Columbia College Chicago Theatre Alums and Faculty Make the Chicago Reader’s ‘Best of Chicago 2017’ Poll

Anna D. Shapiro

Anna D. Shapiro

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department is proud to congratulate Steppenwolf Theatre Company and its artistic director — Columbia College Chicago alum Anna D. Shapiro ’90, HDR ’15 — for being named “Best Established Theatre Company” in the Chicago Reader newspaper’s “Best of Chicago 2017” readers’ poll. The poll was published in the June 22, 2017, edition of the Chicago Reader, the city’s premier alternative weekly newspaper. This is the second year in a row Steppenwolf has won the “Best Established Theatre Company” in the Reader‘s annual “Best of Chicago” poll under Shapiro’s leadership. Shapiro, who stepped into the position of Steppenwolf’s artistic director in September 2015, received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from Columbia College when she spoke at the college’s commencement for Theatre Department graduates in May 2015. She has been a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 2005. Steppenwolf was also cited as Chicago’s “Best Off-Loop Theater Company” in the 2017 poll. The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department has long and deep ties to Steppenwolf; many of its faculty and alumni have worked there onstage and behind the scenes, and the department’s late longtime chair, Sheldon Patinkin, was a mentor to Shapiro and many other members of the internationally acclaimed ensemble.

Tiffany Keane Schaefer

In addition, the Reader poll’s “Arts & Culture” section also named Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum Tiffany Keane Schaefer ’12, a graduate of Columbia’s Theatre Directing Program, as “Best Stage Director.” Schaefer is the founder and artistic director of Otherworld Theatre Company, which was a runner-up in the category of “Best New Theatre Company” — a category it won in the Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2016” poll.

Founded in 2012, Otherworld is a small, adventurous ensemble dedicated to science fiction and fantasy storytelling. “Sometimes, when running a theatre company, it can truly be overwhelming,” said Schaefer in a Facebook post. “So many decision, hopes, fears, and dreams ride on your decisions. Sometimes, you make good ones. Other times, you make bad ones. But the dream survives, and today–a Science Fiction and Fantasy Theatre Director won an award based on the voice of the fans and artists who stated that this work touched their lives in some way.”

Lillian Frances‎

And Laugh Out Loud Theatre Chicago, a comedy theatre operated by Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member Lillian Frances, was named “Best Venue for Improv/Sketch” in the poll. Frances teaches improvisation at the Columbia College Theatre Department. In her Facebook post announcing that Laugh Out Loud had won the Reader poll, Frances mentioned that Columbia College students get FREE admission to any Laugh Out Loud show with a current student ID. Laugh Out Loud Theatre Chicago is located at 3851 N. Lincoln, Chicago (773-857-6000).

Kerry James Marshall (Photo: Cameron Wittig)

Jeanne Gang

The Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2017” poll also named Columbia College Chicago Honorary Doctor of Arts recipients Kerry James Marshall HDR ’17 as “Best Established Visual Artist” and Jeanne Gang HDR ’14 as “Best Architect.” Gang’s firm, Studio Gang, was also named “Best Architecture Firm.” Marshall was a Columbia College honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker in 2017, and Gang was an honoree and commencement speaker in 2014.

Founded in 1971, the Chicago Reader is noted for its comprehensive coverage of the arts, particularly theatre, film, and music.