Roosevelt University Theatre Alumnus to Lead Steppenwolf Theatre Company

David Schmitz

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–October 21, 2014.  A graduate of Roosevelt University’s Theatre Conservatory has been named as the principal financial and administrative officer in charge of operations at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

David Schmitz, a 2001 Master of Fine Arts in Theatre graduate who also has a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Roosevelt University, will oversee all management and operations at Steppenwolf beginning in January 2015.  (Photo at right courtesy of Steppenwoflf Theatre and photographer Joel Moorman).

“This is an amazing honor and all of us at the Theatre Conservatory couldn’t be prouder,” said Sean Kelley, associate dean of Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) and director of the Theatre Conservatory. “Steppenwolf is one of the most prestigious and recognized theatre companies in the world. How wonderful is it that the number-one person in charge is an alumnus of CCPA?” said Kelley.

Schmitz, who studied Directing as a CCPA graduate student, will be  responsible for all Steppenwolf administrative, financial and operational management as managing director. Beginning in fall 2015, the theatre also will have a new artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro.

Schmitz had previously served as Steppenwolf’s director of finance and administration and as general manager. He also had been general manager of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company.

“While I was a fine theatre director, I realized that my skills really lie in bringing people together and in moving them in the same direction,” said Schmitz, who credits the Theatre Conservatory with helping him develop strong analytical skills.
“The great thing about the Roosevelt program is that I received training in both directing and non-profit management.  It was an incredible opportunity to learn the craft of theatre directing and it also gave me the opportunity to learn about balance sheets and non-profit governance,” he said.

One of Schmitz’ mentors was June Compton, a professor of theatre at CCPA who remembers him directing Sam Shepard’s Buried Child in the University’s O’Malley Theatre.  “David was one of my favorite students.  He had aptitude from the beginning for theatre management, but he also had equal talents as a director,” said Compton.

Schmitz also credited one of his Roosevelt theatre classmates, 2000 MFA in Theatre graduate Kyle Hillman, with putting him on a strong arts management track.

A former student trustee on the Roosevelt University Board of Trustees and previously an operating manager at Lookingglass Theatre, Hillman suggested Schmitz apply for an operations management position at Lookingglass. It was the foot in the door for Schmitz.

“There are people you meet in art programs where you think ‘This is what they were truly meant to only do’ and then there are people you look at and think ‘They could probably excel at just about anything.’ David fits in the latter category,” said Hillman, who today is director of legislative affairs for the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

“I think people underestimate the qualities that students from theatre programs like Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory have and gain while in college,” added Hillman.
“Theatre graduates can bring creative solutions to business problems and we are literally trained to understand dynamics of groups, how to navigate culture and drama, and ultimately we deliver experiences, which is what both the nonprofit and corporate worlds need more of,” he said.

Schmitz takes the lead of operations at Steppenwolf at a time when plans for a major building expansion are underway. “It will be an opportunity to work together on a shared vision for more space, which Steppenwolf critically needs,” he said.


Summer and Fall at Prairie State College