And the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader and more. All of these newspapers have raved about “The History Boys,” an Alan Bennett play directed by DePaul graduate Nick Bowling (MFA ’96), the founding artistic director of Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre Company.
To quote The Wall Street Journal (with a few updates since the show’s run has been extended):
You now have until [extended to Sept. 27] to see “The History Boys,” and I strongly suggest that you hurry to do so, no matter whether you live in, near or remotely close to Chicago. Not only is it as good as any of the first-class revivals now gracing Broadway, but you can get in for [$32 during the extension]. That’s not a bargain – it’s a steal.
Demon Tracks recently chatted with Nick about his time at DePaul, starting a theatre company and directing “The History Boys.”
DT: Tell me about your time at DePaul.
NB: I received a bachelor’s degree in music theatre from The Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C., and was an actor for a time, but I knew since high school that I wanted to be a director. After applying to directing schools around the country, I chose The Theatre School at DePaul. The school really forced its students to be creative by asking us to direct plays with a $50 budget. I absolutely loved it. Every single show was an immense challenge. We had to get something on that stage and make it feel fully realized as a play without a lot of financial support. This made me very resourceful and helped me focus on creative and not financial solutions.
This is the approach I bring to TimeLine today. I may be doing a barebones production because of our barebones budget, but we can figure out how to beg and borrow and create things out of nothing that will make the production come alive on stage.
DT: How did TimeLine Theatre Company start?
NB: We created the company because of a show we did at DePaul called “Free Will & Wanton Lust” by Nicky Silver. The show starred PJ Powers (THE ’95), who is now TimeLine’s artistic director; Juliet Hart (MFA ’95), TimeLine’s Living History Education Programs coordinator; and other early members of the company. We loved working together and had a great simpatico. It all began at DePaul and has everything to do with DePaul!
DT: How did you decide on your unique mission?
NB: There are hundreds of theatre companies with no point beyond showcasing the actors in the company. Another DePaul graduate, Lily Shaw (THE ’95), said to me, “If you really want to start a company that means something, it has to have a point.” I knew I loved history, and I collected antiques because I like understanding and knowing where things came from, why they have changed, how they were used and how the past affects the present. From this discussion, our mission as a theatre company began to be formed and has developed into “presenting stories inspired by history that connect with today’s social and political issues.”
Our audience includes many history buffs who love looking back to look forward. I think this has been lost more and more in our society. We as a society try to define our present through our future, and have become so focused on where we are going and where we want to be that we have lost sight of our present. “The History Boys” tackles this issue beautifully. It looks to the past to see how we can help inform our present and take us to our future.
DT: For a sneak peek of the play, check out the TimeLine Theatre video:Vodpod videos no longer available.
DT: Critics’ reaction to the “The History Boys” has been very positive.
NB: We have been blessed to get unanimously positive reviews, which doesn’t come around very often. We have a great cast that works well together and great designers. All the little magical things came together on this play and it has worked out so well for us. I am very proud of how far we have come with this production and our mission.
DT: “The History Boys” run has been extended through Sept. 27. For information on buying tickets, visit http://timelinetheatre.com/tickets/index.htm.