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Theatre students in Chicago explore 20 shows in 20 days

During the course “Theatre and the Arts in Chicago,” 15 students enjoyed 20 professional productions in 20 days. Venues ranged from the world-renowned Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre to small, experimental stages, with each show providing a jumping off point for lively discussions at the class’s home base at Cornell’s new McLennan Center.

Junior Jordan Welch noted that the group’s interactions went far beyond their two hours of official classroom time each day. “When we were outside of class we spent most of our time discussing the class and the shows we had seen. We were always with each other, so it was easy to discuss the class many hours of the day.”

Led by Cornell theatre professor Jim VanValen, the course also provided many opportunities to interact with theatre professionals during backstage tours, classroom visits, post-show talkbacks, and informal gatherings. Welch and fellow student Alec Hynes both found these networking opportunities invaluable, especially the insights provided by recent Cornell theatre graduates living and working in Chicago.

“I was shocked at the strength of the alumni network in the city – their excitement for us to be at the McLennan Center helped make the trip,” Hynes said. “The McLennan Center dedication, dinner with alumni, and watching The Second City e.t.c.show with alumni were all unforgettable experiences.”

“I originally took the course because I was interested in seeing a number of professionally produced shows,” added Welch. “However, as the course got closer I realized how much I was going to learn about the Chicago theatre scene. This was one of the most important parts of the class for me, and I learned a great deal about how theaters operate in Chicago and the best ways to get a job in the theatre business in Chicago.”