University Communications > Facts & Stats > The Theatre School

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.

  • 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.”
  • The current select enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs numbers approximately 345 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 1,700 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.
  • “Today The Theatre School is guided by its mission statement, created by faculty and staff 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, David Dastmalchian, Ann Dowd, 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, Lights Up! Supporting Student Scholarships. The event gives guests an opportunity to learn about what happens both on and offstage and get a glimpse of the student experience with behind-the-scenes access to The Theatre School. All proceeds directly 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, David Dastmalchian, Olympia Dukakis, Laurence Fishburne, Pam Grier, Gene Hackman, Julie Harris, Celeste Holm, John Malkovich, David Mamet, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jonathan Pryce, John C. Reilly, Gary Sinise, Eric Stonestreet, 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.
  • 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, and is home to a 250-seat thrust theatre and a 100-seat black box theatre. 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.

Coya Paz Brownrigg

Coya Paz Brownrigg is a writer, director, scholar, and arts administrator with a deep commitment to racial and economic equity in the arts. She specializes in co-created performance and applied theater, and is the Artistic Director of the historic Free Street Theater in Chicago, whose mission is to create original performance by, for, about, with, and in Chicago’s historically divested communities. She is the co-author, with Chloe Johnston, of Ensemble-Made Performance: A Guide to Devised Theater.

Coya has been faculty at The Theatre School since 2008, and teaches classes in directing, history, and community-engaged performance for the Theatre Studies program. Before taking on the role of Interim Dean during the 2021-2022 school year, she served as Associate Dean for Curriculum and Instruction. Coya holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, where her graduate research focused on intersections between public violence and performance, and she is particularly interested in ghost stories as cultural archives. Coya also researches economic disparity and the arts in Chicago, and is an advocate for neighborhood-based arts, particularly on the South and West sides of the city. She serves on a wide-variety of advisory and advocacy boards focused on racial and geographic equity, and does organizational consulting via Free Street Talks. Above all, Coya believes in the power of performance and poetry to build community towards social change.

Visit the Theatre School’s website »