein. "She was just exceedingly talented."
Silverstein died on Dec. 10. The 29-year-old leaves behind a a daughter who turned one last Tuesday, and her husband, David Silverstein. Her funeral service was held last week in Deerfield.
Silverstein's talent made itself clear as day when she graduated high school and, instead of following her peers to college, went on a 10-month tour of "Mama Mia!" After a paralyzed vocal chord ended her run with that production, Silverstein returned to Chicago, where she eventually performed with the Chicago Children's Theatre, Ravinia Festival and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
"She was brilliant on the stage," Redish said.
Redish and Silverstein got to work together again, for the first time since high school, when Redish brought her in as the associate director of The Music Theatre Company, a performance company she founded in a small space on Green Bay Road in Highland Park.
"I gathered my favorite artists in 2008," Redish said, "and she was one of them."
The company has since earned acclaim from within Highland Park as well as the Greater Chicago area for its unique take on productions like Stephen Schwartz's "Pippin" and George Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along." Redish attributes much of the company's success to Silverstein's dedication, creativity and hard work.
"All the design elements in the lobby, everything that makes this building a gem, comfortable for patrons, was completely Elana," Redish said. "She knew it was important to express the kind of work we were doing on stage the second people walked through the door."
In addition to her talents on stage, Silverstein had an eye for color and an impeccable attention to detail, according to Redish. She was passionate about The Music Theatre Company because she knew it could be something worthwhile.
"She saw what it was going to turn into," Redish said.
She was also a great friend, and Redish loved that she got to work with someone she enjoyed being around so much. Redish recalled a night where she and Silverstein were at the theater space late, painting the walls. The two took a break to order a pizza and spent the next few hours talking about their lives.
Redish plans to name the performance space they were painting that night after Silverstein at a ceremony in January.
Silverstein got married in 2009, and gave birth to her daughter Maya Blue. Redish recalls a mother so devoted to her child that she took her to auditions.
"She was an amazing mother," Redish said.
Silverstein is survived by her husband David, her daughter Maya, her sister Leah and her parents Tirza Ernst and Edward Ernst.
Memorial contributions are requested to go to The Maya Blue Silverstein Scholarship Fund.