Sustaining Chicago Theatre: Past, Present, Future

full name / name of organization: 
Columbia College Chicago


Sustaining Chicago Theatre: Past, Present, and Future

A scholarly symposium presented by the Theatre Department of Columbia College Chicago

– the largest and most diverse private arts and media college in the nation with more than 120 academic programs and nearly 12,500 students.

Dates: May 18-22, 2011

Place: Columbia College, Chicago, IL

"For the poet Carl Sandburg it was the 'City of the Big Shoulders.' Architect Daniel Burnham called it 'the Paris of the Prairies.' That mix of raw energy and refined aestheticism makes Chicago one of the world's great cities—and

the current theatre capital of America."

Michael Billington, The Guardian, 2004


The rise of Chicago as a center of theatrical creativity over the past half-century is a signal development in the history of modern theatre. From the development of Second City-style improv and sketch comedy to the Story Theatre experiments of Paul Sills, from the intimacy of Chamber Theatre literary adaptation to the dazzling epic visions of Frank Galati and Mary Zimmerman, from bold reimaginings of classic American and Shakespearean drama to the development of risky new work by emerging writers, from the freewheeling fantasy of Stuart Gordon's Organic Theatre to the gritty naturalism of David Mamet and Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago's distinctively ensemble-focused theatre movement has had an extraordinary impact nationally and globally.

Professional non-profit theatre in Chicago continues to grow and diversify, as new generations of artists build on the work of their predecessors while incorporating rapidly evolving new technologies and international influences. However, the causes, nature, and effects of the Chicago theatre phenomenon are little written about by scholars, teachers, and even theatre professionals. Moreover, because the founders of the earliest theatres in the "off-Loop theatre movement" of the past half-century are now in their sixties and seventies, the days approach rapidly when scholars will no longer have opportunities to learn directly from the founders' experiences. The archival, theoretical, and pedagogical foundations for mature, useful scholarship about Chicago theatre must still be built, and the future of Chicago theatre as a force in world theatre must be charted.

By creating the first forum for scholars from Chicago and the Midwest, around the U.S., and overseas to consider these and related issues, Columbia College Chicago's 2011 symposium on "Sustaining Chicago Theatre: Past, Present, and Future" can significantly influence scholarship about--and the future of--the performing arts on local, national and global scales.

Request for Proposals

The organizing committee invites 300-word abstracts (including up to 10 low res images or up to 2 minutes video where relevant) addressing the past, present, and/or future of professional theatre in Chicago in relation, but not limited, to the following topics (other side):

1. Theory and Praxis; Workshops; Master Classes (acting, auditioning, casting, directing, designing, dramaturgy, ensemble, improvisation, narrative, writing, criticism);

2. Education, Training, and Access (schools, colleges, programs, teachers, economic strata, social circles, professional networks);

3. Classical and Contemporary (Shakespeare, Loop, off-Loop, fringe, mainstream, musicals, genders, sexualities, ethnicities, abilities, presence/absence of international influences);

4. Management and Development (funding, patronage, boards of directors, unions, producing, marketing, sales, social media, audience development, government relations, public policy).

Proposals from emerging scholars and artists and attendance by graduate students are particularly encouraged.

Proposals should include the following items:

1. Your name, title, status (e.g., artist, faculty, independent scholar, management, student) and academic and/or professional affiliation (if applicable).

2. Your contact information (particularly email).

3. The title and abstract for your paper, panel, workshop, master class. Please limit abstracts to 300 words. Proposals for panels of two or more scholars and for workshops and master classes with multiple leaders are welcome. Please include the above information for each participant.

4. The technical requirements of your presentation.

Deadline for submissions: September 1, 2010

In your e-mail, please write "Sustaining Chicago Theatre Proposal" in the subject heading and in the body of the message include the title of the proposal, your name, address, telephone, email address and affiliation (if applicable).

Receipt of your submission will be confirmed via email and you will be informed of the committee's decisions by November 15, 2010.

E-mail proposals to:

For information on the conference see You may also contact Albert Williams, Senior Lecturer, Columbia College Theatre Department, at 312-369-6141,, or Dr. John Green, chair of the Columbia College Theatre Department, at 312-369-6160,

Date of issue: March 3, 2010