The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department fondly honors the memory of Sheldon Patinkin – longtime chair of the Theatre Department, noted director and teacher, and cherished friend and mentor to many in the Chicago theatre community — who was born August 27, 1935. To celebrate what would have been Sheldon’s 87th birthday, the Theatre Department hosts Theatre Alumni Celebrate Sheldon on Thursday, August 25, from 3 to 5 PM CST at the Getz Theatre Center of Columbia College, located at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop. “We will gather to honor our friend, chat about the past and future, and enjoy some cake!” said Susan Padveen, interim chair of the Theatre Department, in an email to Columbia College Theatre Department alumni and supporters announcing the event. To register for the event, click here.
All alumni of the Columbia College Theatre Department are welcome! Alumni who are members of the Columbia College Alumni Network at the Innovator membership level will be able to pick a book from Sheldon’s prized book collection. Alumni Network Innovators will also receive a limited edition 2021-2022 Theatre season t-shirt — our gift to you for supporting Columbia’s Theatre students.
Not an Alumni Network member? Click here to join today. It’s FREE and super easy!
Sheldon Patinkin was chair of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department from 1980 — when the College moved into what is now the Getz Theatre Center of Columbia College Chicago at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop — to 2009, when he assumed the title of Chair Emeritus, continuing to teach and direct at the college until his death on September 21, 2014. Sheldon’s own account of his experience as Chair of the Columbia College Theatre Department is chronicled in a 1998 interview for the Columbia College Oral History Project.
A beloved mentor to thousands of performers, directors and creative spirits, Sheldon was also a leading creative voice for over five decades at The Second City, America’s premier comedy theatre and training center and the Columbia College Theatre Department’s partner institution in the department’s groundbreaking BA Program in Comedy Writing and Performance. As a student at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s, he developed friendships with director Paul Sills and producer Bernie Sahlins, forming a company called the Playwrights Theatre Club. After Sills and Sahlins cofounded The Second City in 1959, Sheldon became the theatre’s general manager, eventually succeeding Sills as Artistic Director. By the mid-1960s, he was a leading artistic voice at the theater, directing many of the resident company shows and serving as an artistic advisor for decades.
Sheldon was also an Artistic Consultant at Chicago’s internationally lauded Steppenwolf Theatre and co-founder of The School at Steppenwolf, and taught at The School for 17 years. As stated on Steppenwolf’s website, The School at Steppenwolf was established in consultation with Sheldon by Steppenwolf co-founder (and former Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member) Jeff Perry, Steppenwolf’s then-artistic director Martha Lavey, and Lavey’s successor as artistic director, Columbia College alum Anna D. Shapiro ’90, HDR ’15, a former student of Sheldon’s.
As previously reported in this blog, on September 28, 2015, Columbia College’s president, Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, formally dedicated the Getz Theatre Center’s lower-level studio performance space (formerly the New Studio Theatre) as the Sheldon Patinkin Theatre.