THE THEATRE SCHOOL
The Theatre School was founded as the Goodman School of Drama in 1925 and is the Midwest's oldest theatre training conservatory. Known for its highly structured program, the school has stood as a standard of excellence in American professional theatre training for more than 90 years.
Founded as the Goodman School of Drama
• The Theatre School began as the Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1922, William Owen and Erna Sawyer Goodman donated funds to the Art Institute to create a school of drama as a tribute to their son, Kenneth Sawyer Goodman (1883-1918). The first class of the Goodman School of Drama was admitted on January 5, 1925.
• During its first five decades, the Goodman School of Drama trained such artists as Theoni V. Aldredge, Melinda Dillon, Scott Ellis, Linda Hunt, Harvey Korman, Karl Malden, Joe Mantegna, Lois Nettleton, Geraldine Page and Sam Wanamaker, among many others. The school was recognized for its significant contributions to dramatic arts in Chicago and the world.
• In 1975, the trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago voted to phase out the Goodman School of Drama over a three-year period, citing a $200,000 deficit. No new students were admitted as the school prepared to close in May 1978. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and interested citizens mounted a campaign to save the school.
• On July 1, 1978, the Goodman School of Drama became the ninth college of DePaul University. One observer wrote, “So the future has gone from ‘curtains’ to more curtain calls. For that, applause.”
At DePaul University
• The current select enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs numbers approximately 340 students from around the United States and several foreign countries. The faculty and staff numbers approximately 100, the majority of whom maintain their connections and professional work in all aspects of Chicago’s renowned and thriving theatre industry.
• More than 1,100 applicants undertake the stringent admissions process of national auditions and interviews. The school accepts only a small fraction of applicants to the conservatory.
• Within the conservatory, The Theatre School offers B.F.A. degrees in Acting, Costume Design, Lighting Design, Scenic Design, Sound Design, Theatre Technology, Costume Technology, Stage Management, Playwriting, Theatre Management, Dramaturgy/ Criticism, and Theatre Arts; and M.F.A. degrees in Acting, Arts Leadership, and Directing.
The faculty/student ratio of one-to-six allows for
continuous interaction and supervision essential for professional theatre training. The distinguished professional faculty emphasizes both the theory and the practice of theatre.
Leadership and Mission
• John Culbert was appointed Dean of The Theatre School in July 2001. He was formerly the school’s Associate Dean and longtime head of the Lighting Design Program. Culbert is a Joseph Jefferson Award-winning designer, United Scenic Artists of America member, and resident artist at Chicago’s Court Theatre. In Chicago, John has designed scenery and/or lighting for the Buckingham Fountain, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Garfield Conservatory, Field Museum of Natural History, Drury Lane Theatre, Timeline Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Children's Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre, and more than thirty productions at Court Theatre. He has received recent Jeff Award's for the lighting for Court Theatre's The Illusion and for the Goodman Theatre's Mirror of the Invisible World. John has also designed scenery and/or lighting for the Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Singapore Rep, Berkeley Rep, Shakespeare Theatre, and the McCarter Theatre.
• Today the Theatre School is guided by its mission statement, created by the faculty and staff under the leadership of the late Dean Michael Maggio and adhering to the traditions of the Goodman School of Drama: "The Theatre School trains students to the highest level of professional skill and artistry in an inclusive and diverse conservatory setting."
• The Theatre School boasts thousands of alumni who work around the world in theatre, film and television, as well as in numerous other successful careers. The list of celebrated artists with our training includes Kevin Anderson, Gillian Anderson, Judy Greer, Zach Helm, Criss Henderson, Stana Katic, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Amy Pietz, John C. Reilly, Larry Yando and many others.
• As part of its intensive learning-by-doing philosophy, The Theatre School presents more than 50 productions each season in a variety of venues. Ten productions are presented each season for the public as part of The Theatre School season, including Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences. Actors, designers, stage managers, dramaturgs, technicians and other crew are students; directors are members of the faculty or guest artists. Students are involved in all aspects of production.
• Founded as the Goodman Children’s Theatre in 1925, Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences is the city’s oldest continuously operating children’s theatre. It has been the first theatre experience for audiences of Chicago’s young people for nearly nine decades and was one of the first major theatres for children in the United States. Chicago Playworks present three unique productions to more than 30,000 families and young people each season at DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre.
• The school enhances the theatre experience by offering post-show discussions, backstage tours, special events with the cast and free Teacher/Production Guides for each production.
• Each year, The Theatre School produces DePaul’s premiere social and fundraising event, the Awards for Excellence in the Arts. Every year this benefit honors a select few distinguished artists with the school’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. More than 115 artists and many corporations have been recognized since its inception, including F. Murray Abraham, Joan Allen, Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett, Blythe Danner, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Franz, Pam Grier, John Guare, Gregory Hines, Bonnie Hunt, Patti LuPone, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Edward James Olmos, Maria Tallchief Paschen, Alfre Woodard, American Airlines, Sara Lee Corporation, Northern Trust and Illinois Tool Works Inc. Since 1989, more than $3 million has been raised to benefit The Theatre School Scholarship Fund.
• On a regular basis, The Theatre School hosts Chicago Live: The Arts, a noontime discussion series designed to provide students the opportunity to meet with working professionals in the theatre, film and television industries. Guest speakers talk about their training and development, past professional experiences, goals for future work and insights into the world of performance. Scores of notable artists have participated in the program, including F. Murray Abraham, Gillian Anderson, Anne Bogart, Gabriel Byrne, Olympia Dukakis, Peter Falk, Laurence Fishburne, Pam Grier, Gene Hackman, Julie Harris, Celeste Holm, John Malkovich, David Mamet, Jonathan Pryce, Gary Sinise, Jean Stapleton and Louis Zorich.
• Each June the school presents Graduate Showcases in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles for an audience of theatre, film and television producers, casting directors, and agents. These showcases encompass two weeks of activities in the three cities as the school organizes several events designed to introduce graduates to the profession. In Chicago, the Graduate Showcase event also features a portfolio exhibit highlighting the work of the graduating class in design, technical, theatre studies and directing programs.
Location and Facilities
The Theatre School is located at 2350 N. Racine Avenue on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. The internationally
renowned architect Cesar Pelli and his firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects designed the building. The building officially opened on September 12, 2013. The design process was informed by its dual function: to be a performance and public space, as well as a conservatory of all theatrical disciplines. For many years, the site was home to Rubens & Marble Inc., built in 1890.
• DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre is home to more than 50 public performances of The Theatre School and is often shared with other nonprofit arts organizations. The theatre has been a significant presence in the downtown theatre district since it was built as the Blackstone Theatre in 1910. It formerly hosted vaudeville, the Federal Theatre Project of the 1930s and touring productions of the Shubert Organization. Many of the greatest talents of the American theatre have graced its stage, including Peter Falk, Jessica Tandy, Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Dustin Hoffman, Vivien Leigh, and Geraldine Page. The stone façade, mansard roof and interior finish of the Beaux-Arts style building have been modified only slightly over the years. Purchased by DePaul University in 1988, the theatre underwent a $700,000 renovation before re-opening. The theatre was renamed in recognition of a major donor in November 1992. More than 1 million people have attended a performance in the Merle Reskin Theatre since its renovation.
About the Dean
John Culbert was appointed dean of The Theatre School in July 2001. He was formerly the school's associate dean and longtime head of the Lighting Design Program. Culbert is a Joseph Jefferson Award-winning designer, United Scenic Artists of America member and resident artist at Chicago's Court Theatre.
His projects have included set design for Court Theatre's "Man of La Mancha" and lighting design for the Goodman Theatre's "Mirror of the Invisible World," among others. Culbert has also designed scenery and/or lighting for the Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Berkeley Rep, Shakespeare Theatre, McCarter Theatre and Bristol Riverside Theatre. John also redesigned the light-and-water show for Chicago's world-famous Buckingham Fountain.
The Theatre School website is theatre.depaul.edu.