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Theatre Department Gets Round of Applause

Northwestern listed among world's top drama schools

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June 3, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- This week’s Hollywood Reporter gives a big nod to Northwestern University’s “Purple Mafia” in its listing of the world’s top 25 drama schools.

The Hollywood Reporter article refers to Northwestern alumni Sherry Lansing as “the first-ever female studio chief,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus as “the first fictional female vice president,” Mary Zimmerman as “the second woman to win a Tony Award for directing” and John Logan as “a triple Oscar-nominated writer.”

Northwestern graduates Stephen Colbert and Warren Beatty also get a mention, and the article makes a wry reference to the theatre department’s close and highly productive relationship with Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre.

That, of course, is only a sampling of why Northwestern is world-renowned for its thespian talent.

What the article fails to mention is that Northwestern’s drama education is different from the rest of the institutions on the Top 10 list. Part of a liberal arts program, the University offers a bachelor of arts or science degree from the School of Communication, and students do not have to audition to get into the program.

Northwestern theatre majors, above all, are liberal arts students. “We’re not training actors,” says Cindy Gold, associate professor of theatre and head of acting. “We’re using theatre as one of the humanities, as a tool to help train people. The liberal arts environment nurtures the well-rounded student, and our student body is as diverse as the creative opportunities it offers.”

Only last month, Northwestern alum and actor, director and producer David Schwimmer --best known for his role as Ross Geller on the TV sitcom “Friends” -- talked on campus about the value of Northwestern’s liberal arts versus conservatory education.

Reviewing his own career, Schwimmer told School of Communication students that getting a liberal arts degree wasn’t just about making his parents feel better about majoring in theatre. It also “grounded” him and made him a better and more well-rounded artist.

Read the complete Hollywood Reporter story here.

Topics: University