The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department mourns the passing of Paola Coletto, a former Theatre Department teacher and Academy Director of the PadovArts Academy conservatory for the performing arts in Padua, Italy. The academy is an outgrowth of The School for Theatre Creators, which Coletto founded in Chicago in 2012, prior to moving back to her home town of Padua.
“Paola taught introductory classes in physical theatre and mask across the spectrum of acting classes from 2011 to 2013” at the Columbia College Theatre Department, recalls John Green, former Allen and Lynn Turner Chair of Theatre at Columbia. “She also made important contributions to the earliest discussions on what would become our MFA graduate program.” That program, the Columbia College Theatre Department’s MFA Program in Acting and Contemporary Performance Making, is an intensive two-year program requiring a year of professional work in Chicago followed by a year of training at Arthaus Berlin International School.
“Paola was a wonderfully skilled teacher of physical theatre, mask, and object work, and a passionate advocate for bringing these traditional forms back into the mainstream of actor training and production,” Green says. “To be in a room with her was to be inspired by her intellect, energy, and vision. Paola was always in planning mode, planning the next class, the next workshop, the next theatre company, and nimbly balancing the administrative demands with her artistic vision in all these ventures. Truly one of a kind, she is sorely missed.”
“Paola was an inspirational teacher who affected many students and faculty members with her positive energy, great skill, and care,” adds Susan Padveen, Interim Allen and Lynn Turner Chair of the Theatre Department. “She was amazing to learn from and work with.”
Coletta had the distinction of being one of 40 students in the 67-year history of the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq who were certified as a pedagogical specialist under the direction of the school’s founder, French actor-director Jacques Lecoq. She held degrees in Classical Studies and Architecture, Design and Textile Work. She was also certified as a personal trainer and bodywork professional in massage and nutrition balance. She studied the holistic practice of art therapy in theatre, painting, and sculpture and recently completed her certification as Mental Coach with a specialization in Art, Sport, and Business. In the arts, she held positions in the fields of acting, producing, directing, teaching – having worked in Italy, France, England, Scotland, Spain, Poland, Israel, New Zealand, and the United States.
In 2004, she relocated to Chicago, where she created a wide net of collaboration in teaching and directing, partnering with many universities and various theatre companies. In 2012, ready to restart a new school, she founded The School for Theatre Creators, where she led a faculty of teachers with a wide diversity of experience in acting, directing and writing. During this period, she was able to create an international training ground for artists and individuals; her work was highly regarded and sought after for participants in both the U.S. and Italy.
In 2018 Paola moved the school back to Padua, Italy, where she died April 19, 2023, surrounded by loving family and friends.