Ali has really enjoyed the challenges associated with all aspects of theatre. Watching her tackle Shakespeare, Ionesco, and all manner of writers and roles and develop a level of confidence and maturity is incredible. Her academic growth has been equally impressive and we believe her theatre experiences have absolutely underpinned her intellectual and academic development.”
— Emily, Theatre Parent

The Theatre Department at The Chicago Academy for the Arts involves immersive training in theatre and performance studies. In addition to regular and intensive work in the Acting Studio, Theatre students explore topics that fall under four curricular headings: Acting, Performance Techniques, Theatre Studies, and Production & Technical Theatre.

Projects and units that fall under these headings may include Stagecraft, Directing, Auditioning and Professional Business, Dialects, Stage Combat, Improvisation, Acting for the Camera, Playwriting, Circus and others. This model is integrated at every stage with contemporary and classical texts.

Projects will often culminate in a showcase of the student’s work.

Acting Studio is at the core of our work in the Theatre Department. Training in the Academy Theatre Department uses our unique Academy Actor Training Approach (see below).

Studio classes are typically divided into three sections: Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced. Students who enter the program as freshmen can, in general, expect to progress sequentially through the acting curriculum. The theatre faculty will maintain consistent communication with the student about their progress.

Productions and performance opportunities in the Theatre Department showcase the top-tier acting and performance training our students receive. A typical production schedule includes a Fall Play, a Spring Play, a Shakespeare Festival in January in conjunction with the Musical Theatre Department, as well as several other performance opportunities based on the coursework for the semester. These opportunities may include one to two Directing Showcases, a Circus Project Culmination, a reading of Playwriting finals, and others. We also encourage our department members to audition for student films in the Media Arts Department.

Recent mainstage plays have included The Three Musketeers by Catherine Bush, The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder, Little Wars by Steven Carl McCasland, Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus, Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Simon Stephens, The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, The Aliens by Annie Baker, columbinus by PJ Paparelli and Stephen Karam, Sense and Sensibility adapted by Kate Hamill, and She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen.

Guest artists will work with our students on immersive project experiences and shorter workshops. While our department faculty is made up of working professionals from the Chicago Theatre Community, The Academy is active in finding other artists to engage with our students. Recent and upcoming lecturers and instructors have included Peggy Roeder, Leah Urzendowski, Anthony Courser, Adrian Danzig, Kevin Mimms, Sylvia Hernandez-DeStasi, Darian Tene, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Kevin Beverley, Alex Aguilar, Jose Ramos, Leah Orleans, Orion Couling, Sara Gammage and others.

Play attendance in our vibrant Chicago theatre scene is another highly integral piece of our curriculum. We attend several professional plays during the school year. These productions are carefully selected to intersect with our coursework and will, as often as possible, include plays that we are reading in the Theatre Curriculum. In addition to attending the productions, we will provide opportunities for students to interact with production staff and cast members of the plays when possible.

Graduates of the Theatre Department attend programs at the nation’s leading conservatories, universities, and professional schools. Alumni may be seen on and off Broadway, in regional theatre productions, on television, and in major motion pictures.

Theatre Department FAQ’s

The Skin of Our Teeth, 2022

What’s the difference between Theatre and Musical Theatre at The Chicago Academy for the Arts?
In the Theatre Department, we train students to think about the entirety of the discipline of theatre-making and the expansive range of opportunities therein. Students who graduate from our program may want to pursue acting, directing, playwriting, devising, improv, stagecraft, production, stage management, or all of the above.

In the Musical Theatre Department, graduates gain the necessary tools to become performers in the genre of musical theatre with rigorous training in singing, acting, and dancing.

What do graduates from the Theatre Department go on to do?
Lots of things. Many of our students matriculate into schools that specialize in actor training while others pursue liberal arts colleges that have strong theatre programs. Supported by our strong academic program, students will also pursue a non-arts major in college. Occasionally, students will enter the business of acting and theatre straight from high school.

How many hours a week do I attend my theatre classes?
In a typical week, you can expect to study in your department for a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 25 hours while in rehearsals for one of our productions.

Where did the Theatre Department faculty receive their theatre training?
Our dedicated theatre faculty all have years of extensive training and professional work. Check out their bios here to find out more about them.

How do you handle casting for your department productions?
Each play produced in the department (fall mainstage, spring mainstage, and Shakespeare Festival) is chosen with the current ensemble of actors in mind. By the time our students are seniors, our faculty is intimately familiar with their unique skills and talents. Our show selection and casting takes into account each year’s specific ensemble.


More about the Theatre Department


Other semester-long classes and workshops that occur during a student’s tenure in The Academy Theatre Department include Script Analysis, Stage Management, Voice & Movement, Makeup for Stage and Screen, Costume Concepts, Circus, Combat for Stage and Screen and Playwriting.

The Academy Theatre Department routinely invites guest speakers and resident teaching artists to connect students with the wider landscape of the industry. Recent and upcoming lecturers and instructors include Peggy Roeder, Leah Urzendowski, Anthony Courser, Adrian Danzig, Sylvia Hernandez-DeStasi, Kevin Beverley, Alex Aguilar, Orion Couling, Sara Gammage, and others.

*Course titles reflect transcripts for the 2017-2018 freshman class.