The Theatre School > About > Faculty & Staff > Performance > Dexter Bullard

Dexter Bullard

  • Co-Head of MFA Acting; Artistic Director, The Theatre School Showcase
  • ​​MFA The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    BS Northwestern University
  • Performance
  • 773-325-7982

Dexter Bullard has been training actors for over twenty years, and at The Theatre School since 2001.  He trained as an actor at Northwestern University under David Downs who studied under the celebrated Alvina Krause.  After becoming extremely interested in experimental, original-creation, and international theater, Dexter moved to theatre directing and producing his own work. During this period he worked at The Next Theatre in Evanston, received his MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studied yoga and tai chi, and developed his own works in collaboration with actors.

At Next, Dexter moved from Intern to Associate Artistic Director and launched a second-stage program called The Next Lab. At the Lab from 1990 until 1994, Dexter produced and directed plays, adaptations, and original creations including his production of Bouncers which swept five Jeff Citations and ran for eleven months.  Also at The Lab, he first worked with the 16 year-old actor Michael Shannon and the 24 year-old actor/playwright Tracy Letts producing the first production of Tracy’s first play Killer Joe

In 1995, Dexter founded a physical theater company called Plasticene, whose ensemble began creating non-scripted, non-verbal, high-impact, visual/sonic, object-based theatre pieces.  The company was inspired by the work of Etienne Decroux, Jacques Copeau, Eugenio Barba, Theatre Repere, Carbone 14, Goat Island, Tadeusz Kantor, Pina Bausch, as well as industrial and post-punk subcultures.  To further his creative tools for developing the work, Dexter studied mime at L’Ecole du Mime Corporal de Montréal, contact improvisation with Steve Paxton and Nancy Stark Smith, authentic movement, and butoh dance. Over seventeen years with Plasticene, Dexter directed and created seventeen original works produced thirty-two times and seen in Chicago, New York, and Edinburgh.

In 1996, Dexter was recommended to direct for The Second City—Chicago’s renown improvisational comedy mecca.  Learning Spolin-based games and improvisation as well as “new format” sketch-writing as developed by the likes of Del Close, Adam McKay, and Mick Napier was a revelation to his directing work and work with Plasticene.  Dexter directed two original Second City revues — one for Detroit and one for ETC. 

After Next Theatre, Dexter continued an award-winning directing career focusing on new plays and second productions spanning Chicago, New York, and, in 2019, Los Angeles.  Recently he directed Tracy Letts’ Linda Vista and Annie Baker’s The Flick at Steppenwolf as well as Yaël Farber’s Mies Julie, Roy Williams’ Sucker Punch, and Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation all at Victory Gardens Theatre. He directed Craig Wright’s Grace on Broadway starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington, and Ed Asner.  Off-Broadway, he directed Tracy Letts’ Bug for which he won the Lucille Lortel Award, a Drama Desk Nomination, and two Obie awards, as well as Craig Wright’s plays Mistakes Were Made and Lady.  Other credits include directing the world premieres of Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal at American Theater Company, Brett Neveu’s Odradek at House Theatre, and his Gas for Less at Goodman Theatre.  Dexter has directed for Chicago’s A Red Orchid many times including In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, Bug, Place of Angels, and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

In 1995, Dexter began teaching acting by blending American-influenced Stanislavski technique, Chicago “storefront” style, Spolin-based improvisation, Shurtleff analysis, and physical theatre at UIC Theatre, Second City, The Actors Studio, Columbia College, and Roosevelt University. Joining the faculty at DePaul, he has taught in the BFA 1, BFA 2 and MFA 1 acting tracks for seventeen years.  At The Theatre School, Dexter is the Artistic Director of productions in the Watts Theatre, co-head of MFA Acting p​rogram, and has directed ten student productions and six graduate showcases in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Recently at DePaul, he has taught actors like Joe Keery (Stranger Things), Olga Aguilar (Westworld), Lisandra Tena (Fear the Walking Dead), Ashton Durant (Moonlight), Celeste Cooper and Glenn Davis (both made Steppenwolf ensemble members), as well as over a hundred working actors, ensemble members, writers, directors, company founders, casting directors, authors, teachers, coaches, and college professors. ​