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Choosing a Theater School

Northwestern freshman Franklin Bennett gives his top three reasons for why he came to Chicago to study theater. logo

Franklin Bennett at Lookingglass Theatre (Courtesy Franklin Bennett)

The weather outside may be frightful, or at least freezing cold, but the theater community here at Northwestern University is just starting to heat things up. The Bluest Eye, based on the novel by Toni Morrison, opens this weekend; Spring Awakening rehearsals are currently in full swing, and the always-popular Danceworks will definitely be a crowd pleasing experience.

Despite all the constant theater-making happening here on campus, I never forget to head into the city to see the outstanding work being done there as well. When I decided to go to NU, many people asked, "Why Chicago? Why not just head to New York and get to work?" As the theater majors (and everyone who has ever applied to college) reading this remember, choosing where to go and what to do feels like looking for the right wire in a time bomb. With all the thinking and pondering my choice started to become obvious, which leads me to tip #1 for this blog: Do not be afraid to do a little research when looking for a theater school! That being said, here are my top three reasons to why I study theater in Chicago:

1. There are so many theater companies here!

While that may seem like something you can find in any major city, I find that Chicago's myriad of performing arts organizations are easy to access and their distinctiveness caught my attention. Last quarter, I had the immense fortune to start seeing productions from various companies. Some favorite moments include The Tony-Award winning Lookingglass Theatre Company's The Great Fire, a retelling of the famous fire that swept through Chicago in 1871, and The House Theatre's Cyrano, an adaptation of the classic play with sword-fighting to the extreme, modern love songs, and the ever-famous nose. The point is that no matter what kind of theater you want to study as a student, or enjoy as an audience member, Chicago has it.

2. There are so many famous people from here (or who also studied here)!

Do names like Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Stephen Colbert, and Brian D'Arcy James ring a bell? Here at NU they sure do -- these performers once wandered the campus as students and these illustrious alums have gone on to outstanding careers. Now, you may be reading this thinking it may be kind of ridiculous to choose to study in a city just because *insert famous name here* was there at one point or another. Thankfully, I didn't choose based on that -- I'm more interested in what they did then to get where they are now. Many of the above mentioned companies and additional Chicago entertainment hot spots (The Second City, anyone?) helped these future stars get on their pathway. Again, their journey is what brought me here. Fun Fact: Did you know Tony-award winners Mary Zimmerman (Best Director: Metamorphoses) and John Logan (Best Play: Red) were also students at Northwestern?

3. There are so many ways to try something new!

If there was any one selling point to coming to the Windy City for college, it was the fact that many theater groups and organizations welcome creativity and embrace the unknown and thinking outside of the box. Theaters like the Goodman are noted for hosting festivals and workshops for new work (The Goodman's Latino Theatre Festival is a perfect example) . Again, many college students within the Chicago area are able to find and make great connections with the movers and shakers in the theater world. Also, you never know when a budding idea in this city will catch the attention of someone who respects your work and integrity and wants to help you see your vision come to life.

While I am a firm believer in the idea that you can make your opportunities in any situation (or in this case, any location), these were the things that brought me to Chicago. So if you are worried about where you want to study theater, a tip that we all can remind ourselves of is to never be afraid to do some research and find the theater community that is right for you!


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