Columbia College Chicago Alums and Faculty Highlighted in Newcity’s ‘Players 2019’ Celebration of Chicago Arts Leaders

Congratulations to the Columbia College Chicago alumni, faculty, and former students highlighted in Newcity‘s “Players 2019: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago.” Published January 2, 2019, the Newcity Stage feature saluted 50 influential leaders in Chicago’s performing arts scene. Among the honorees:

Anna D. Shapiro

Anna D. Shapiro

Columbia College alum Anna D. Shapiro ’90, HDR ’15, artistic director of Chicago’s internationally acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Shapiro, whose national honors include the Tony Award, was a featured speaker at the Columbia College Theatre Reunion on October 20, 2018. She also received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from Columbia College when she spoke at the college’s commencement for Theatre Department graduates in May 2015.

Ellen Chenoweth (Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux)

Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago faculty member Ellen Chenoweth, Director of the Dance Center’s Dance Presenting Series. Said Newcity: “About a year ago, Ellen Chenoweth took over what she describes, with self-acknowledged bias, as the best place to see dance in the country. She may be biased, but may also be right. The black-box theater on South Michigan Avenue has no parallel: you’re never more than ten rows from the action, which takes the form of top-shelf performances of all genres, provided by internationally renowned troupes, homegrown companies and everything in between.”

Gus Menary

Gus Menary

Kaiser Ahmed

Former Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department student Gus Menary and Columbia College alum Kaiser Ahmed ’08, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing program, co-founders of Jackalope Theatre. Menary and Ahmed serve as Jackalope’s artistic director and associate artistic director respectively. The Newcity article saluted Jackalope for being “committed to exploring and redefining American identity, a timely and activistic call to action,” adding, “Under artistic director Gus Menary, these players dig deep and aim high, maximizing capabilities to make great social change, onstage and in the community . . . through the amplification of diverse voices.”

Ilesa Duncan

Columbia alum Ilesa Duncan ’99, who serves as both artistic director of Lifeline Theatre and executive & producing director of Pegasus Theatre. Saluted by Newcity “for her strengths as an artist and educator,” Duncan was an alumni panelist at the Columbia College Theatre Reunion on October 20, 2018.


Michael Peters

Columbia alum Michael Peters ’05, associate artistic director and co-founder of The New Colony theatre company and a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting.

Harmony France

Harmony France

Former Columbia Theatre Department student Harmony France, founding artistic director of Firebrand Theatre, the world’s first Equity feminist musical theatre company. “France’s leadership and commitment shows promise in both filling and bringing greater awareness to a void in our industry,” Newcity said.

Josh Sobel and Carol Cohen (Photo: Joe Mazza, Brave Lux)

Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member Josh Sobel and former Columbia College Theatre Design program student Carol Cohen, artistic director and executive director respectively of Haven Theatre. Cohen was a panelist at the Columbia College Theatre Reunion on October 20.

Meida McNeal

Columbia College Chicago Department of Art and Art History faculty member Meida McNeal, co-artistic director of Honey Pot Performance.

Sasha Smith

Former Columbia College Theatre Department student Sasha Smith, artistic curator at The Boxcar at Steep Theatre, an incubator for new work.

Shawn Renee Lent (Photo: Benjamin Wardell)

Columbia College alum Shawn Renee Lent MAM ’06, a graduate of the MA Program in Arts Management from what is now the Columbia College Chicago Business and Entrepreneurship Department. Lent, who is also a former Arts Integration Program Specialist at Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships, was listed for her work as program director of Chicago Dancemakers Forum, which Newcity called “arguably the most powerful force for the creation of groundbreaking dance in the city.”

Mark Kelly

Also listed was Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Kelly, formerly Vice President for Student Success at Columbia College, was a guest speaker at the formal opening of the Columbia College Chicago Getz Theater Center’s new Courtyard Theater on October 19, 2018, where he presented Columbia College president Kwang-Wu Kim with a proclamation by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel honoring “Columbia College Chicago Theatre Day in Chicago” “in recognition of the indelible contributions that Columbia College’s Theatre Department has made to theatre in the City of Chicago, across the United States, and around the world.”