Columbia College Chicago Theatre and Dance Alumni and Faculty Named in Newcity’s ‘Players 2024: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago’

Congratulations to the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department and Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alumni and faculty cited in Newcity Stage‘s annual new year’s salute to movers and shakers in Chicago’s vibrant performing-arts scene. Among those listed in “Players 2024: The Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago,” posted on Newcity‘s website January 9, 2024:

Ilesa Duncan (Photo: Joe Mazza/brave lux)

Columbia College alum Ilesa Duncan ’99, artistic director of Lifeline Theatre in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood and executive/producing director of the itinerant Pegasus Theatre, who is celebrated as one of “The Rising Stars and Storefront Stalwarts” in Chicago theatre. “As a leader of not one but two old-line, much-loved Chicago theater companies, Ilesa Duncan carries more than the usual weight on her shoulders,” writes Newcity‘s Hugh Iglarsh, who quotes Duncan as saying: “There’s something about the communal experience of viewing art together—it’s something we don’t get from a screen. If we stop doing that, we’ll be in a world of hurt.”

Carol Cohen (right) with Den Theatre founder Ryan Martin (Photo: Joe Mazza/brave lux)

Former Columbia College Theatre Department student Carol Cohen, co-owner of the Den Theatre in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. “We want everyone—the performers, the theater companies and especially our patrons—to experience a beautiful environment, attentive staff, and first-rate entertainers,” Cohen is quoted as saying in a section devoted to “Producers and Places” of note in Chicago theatre. Cohen, who studied costume design at Columbia, is also the benefactor of the Carol Cohen Award, established to assist Theatre Design and Technology students at Columbia with expenses related to research projects within their studies.

Carla Stillwell (Photo: Joe Mazza/brave lux)

Former Theatre Department student Carla Stillwell, managing director of Collaboraction Theatre and founder and executive director of the Stillwell Institute for Contemporary Black Art, who is highlighted in a section about “Advocates and Changemakers.”

Shawn Lent (Photo: Benjamin Wardell)

Columbia College alum Shawn Lent MAM ’06, a graduate of the college’s M.A. program in Arts Management and a former Arts Integration Program Specialist for the college’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships, who was also listed in the “Advocates and Changemakers” section for her role as Programs and Communications Director of Chicago DanceMakers Forum. “The vibrancy and abundance of Chicago’s dance landscape is thanks in no small part to Chicago DanceMakers Forum, which bestows sizable, no-strings grants to independent dance artists. Arguably no grantor in the country has done more for cutting-edge movement artists, and certainly not as many,” says Newcity.

Meredith Sutton and Roell Schmidt (Photo: Joe Mazza/brave lux)

Meredith Sutton and Roell Schmidt, artistic director and producing director of the Dance Center of Columbia College, which, Newcity notes in a section on “Institutions,” “has been a training ground for generations of dancers as well as a presenter of top-shelf, innovative work in an intimate house with a stage equal in footprint to the seating” for 50 years.

Daryl Brooks (Photo: Joe Mazza/brave lux)

Daryl Brooks, producing managing director of Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre and a guest director of Mainstage Season musicals at the Columbia College Theatre Department, including last year’s production of Sunday in the Park with George.

Jim Corti

Vershawn Sanders-Ward

Meida McNeal

In addition, Newcity listed Jim Corti, a former Musical Theatre Dance instructor in the Columbia College Theatre Department’s Musical Theatre Program and artistic director of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois, as a “Producers and Places Hall of Fame” member. And Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alum and former faculty member Vershawn Sanders-Ward ’02, a graduate of Columbia College’s Dance BFA program and founder/artistic director of Red Clay Dance Company, was listed in the “Rising Stars and Storefront Stalwarts Hall of Fame,” as was Meida McNeal, a faculty member in the Columbia College Chicago Art | Design Department and artistic/managing director of HoneyPot Chicago.