Martine Kei Green-Rogers reflects on first year as theater school Dean


Erin Henze

Martine Kei Green-Rogers, uses her career as fuel for her role in administration.

Stepping out from her office of deanship on the fourth-floor of DePaul’s lauded theatre school, Martine Kei Green-Rogers quickly perks up to a chat on the origins of punk rock that four students are holding within earshot. 

As a dean who loves to listen and even further lives to learn, it’s conversations like these that fuel her creative battery. 

With an outfit of darkened flair — formal black attire lining Rogers from top to bottom — her position insists decorum, but her character boasts persona.

Amongst a sample of novels and the standard office amenities, these sparks seep through, as shelves lined with the memorabilia of Hello Kitty overlook a table circled by six vacant seats. It is here that students, staff and strangers alike all are given the same treatment. An open-eared Rogers, seated across from them, hangs onto every word that comes her way.

“After years at work, I have yet to wear myself out,” Rogers said. “I am still a bundle of energy.”

Rogers was raised in Norfolk, Virginia, where she was first enrolled in theater classes at age four by her grandmother. These sessions went on to supercharge her interests, with Rogers going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Virginia Wesleyan University in 2002.

One professor’s reference to the word dramaturg — an expert in the study of plays, musicals or operas — and her life from then on was shaped around one ideal. She would go on to earn a master’s in theater history and criticism with a concentration in dramaturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington. Finishing her education with a Ph.D. in theater and drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, her passion continued to evolve her perspective.

“Each play is a new experience and prospect,” Rogers said. “Every place I moved offered a new opportunity to learn.”

Her last stop as the interim dean of the Divisions of Liberal Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts was all she needed to manage her takeover at DePaul. In all this change, she took a liking to variety over resemblance.

“One of the things that is the most interesting to me are people who don’t think like me,” Rogers said. “I am far more intrigued by people who don’t share the same ideology than people who do. In the end, I’m hoping my time here will inspire people to take note of these differences and grow from what they are, including myself.”

Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Lue Douthit hired Rogers as her assistant director at the festival in 2007, a position that involved elaborate research, conception and a broadened advancement of Douthit’s directorial vision. 

“It was apparent from our first encounter that this was a special theater artist,” Douthit said. “While she has a resume with many different kinds of experiences, they always point in one direction. Every moment provides an opening for her to advocate for her students and create opportunities for them.”

DePaul’s student advising associate for The Theatre School Azar Kazemi met Rogers when working together at the festival in 2011 and now sees this advocation play out on a daily basis in the DePaul climate.

“Dean Martine’s professionalism, positivity, and expertise are invaluable in any production process,” Kazemi said. “Her commitment to equity and inclusion is seen through her daily practice as an artist, educator, and now as an administrator.”

Now looking towards the future of the program and her growth alongside it, Rogers made it clear how these values define her role.

“Part of what I’ve had to do is say what is the history of this place, where are we now, and where do we want to go,” Rogers said. “A dean’s job is about vision. The moment I don’t have that anymore it’s time to go and do something else.”

Jeremy Cohen, artistic director of the Playwright Center — a non-profit theater company based out of Minneapolis — noted a DePaul victory in appointing such a rare talent.

“She is one of the most sought out theater artists,” Cohen said. “She somehow manages to do the impossible in harmonizing brilliance as a dramaturg, educator, mentor, a values-centered administrative leader and as someone who always sees the whole person first.”

Involved in over 40 theater productions within her career — spanning the West to East Coast and all space between — Rogers continues to build atop this balancing act. Dramaturging for local theater companies while her book on contemporary Black performance — a personal project she has carried out with an educator at Loyola University and a former professor at Columbia College Chicago — sleep comes short. 

In the end, it is her position in education and desire to keep expanding her knowledge that makes these restless days’ worth it.

“I want people to come as they are and who they are and let’s talk about how we make art together,” Rogers said. “My influence is about continuing to ask the questions about the world around us through the art we make and pushing ourselves to actually ask those questions than just assume the answers.”