A performance, a painting, a photograph: these are three of the many methods DePaul faculty use to convey their creative and intellectual ideas and advance their fields. Beyond books and journal articles, DePaul professors make films, shape sculpture, write poetry and much more. Vision 2018, the university’s strategic plan, sets out to empower faculty to realize their creative potential because it enriches their teaching and introduces new insights to their fields.
Inside The Theatre School alone, creative activities include a dozen disciplines—from lighting and costume design to dramaturgy, stage managing and theatre technology.
John Culbert, dean of The Theatre School says creative activities, scholarship and research are all about exploring truth. In his school many disciplines collaborate to present a story that illuminates how people behave in a particular circumstance.
“The more perspectives—science, faith, art, theatre—we use to examine an issue, the better our opportunity to understand,” he says.
Carlos Murillo, associate professor and head of playwriting at The Theatre School, has authored about a dozen plays that are adding to the cannon of new American scripts. They have been produced from Boston to Santa Barbara and as far away as Budapest.
His most famous is “dark play or stories for boys,” about the consequences of a virtual romance as reality reveals deception. It has been translated into German, Polish and Hungarian and appears in “New Playwrights: Best New Plays of 2007.”
Students analyze the play in university classrooms.
“Dark play is taught for a very specific reason: how do you convey the Internet on stage, make it theatrical, interesting, moving through time and space in a particular way. It is an interesting formalistic problem,” he says.
Murillo, who also directs, notes that his work inspires confidence in his students. “I can be helpful to them because I have been there. They are learning from someone who has a presence and a voice in the field.”
His voice just got a little louder after winning the 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award recognizing his body of work and likelihood to influence the world of theatre. He also has a book coming out this month, “The Javier Plays.”
Concerto soloist, festival artist and chamber musician Janet Sung is another faculty artist. A graduate of Harvard and The Juilliard School, she is an accomplished violinist who has performed on stages around the world. Bringing that experience to DePaul, she serves as an associate professor in the School of Music and coordinates the string program.
Sung’s primary creative activities are live performances and collaborations with other musicians and composers.
“There is an incredible amount of training, research and practice that goes into a performance,” she says. “Performing musicians usually started learning their instruments at a very young age, sometimes 4 or 5 years old.”
Sung, who started at 7 years, made her first professional appearance at age 9.
Performances are part of a long preparatory process.
“You are not just reading the music and playing the notes. One needs to understand the traditions and the historical context in order to understand what the composer was trying to communicate. This allows one to develop their own informed interpretations of a work.”
Traditions go through transformations, and styles can change. She conveys those nuances to her students.
“We take many aspects from our own training and performances and share these experiences with our students, who are preparing to be viable performers and artists in the professional world,” she says.
The department of Art, Media, and Design is yet another home for faculty artists. Department Chair Mary Ann Papanak-Miller says its faculty are practicing artists and visual arts specialists whose scholarship involves visual expression through a wide variety of forms—exhibitions, publications, performances, curatorial efforts and arts residencies at museums, galleries and nonprofit venues.
“Our scholarship is interwoven with our curriculum and teaching philosophy, which supports project-based learning and critical inquiry through art-making,” she says. “We stress the mastery of visual and technical skills, conceptual thinking, and intellectual curiosity, thereby developing the individual student artistic voice.”
A composition, a song, a video game: DePaul faculty artists’ creative activities engage the senses and entice the emotions, ultimately adding a fresh perspective to their professions.
Three works by faculty in the department of Art,
Media, and Design: from left, "From House of Memories Series #4" by
Gagik Aroutiunian; "Hanagasa" by Laura Kina; and "Looking for Alice: you
won't know who to trust 2.1" by Mary Ann Papanek-Miller. Illustration by Jeff Carrion.