On February 27th, the ChiArts’ Creative Writing and Theatre conservatories spent the afternoon with acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, Steppenwolf ensemble member, and actor, Tracy Letts. With a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award under his belt, Mr. Letts is also having a stand-out year on screen with roles in two 2018 Academy Award Best Picture nominees, Lady Bird and The Post. As Mr. Letts walked into the ChiArts Black Box Theatre, scholar-artists filled every seat, floor space, with little to no standing room available. Theatre Major and 2018 August Wilson Monologue winner, Nia Sarfo, welcomed Mr. Letts and conducted a memorable interview covering topics such as mastering nerves to the value of finding confidence as an artist. When asked for advice he’d give to young actors and writers, Mr. Letts reinforced the importance of creating your own opportunities; “Do it yourself. You shouldn’t ever feel like someone should give you permission to work.”
When you first meet Mr. Letts, his authenticity and curiosity captivates. Throughout the question and answer portion, scholar-artists seemed to appreciate his honest and humorous advice. In response to questions on winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Mr. Letts said “I think it changed people’s perception of me. I feel like people think I’m smarter than I am. But, I hope you all win one! It’s fun to have.” On a more serious note, Letts connected success with tenacity and patience. “Stick to it. Just keep doing it. Outlast them. It took me a long time to value what it means to be an artist in this city. To call yourself an artist is a very valuable thing.” After taking the time to personally interact with scholar-artists after the interview, Mr. Letts met with ChiArts’ improv troupe and joined in games that included conga lines, Shakespeare lines, and lots of laughter. After the improv games and to begin Mr. Lett’s tour of ChiArts, Nia Sarfo performed her winning monologue from the August Wilson Monologue Competition finals.
After the featured interview, Mr. Letts had an opportunity to engage with Theatre and Creative Writing classes. The tour ended with a visit to the Visual Arts Sophomore Show in ChiArts Gallery. With Creative Writer, Damayanti Wallace, and Nia Sarfo leading the tour, along with Executive & Artistic Director, José Ochoa, and ChiArts Board Members Jim and Kay Mabie, ChiArts was grateful for Mr. Letts’ time and support of arts education. When asked by scholar-artists on why he was interested in visiting ChiArts, Mr. Letts responded with “I look around at your faces and I see the future. That’s why I’m here.”
ChiArts would like to sincerely thank the private donor who provided this incredible learning opportunity for our scholar-artists and faculty.
We’re incredibly proud to present our largest production yet, Les Misérables. With over 50 cast and crew members, join us for this unforgettable story of redemption, duty, and love.
Production Run- January 18, 19, and 20 at 7:00 PM
Final matinee on Sunday, January 21 at 3:00 PM
Have you seen the ChiArts Les Mis flash mob? Check out our amazing cast!
We’re hosting a food drive-
The cast of Les Mis invites audience members to bring a non-perishable food item to drop in the lobby with NHS volunteers before they see the show! This is not required but highly encouraged. The themes of the show, which center around the working class, have inspired this food drive donation.
On November 29, The National YoungArts Foundation recognized Freedom Martin (Theatre ‘19) and Pierson Talbott (Visual Arts ‘17) as 2018 YoungArts Winners. This in an incredible accomplishment as Freedom and Pierson were selected from one of “the most competitive pool of applications to date” and are among the 171 young artists in the nation that were named Finalists, the organization’s highest honor. They are following the footsteps of YoungArts alumni such as Viola Davis, Josh Groban, Tarell A. McCraney, Doug Aitken, and Kerry Washington.
The National YoungArts Foundation provides winners with a lifetime of educational, financial, and professional development opportunities. From mentorship programs with well renowned artists, to showcasing work at institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, we’re thrilled for Freedom and Pierson to grow with this amazing network of artists. As Finalists, both scholar-artists have the opportunity to attend the 37th annual National YoungArts Week in Miami from January 7-14. We look forward to following their artistic journeys and cheering them on every step of the way! For more information regarding the National YoungArts Foundation, click here.
On August 19 and 20, the Merit School of Music was buzzing with Sondheim sounds! Seven of our scholar-artists and three ChiArts faculty members were a part of Merit’s wonderfully magical production of Into the Woods, JR. Directed by Theatre Conservatory’s A.J. Wester, alongside ChiArts’ Music and Theatre Conservatory’s Julian Chin as the Music Director and Cat Wilson on Lighting Design, the cast of 22 young artists brought the audience through the hilariously intertwined adventures of fairy tales.
Merit School of Music provides students from all over Chicago the opportunity to achieve their personal and musical potential by removing barriers to high-quality music education. Congrats to the following ChiArts faculty and scholar-artists on a successful run!
A.J. Wester, Stage Director
Julian Chin, Music Director
Cat Wilson, Lighting Design
Jordan Davis as Cinderella’s Mother
Miranda Dianovsky as Jack’s Mother
Michael Poulosophos as Wolf
Daniela Reyes as the Baker’s Wife
Aliah Robinson as Lucinda
Niani Soto as Cinderella’s Stepmother
Joanna Starr Poulos as Little Red Riding Hood
Photos courtesy of Merit School of Music.
Merit’s production of Into the Woods JR. was partially funded by Caerus Foundation, Inc., a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Shure Incorporated.
INTO THE WOODS JR was presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials were supplied by MTI.
With our first classes of scholar-artists graduating and pursuing professional development opportunities, ChiArts is thrilled to have hired four outstanding alumni in our Admissions, Theatre, and Visual Arts Conservatories! ChiArts is grateful for the knowledge, passion, and support our alumni community continuously gives back to our faculty and scholar-artists.
Sabina Valenica graduated ChiArts in 2013 and is now working as our Recruitment Coordinator in Admissions. Sabina is currently pursuing a double major at Northeastern Illinois University. Christian Helem and Janyce Caraballo (‘13) have joined our Theatre Conservatory as Teaching Assistants for the Musical Theatre and Stage Production courses. Christian is pursuing a degree in Theatre Performance at the University of Illinois- Chicago and Janyce graduated as a Posse Scholar with a Bachelor’s in Theatre and Music Performance from Denison University. The Visual Arts Conservatory is excited to have hired Moises Salazar (‘15) as a Teaching Assistant for AP Sculpture. Moises just graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and focuses on painting, ceramics, and fabrications. We look forward to watching these young professionals grow and thrive at ChiArts!
On July 13, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced the 4th Annual Fifth Star Honors! The event celebrates the contributions of four Chicago artistic giants, Common, Jeanne Gang, Kerry James Marshall, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Three of our scholar-artists will be honored in the City of Chicago’s Rising Star Honor Roll as well!
The City of Chicago “will recognize 25 outstanding young artists as members of the Rising Star Honor Roll.” ChiArts is proud to announce that Damayanti Wallace (Creative Writing Major) will be honored for Literary Arts, Jayda Perry for Dance, and Freedom Martin for Theatre. These three scholar-artists have shown exceptional leadership and passion within the arts and will be inducted in an awards ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center on Monday, August 28. For more information, visit www.fifthstarhonors.org.
On July 18, a group of ChiArts Musical Theatre and Acting Majors had a theatrical experience of a lifetime! Thanks to the generosity of ChiArts Board Member and Broadway Producer, John Yonover, scholar-artists spent an evening with the touring cast of Something Rotten. Before seeing this hilariously amazing show, scholar-artists networked with the cast at a private dinner hosted by Mr. Yonover. Cast members shared stories about their education, experiences, and career highlights. After the dinner, scholar-artists attended the show at the Oriental Theatre and were cackling and cheering throughout the production. One student exclaimed, “I’ve never had a favorite musical, but now Something Rotten is!” Following the show, our students met with the entire cast and asked questions ranging from “How does a swing memorize tracks?” to “How do you support your fellow cast members?” One of our acting majors even received a “mini master class” from Rob McClure (actor in the leading role of Nick Bottom) on how to deliver your lines authentically.
We are so grateful to Mr. Yonover and the cast of Something Rotten for this memorable and inspiring opportunity!
Thanks to the generosity of two ChiArts parents – Jon and Lisa Seda – 54 theatre students attended a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton on June 1. The opportunity created such excitement, generating a waiting list of students hoping to catch the chance to see this Tony-award winning production.
This is one of several ways Jon Seda, an actor known for his roles in Chicago Justice, P.D., and Fire, among others, hopes to give back to the community. With an interest in providing opportunities for youth, Seda hopes to lift economic barriers and provide students with life-altering experiences such as seeing this world-class production. In hopes of furthering his efforts to serve Chicago youth, Seda recently began a non-profit organization, The Boxing Theater Foundation, an idea inspired by his passion and involvement in the sport which began long before his on-screen career and his passion for the arts. The foundation will help expose other non-profit organizations throughout the city of Chicago that encourage and invest in today’s youth through various artistic opportunities and help in creating tomorrow’s Champions “One Round at a Time.”
We are thrilled to welcome Annie Calhoun as our new Theatre Department Head. She was a founding teacher at ChiArts and has a deep love for the school’s mission. She will succeed Rob Chambers, our Founding Theatre Department Head, who is moving to Arizona to lead the theatre department at Arizona School for the Arts.
Ms. Calhoun holds degrees in education and theatre. She returns to Chicago after five years teaching, directing and performing in Los Angeles. In LA, Ms. Calhoun taught and directed at the Professional, Collegiate (USC), and High School (LA County HS for the Arts) levels; she also founded an inner city theatre program for middle schoolers in South LA. She is a playwright whose pieces have been performed on stages all over Los Angeles and an actor whose work ranges from theater and film, to improv and stand up comedy.
A Chicago native, she is rooted in our values of play, ensemble, high standards and creative new work. The breadth and depth of her expertise in education and theatre offer a vast array of skills from classroom management and facilitating diversity, equity & inclusion to building ensemble among students and staff, and measuring student growth outcomes. Ms. Calhoun will begin her tenure in the fall for the 2017-18 school year!