Remarks from the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., delivered at the blessing and groundbreaking for a new Theatre School

June 3, 2011

Thank you, Sarah, and good afternoon to you all. What a splendid day! I’m here this afternoon to thank you, but also to explain.

· DePaul University is opening an art museum in 12 weeks.

· We’re breaking ground today for a new theatre school with two new theatre venues for the public.

· We’re about to begin the design phase for a new school of music and four new performance venues, including an opera performance center.

· We intend to expand and renovate the historic Merle Reskin Theatre in Chicago’s south loop after that.

All of this is in DePaul University’s master plan. All of this has a part in our campaign for DePaul’s future. And so, an explanation is in order. In this day and age, why is the largest private university in the Midwest investing in the arts?

There’s certainly no return on the investment, at least in terms of dollars.

Is it to keep a promise, made years earlier to this school? Yes, that’s true. But there’s more.

Is it to compete with other great conservatories? That’s also true. Running a theatre school with no actual theaters in it has been a challenge. It’s a real testament to the faculty that DePaul’s Theatre School is regarded, year-after-year, as one of the top ten theater schools in the United States. Imagine what they can do with a real building. But even that doesn’t explain a $72 million dollar investment.

We do this also as a gift to our beloved Chicago and Lincoln Park.

· We intend this to be an addition to Chicago’s proud architectural heritage. And we proudly welcome not only a Cesar Pelli/Fred Clarke building to the neighborhood, but Cesar Pelli and Fred Clarke themselves, who are joining us today. Welcome gentlemen, and thank you.

· We do this to provide more theater offerings and venues for the city and for Lincoln Park itself, and I’m particularly grateful to the neighborhood associations that helped make today possible.

· We do this to support and undergird the extensive theater network here in Chicago. Chicago’s clearly the second most important city for theater in the U.S., and if you throw London into the mix, perhaps the third most important in the world. At moments, there’s more important work happening here than in New York. And there’s barely a theater in the city that doesn’t have DePaul’s alumni working as part of it on the stage or behind the scenes. Yes, without DePaul, and let’s say it - without Northwestern - without our two great theater schools, Chicago’s theater identity could not be sustained. And yet, we have more reasons even than these to build.

We do this because of this particular theatre school’s commitment to diversity in the performing arts. We assemble outstanding talent from diverse communities, and we program diverse playwrights on our stages. America needs a place where diverse talent is trained at the highest levels and diverse voices are nurtured and given a hearing.

We do this also because of this school’s long-standing commitment to the young – keeping alive the Goodman Theatre School tradition. Yes, I admit it. I went to Pinkalicious two weekends ago, surrounded by children who were absolutely captivated. They learned how to be a family. They learned to trust their inner feelings and not be controlled by what others might say. They learned not to eat too many pink cupcakes. They laughed. They were enthralled and they learned. And so do we.

We build today, more than any other reason, because Theater ennobles us.

· If we watch the horrors of jealousy and greed play out in the Duchess of Malfi;

· If we see the cost of resisting social change in The Cherry Orchard;

· If we watch race and prejudice threaten but not overcome a relationship in South Pacific;

· If we watch gay men reach for fuller humanity in the midst of an AIDS pandemic in Angels in America;

· Or if we simply remind ourselves that love conquers all by watching Julie Andrews sing one more time…

We walk away changed. Reassured. Disturbed. Reflective. Or maybe just humming the tunes, feeling more hopeful for the world. If it’s good theater, we’re better people for the experience.

And THAT’S why we do this today. That’s why we take shovels, turn over dirt, and start to build. Because theater ennobles us.

DePaul’s an educational institution with a motto about promoting human wisdom. (Viam Sapientiae Monstrabo Tibi: I will show you the way of Wisdom). That’s why we invest in the arts. The arts are the way that humanity speaks to humanity about what’s truly important. As a university, we have the opportunity to prepare the next generation who will do this for their time.

It’s an extraordinary work, a great trust, and a magnificent gift that we give. An expensive one to be sure, but it is the work of wisdom. It is the work of ennobling a society. And it is a part of DePaul University’s greatness.

To our donors who join us today, I say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart. You have given not only to DePaul, and to DePaul’s students, and to Chicago, and to the future of theater itself, you’ve given to humanity. Your gift will have uncountable “grandchildren” as every student trained here goes out to give voice to uncountable productions and touch uncountable audiences, all the while ennobling hearts and lives. Your names are listed in the program. As I read through this list of those who have donated to the Performing Arts Campaign, I pray a quiet thank you for every name on it.

It was the great Paul Robeson who once said:

Through my singing and acting and speaking, I want to make freedom ring. Maybe I can touch people's hearts better than I can their minds, with the common struggle of the common man.

That is why we bless and break this ground: to touch people’s hearts with the humanity that ennobles us all. May God bless this Theatre School, and through it may God bless a waiting world.

Thank you and God bless you.

 

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Let’s begin. I invite Fr. John Richardson, DePaul’s chancellor, and Monsignor Kenneth Velo to join me now in blessing this ground. …​​​