Ready for its close-up
September 4, 2013
By Anna Ables
After weeks of packing—and then unpacking—offices, classrooms, costume storage, scene and prop shops, and lighting and sound equipment, Theatre School faculty and staff are getting acquainted with their new state-of-the-art home.
Located at the corner of Fullerton and Racine avenues on the Lincoln Park Campus, the new five-story building houses two cutting-edge theatre spaces. The Fullerton Theatre seats 250 people and features a thrust stage that reaches into the audience. The Sondra A. and Denis Healy Theatre on the building’s fourth floor is a 100-seat theatre designed for flexible staging techniques.
Internationally renowned architect César Pelli and his firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects strategically emphasized openness and transparency in the building’s design. The excitement of theatre education and performance are placed on clear view for the neighborhood and theatergoers.
A ground-floor entrance opens into the “living room” of the building—a glass-enclosed lounge, concessions space, box office and lobby—where patrons and students will congregate and be visible from the street. Floor-to-ceiling glass on the ground floor displays many day-to-day activities in the scene shop, metal shop and paint shops. A sleek thrust stage in the Fullerton Theatre serves as the anchor destination of the first floor.
The second through fifth floors mix a variety of departments and spaces devoted to costumes, makeup, props, lighting laboratories, new media workshops, acting labs and classrooms. In fact, all classrooms have been designed to offer some level of performance and production capabilities.
Even better, the building contains an unusual luxury only found at the conservatory level. Three dedicated rehearsal spaces were sized to mirror the dimensions of DePaul’s two stages inside the new building, plus the historic, 1,325-seat Merle Reskin Theatre in downtown Chicago, where DePaul students will continue to perform. For students and faculty, that means no longer pushing desks and chairs out of the way to clear daytime classrooms for evening rehearsals.
Throughout the interior of the new building, behind-the-scenes activity is intentionally visible to both theatergoers and passersby. Visitors coming to a show at the fourth-floor Healy Theatre will pass classrooms and rehearsal rooms, minimizing distinctions between performance and work spaces. The thoughtful design will make it clear that visitors aren’t attending just any theatre, but one of the top university theatre training conservatories in the country.
“It is a great privilege to have an artistic home of such high caliber that was designed and built specifically for the making of theatre and for fostering a sense of community, “ said John Culbert, dean of The Theatre School. “We are very excited for the DePaul community to tour our new spaces and to engage with us throughout the year.”
“It’s really transformative to have all of the school’s faculty and staff in one facility,” said John Bridges, The Theatre School’s assistant dean and director of administration. “Our new space brings The Theatre School into a true leadership position among theatre training programs.”
The move to the new building was a feat in itself. Moving trucks arrived during the last weeks of July to transport more than 6,500 boxes in 63 truckloads. Since faculty and staff said goodbye to The Theatre School’s former home on 2135 N. Kenmore Ave., they have been busy preparing for upcoming shows in the fall.
The first production on the Fullerton Stage will be Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” directed by Damon Kiely, running Oct. 4-13. “Arabian Nights,” adapted by Dominic Cooke and directed by Kevin Kingston, will open the Healy Theatre. “Arabian Nights” will be performed Nov. 1- 10.
To view photos of the new building, visit http://depaulne.ws/TTSphotogallery.
For more information about performances or to purchase tickets, visit theatre.depaul.edu.
DePaul faculty and staff are invited to a community open house at The Theatre School on Monday, Sept. 16 from 5-7 p.m. Celebrate the new school with tours of the building and theatre spaces.