Theater at DePaul Prep offers each student the opportunity of realizing the importance and impact of drama and the theatre in our present world, and the rich heritage it has fostered on a social and cultural level throughout history. The classes offered teach the performance skills necessary to perform in the theatre in a variety of genres and using a variety of methodologies. The classes also develop skills that will help each student develop the self-confidence, self-direction and knowledge involved in the creative processes which make dramatic theatre.
Introductory and Advanced-level Theatre Arts offer hands-on, workshop-based classes that respect the process of making theatre. We begin with an understanding of what makes a theatrical event, then expand on this foundation by developing character, finding and creating conflict, and challenging our boundaries through the use of imaginary circumstances. Current research cannot overstress the value of “soft skills” needed to achieve in twenty-first century learning and working environments. Theater artists intuit why communication, empathy, collaboration, and creative problem solving are the building blocks for successful scene making.
The DePaul Prep Theater Society fosters artistic literacy by exploring the “live” performance medium in a variety of production settings. Focusing on issues of the human experience, we seek to develop insight, debate, and appreciation for narratives that may or may not be like our own. Through the process of theatrical collaboration, we believe our ensemble grows stronger by honoring the diversity and differences of our individual members.
Whereas the main focus of the Theater Society is on scripted material by established writers, Improv focuses on one of Chicago’s great contributions to theatre: the art of non-scripted storytelling. Using classic rules and gamesmanship, Improv creates reality out of that which is not there. Stripped of all the trappings that accompany fully staged production, an Improv troupe must rely solely on the risks of its members.
“…without theatre I would simply not have a purpose, nor would I know what passion or need feel like…I’m grateful for being able to know what drives me, what I can deliver to people in order to change them, and also to feel secure enough to know I belong to something bigger.”
Ernesto Martinez ‘15
Theatre Performance Major
University of Illinois at Chicago
What do you do that other high school theaters don’t?
It starts with our space. Where many high schools produce shows in large auditoriums designed in some cases 60 years ago, we produce in spaces that many of today’s Chicago theatres choose, and are extremely lucky to be able to perform at The Theatre School at DePaul University through our academic partnership with DePaul University. Live theater is a two-way, reciprocal event. Our actors get immediate knowledge of how they are doing and can make the adjustments necessary to connect and correct their performances with an audience honestly. Having an auditorium that seats thousands may have its benefits, but it can often create bad habits for young artists too. Once bad habits begin, they become difficult to unlearn.
Why doesn’t your theater look like a "regular"high school theater?
Have you been to the kinds of theaters that began in Chicago and keep the Chicago-style of theater so unique and alive? Most of them are what are called storefront and black box spaces with no more seats than our spaces hold. They produce edgy stories where the characters’ desperations and obstacles are
apparent from the moment the lights come on. As audience members, we know this because we can actually see them breathe, and think, and change right in front of us. In many cases we could almost touch them. By having this dynamic, this intimacy, even small stories have intensity about them. They are not easily glossed over, rushed through, or watered down for an academic or high school setting. As audience members, we
want to see the real thing. As actors we want to learn how to deliver it.
Doesn’t this closeness with the audience make the actors mess up?
Failure is sometimes a necessary part of the live performance medium in a school. Again, this is why many of the best conservatories in the U.S. train their actors in small flexible spaces. When our audience is too far away, when they can’t almost touch us, then we lose out on the advantage of learning what we need to know to be more truthful. Auditoriums can be great for lavishly produced “spectacle” shows. But when we’re too busy doing the spectacle, we’re not always learning the simple next best steps that help us tell our stories better and connect us with our audiences.
What kinds of shows do you do?
This often makes us different, too. Our shows focus on issues of the human experience or issue oriented plays. These plays are crafted to spark debate and discussion in which multiple perspectives can be considered and have an equal voice. Sometimes our shows stay in the present, or go back in time. Most of our shows are written by 20th and 21st century writers, whose plays have inhabited the storefront and black box theater scene in Chicago for many years. We have also begun to pursue stage adaptations of great literary pieces and young adult novels.
Do you ever just want to do stuff that’s silly or fun?
Of course we do! Comedy is full of the element of surprise. When it works in a small intimate theater, there is nothing else like it! Come see how our Improv troupe does it. They perform every spring.
Do you ever do musicals?
We want to. We have done them recently, we’ve learned from what we’ve done, and want to do the next ones better. But we don't want to do them with a recorded music track -- we want live student musicians. As our music and band program grows, we will revisit musicals in the future!