The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., addresses the Theatre School Gala.
March 31, 2011
Good evening. I am currently reading Katherine Joslin’s literary biography of Jane Addams. You know, of course, Jane Addams’ powerful work on behalf of women, children and the poor here in Chicago. You know of her establishment of Hull House and her Nobel Peace Prize winning advocacy for the poor. You might even know one or more of her famous books - ten of them in all - and hundreds of essays. She wrote constantly.
What I hadn’t known was the powerful effect that Tolstoy had on her. She was so taken with him that she traveled to Russia to meet him personally. Like him, and partly because of him, she used “stories about people rather than sociological argument to make moral points. “ She said, “ideas only operate upon the popular mind through will and character, and must be dramatized before they reach the mass of [humanity].”
Ideas must be dramatized, she said. Worlds and situations are changed when they are dramatized.
• That’s why Sophocles wrote for his people and time.
• That why Ibsen’s Nora slammed the famous door, asserting the right of a women to be more than a domestic slave.
• Comedies of Manners question the “manners” while we laugh.
• Shakespeare shows us what comes of lusts for power, or our feuds between families or nations.
• Medieval morality tales become our own modern morality tales as weekly tv series like Law and Order play out our modern difficult decisions.
• Two brokeback cowboys ask us if we really want a world where people’s love has to be hidden.
• Even dancing and singing cats can light-heartedly convey T.S. Eliot’s elevated hopes for humanity.
The world thinks through its issues on stage, on screen, on television. That’s the power of a good story, the power of an actor, a playwright, a stage.
I’ve always loved watching young people discover something that becomes a passion in their lives. If it’s research in a science lab, outstanding. If it’s teaching young children to read, excellent. Universities exist to help young people turn their passions into professional careers, and I have a special place in my heart for the artists among our young people who have found passion in communicating on a stage. They’ve learned early about that moment when an entire room of people is transfixed by what’s happening on stage, where the actors have literally controlled the breathing of the entire room, as the audience sees a tragedy unfold before them, or a love finally realized, or a buffoon gets what’s coming to him. They’ve learned early how the theater makes us think, makes us reconsider what’s important.
God bless the theatre, and God bless the young people who would give their lives to it. And God bless all of you. There’s a word for you that is as old as theatre itself – and as long honored: patrons. Thank you for loving the theatre, and for loving their passion for it as well. Your support allows this extraordinary and talented faculty to build the next generation that will grace the American stage.
Last year at this time, I told you that DePaul would make a major commitment to this school: we promised them – and you - a building. We asked for your help, and several of you in this room came forward. We still need some additional help, and the fundraising continues, but I’m proud to tell you tonight that we’re going to put a shovel in the ground in 8 weeks. On June 1st, the next chapter will be written of the DePaul Theatre School.
Many years ago, the Goodman School of Drama came to DePaul for survival, and it has been protected all these years as one of the nation’s premier conservatories to prepare professionals for the theatrical arts. Now, we move beyond protection into full out advancement of this school in powerful ways. The pictures you are seeing have been drawn by the firm of world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli, several of whose colleagues are here tonight. Those pictures have now been turned into construction documents. And on June 1st, we begin.
Tonight, then, is a true celebration. Please accept this evening as our thank you to all of you. The world is better because of human story-telling. And human story-telling will be strong in the future, because these young people will be powerfully trained. God bless all of you tonight, and God bless this Theatre School.