Alumni from The Theatre School (TTS) and the School of Music are working onstage and behind the scenes across Chicago. They can be found front and center at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, casting some of the city’s major productions and creating the music that brings a show to life. Here are just a few of the alumni who are making names for themselves in careers they love.
Rooted in The Theatre School
TimeLine Theatre Company was founded by six people who met while enrolled at DePaul. The theatre has remained DePaul-centric ever since.
“We do enjoy working with fellow alumni,” says Associate Artistic Director and Company Member Nick Bowling (MFA ’96). “We speak a similar language. There is a tradition, style and diversity of intellect and emotional acting that is connected to the kind of work we do.”
Of the founders, Bowling, Living History Education Program Director Juliet Hart (MFA ’95) and Artistic Director PJ Powers (THE ’95) remain. Among the regular flow of DePaul cast and crew is one special guest who is always welcome at the theatre in Lakeview.
“[TTS Dean] John Culbert has designed scenery for us on a few productions,” Bowling says. “He sort of whispers magic. He sits quietly in the corner and when he speaks, he inevitably shares something that affects the production in ways you wouldn’t expect.”
Now in their 18th season, Bowling looks back with pride at the variety of plays they’ve produced, the awards and honors they’ve received, their work with Chicago Public Schools and their commitment to staging plays inspired by past and present social issues.
“Some of the best theatre I ever saw was at DePaul, in a tiny classroom, on a budget of $50,” Bowling says. “TTS found the essence of what was human, artistic and interesting and got to the core of theatre. We apply that concept in everything we do at TimeLine. It works.”
It started during her senior year when Links reached out to TTS faculty member Jane Brody. She had heard of the professor’s storied casting career and wanted to learn more.
“Throughout the program, my professors dared me to ask, ‘Can I?’ ‘Can I help on this production?’ ‘Can I watch rehearsal?’ That’s what I did with Jane. ‘Can I pick your brain about the industry and your career?’ She said yes, and I credit all my success to that one question.”
The first time the pair sat down, Brody made a phone call to Paskal Rudnicke Casting, a company she owned before selling it to two of her former interns. At Brody’s suggestion, Links was interviewed for a summer internship following graduation. She landed the internship, and when it ended, she joined the TTS staff as a production coordinator. Eventually, Paskal Rudnicke hired her back full time as a casting associate.
“It’s my dream job,” Links says. “I get to close my eyes and imagine who would be perfect for the part. I get to work with iconic Chicago actors whose performances I dreamed about and cried over while I was in school. Three years later, I’m in a room directing them and helping them fulfill their own dreams. It’s amazing.”
Living His Dream
Fifteen years after joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) horn section, Oto Carrillo (MUS ’93) is still incredulous that he gets to make a living doing what he loves most. During his senior year of high school, Carrillo realized he wanted to play French horn professionally, and from there, his dream of playing with the CSO took shape. For that reason and many others, he chose to stay in Chicago for college and enrolled at DePaul.
“The CSO’s legendary horn section, to me, was the best on the planet,” he says. “To be a part of that, even to just listen to them and stay connected, was important.”
Carrillo says that each day in the CSO brings a new challenge, and each challenge makes him a better player. “I try to play the best I can all the time,” he says. “No matter if it’s a warm-up, an exercise or a solo, I always try to the best of my ability.”
Carrillo takes his experiences, his successes and challenges, and the things he’s learned along the way into the classroom at the School of Music, where he’s been an instructor since 2003. “It’s great to give back a bit of what I was taught, especially to the school that nurtured me professionally,” Carrillo says. “The students teach me a lot. Everyone is different, and each student’s approach to his or her work is different. I offer what worked for me and help to find what works for them.”
With his career, his teaching and his family life intact, Carrillo is very content. “I feel really satisfied with my life,” he says. “I’m extremely happy with what I do, and I feel like I’m getting better all the time.”
Behind the Music
When James Fahey (MUS ’83), director of programming for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was a senior at DePaul, he knew music was his passion, but he wasn’t entirely sure how to make it a career. He decided to reach out to various professors, and one connected him with Evelyn Meine (SNL ’75), who was working at the CSO. Fahey interviewed for an entry-level position in 1983. Thirty-two years and several job titles later, it’s safe to say he has found his place.
“That first job entailed everything from filling youth concert and ticket orders to sorting the mail and cleaning the Xerox machine—I loved it,” he says. “I was working for the CSO! I was just thrilled to be there.”
Fahey landed in his current position in 2006, and his influence now reaches deep into the Chicago music community. He oversees all of the CSO’s presentations, including the famed Symphony Center Presents, which welcomes internationally known classical, jazz and world musicians to Chicago. He also launched the Orchestra Hall jazz series, now in its 22nd season, and in 2014, he helped arrange two concerts that paired the CSO with the band Chicago, which features Walter Parazaider (MUS ’69, DHL ’08) on saxophone.
“They told us that playing with the CSO was a dream come true for them,” Fahey says. “We couldn’t have been happier to make that happen.”
Fahey leveraged his education, ambition and passion for all things music to find his rightful place in his beloved Chicago music community. “I work alongside some of the greatest musicians in the world,” he says. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to bring great musicians to Chicago.”
“You start with nothing,” she says. “You walk into a dark theatre with a few improvisers and just the thoughts in your heads. To know that whatever you come up with that day will end up on a stage in front of an audience as a full-blown musical—it’s amazing.”
Although McQueen is classically trained on piano, she originally moved to Chicago to become an actor. During one of her auditions, she met a pianist who asked her to fill in for an upcoming gig.
“I started getting more and more work,” McQueen says. “Everyone seemed to need an improv pianist. I was working constantly, and I was still in the theatre. It just felt right.”
Although there was no shortage of work, McQueen felt compelled to gain the background and foundation she would need to take her career to the next level. “I wanted to learn jazz piano, music history, theory and composition,” she says. “When I graduated from the School of Music, I had the confidence to go into any situation and say, ‘Yeah, I can make a song about that. No problem.’” Since then, she’s written songs on topics ranging from notorious alleged murdereress Lizzie Borden to Nikola Tesla’s theory of electricity and an explanation of how the iPod works.
“I love what I do,” she says. “Whether I’m improvising along with the actors on stage or writing original scores, I’m glad I found my niche.”