New Theatre School building opens to rave reviews

DePaul’s Theatre School is kicking off the school year in style with its brand new facility in Lincoln Park.

The striking white building is located at the corner of Fullerton and Racine. According to Dean John Culbert, DePaul’s theatre department discussed several locations before deciding on the current area in 2009. Culbert said the location allows theatre students and faculty to be part of an arts corridor along Fullerton Avenue, where DePaul’s art department and art museum are also located.

“It’s sort of a gateway or cornerstone of the campus,” Culbert added.

Theatre students will have access to a variety of resources with their new facility. Culbert said it contains acting labs, studios for design tech students, a script library and more. The building also houses two brand new theatres, and Culbert believes this will supplement the hands-on learning that the department already encourages. 

“I like to say we’re putting the theatre back in the theatre school,” he said. “Having those theatres as part of our world are really going to change our opportunity for the student experience going through the school.”

During the design process, a wide variety of voices were heard from to ensure the facility’s success. Faculty and staff met with architects, and everyone provided input on big decisions like theatre configuration. Culbert also said subgroups of faculty were assigned to look at specific aspects of the building. For example, the head of the sound design program oversaw the development of the sound design lab.

“We would not have the building that we have today if it weren’t for the input from the faculty and staff,” he said. “It’s one thing to design a performing arts building, a different thing to design the performing arts building for the Theatre School at DePaul in Chicago in 2013.”

Shane Kelly, head of the theatre technology program, is one faculty member who is satisfied with the final product. Kelly said his students will be able to work with equipment never-before-seen at DePaul. He is also excited that the Theatre School can finally have a place to call home.

“What is really exciting about the new Theatre School building is that it is made for us and for the way we work, instead of our former facilities that we modified from their previous use to serve our needs,” Kelly said. “And while that sort of problem solving and creation is exciting, having a place that is already set up for what we want to do so we can get right down to business is exciting and hopefully allows everyone to focus on our training and productions.”

Kelly also said he believes the facility’s design will foster a greater sense of community – both inside and out.

“The students, faculty and staff are now all in the same building, which will create a greater collaborative community inside the Theatre School,” he said. “And the added visibility in the community will hopefully bring more people to our building and performances because connecting with the audience is a vital part of everything we do.”

Students have swarmed the new building now that classes started, and it has been met with equal amounts of shock and excitement. Riley Andrews, a senior acting student, described the design as overwhelming.

“It’s brand new, nobody’s broken it in yet,” Andrews said. “It’s not where we’ve kind of lived for four years – or the past three for me.”

Andrews said returning students didn’t receive an official tour of the new facility, which made it difficult to navigate at the beginning. Despite that, Andrews said she is a big fan of the school’s makeover.

“The building is amazing,” Andrews said. “All of the things that you could possibly imagine wanting as an actor, like space for example, are here.”

Andrews also believes the new building proves once and for all that DePaul’s theatre program is on par with that of Juilliard.

“I think that the biggest thing for the incoming classes is that this building kind of fits the reputation that we have,” Andrews said. “We are one of the best conservatories in the world, let alone in this country, which is a big deal. The building on Kenmore did not represent that.”

The Theatre School’s season kicks off this year in the new buildling. Their season includes shows in the new building with “Our Town.” It will run Oct. 3-14.