Theater students venture to Chicago for opportunities

Sara Peck

Even as the flyers advertising Northwestern theater shows multiply, many students venture onto the Purple Line in pursuit of acting and production opportunities in Chicago.

Communication senior Gabriel Notarangelo is currently playing a role in the show “Talking Pictures,” which opens today at the Goodman Theatre. The role is his first foray into professional theatre.

“It was an opportunity that doesn’t come around that often, so when I was offered the role, I scrambled to do anything I could to make it work,” he said.

Rehearsals for the show are demanding, said Notarangelo, who is performing the role of a 17-year-old Mexican in the play set in Texas in 1927.

Practices often run nine hours a day and leave him with only Mondays off.

This week, as the show’s opening is approaching, he was often rehearsing 13 hours a day.

“I’m not actually really in class this quarter,” Notarangelo said. “The theatre department is very flexible when it comes to getting great opportunities like this.”

His role in “Talking Pictures” will count as two internship credits, in addition to an independent study project.

Communication junior Kyle Warren said he is also anticipating the difficulties of being both a full-time student and an ensemble member in the Goodman’s production of “Trip to Bountiful,” which opens March 1.

Warren and fellow Communication junior Taube Schwartz are two of four NU students who earned roles in the show by attending an on-campus audition mid-January. Warren said he learned about the opportunity via a theatre department-wide e-mail.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” said Warren of possible academic credit for his role. “I might be able to finagle some credit. The (NU) theatre department is very encouraging of students to pursue opportunities outside of the university, which is not true of a lot of other schools.”

This support of student exploration, said Warren, will allow him to contribute to and observe the professional theatre community he one day hopes to join.

“I’m curious as to how professional Chicago theatre works. It’s a really good experience to watch professional actors up close, especially in a low-pressure environment,” he said.

Schwartz said she anticipates “a busy quarter,” but hopes her role will open doors for opportunities after graduation.

“It’s a really great opportunity to get a foot in the door at the Goodman,” she said. “We’ll see where it leads.”

Curiosity and practical experience, however, won’t pay the bills, Warren said.

“(My pay is) not even enough to cover the parking,” he said. “I asked (about the company paying for parking), but they just said, ‘We don’t have any money.'”

Notarangelo, however, is evidence that the fiscal sacrifice and time commitment made by students may lead to greater and possibly higher-paying opportunities.

After the opening night of “Talking Pictures” during preview week, Notarangelo said he received an audition offer for a summer production as well as an invitation to read at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

“Once you get an opportunity, people are nice enough to consider you for other things,” he said.

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