The Theatre School > Conservatory > Summer High School Training Program

Summer High School Training Program

Experience Conservatory. Experience Chicago.

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Program Overview

The Theatre School's Summer High School Training Program is designed for rising 11th and 12th grade students who want a taste of intensive conservatory theatre training in the heart of Chicago, one of the world's most vibrant theatre communities.

For three weeks, students live in a DePaul University residence hall and study one of five concentrations - acting, comedy arts, design, directing, or playwriting - with Theatre School faculty and some of the most exciting theatre professionals in Chicago. While this is a non-college credit program, students dive into the rigor of conservatory training and begin to prepare for the college audition and interview process, all while experiencing many of the theatrical and cultural events Chicago has to offer and the artists (including Theatre School alumni) that make it all possible.

As a student in the program, the primary coursework will stretch and challenge you to grow in your area of concentration, and master classes and workshops will allow you to explore other interests. At the end of the three weeks you will showcase your work for your fellow students, families, and guests.

"I have grown because I was able to learn and experiment by doing. I was able to let go of personal barriers and self-doubt so now I feel less timid to create my own opportunities."

- Acting Student, Summer 2019


The acting concentration is designed to mirror the undergraduate conservatory BFA Acting program and give students a sense of what it would be like to attend The Theatre School. You will learn acting techniques that are rooted in the physical, collaborative, expressive, improvisational approach that makes Chicago actors distinct around the world. We will prepare you for stage and screen, with special attention given to the college audition experience and monologue preparation as you prepare for the next steps of your artistic journey.
The comedy arts concentration is designed to prepare students to be performers, directors, and content creators through the academic study  of the history and techniques of comedy. As a reflection of the BFA Comedy Arts major at The Theatre School, summer students will test material in front of an audience, digest their response, and then learn to revise and rethink in order to be successful storytellers and communicators. At The Theatre School, we consider Chicago to be our classroom. As one of the nation's best comedy scenes, our classroom is hard to beat.
The design concentration introduces scenic, costume, lighting, sound, and media design disciplines and allows students to focus on their particular area(s) of interest. You'll learn the foundations of theatrical design with a particular emphasis on the creative and collaborative process. We'll challenge you to create designs that illuminate the essence of the story by going beyond simply decorating the walls. You'll create several portfolio-worthy projects by the program's conclusion.
The directing concentration is designed to introduce and investigate the role and function of the director in theatrical collaboration. What does it mean to direct a play? What does the director actually do? Through play readings, creative exercises, and theatrical compositions you will discover how script analysis, visual storytelling, and dynamic staging are tools the director uses to ignite a script and inspire captivating work from actors and designers alike.
The playwriting concentration introduces students to the process of writing stories for the stage. We will explore elements of dramatic structure and theatrical storytelling by reading contemporary plays, writing, and engaging in physical exercises designed to free the imagination and develop characters and scenes. Throughout your time here, you will conceive, write, and develop a ten minute play that will be presented as a staged reading at the end of the program.

"The professionals who taught us were incredibly friendly and went out of their way to give us many extra opportunities to form connections and learn, as well as providing an honest view on how their job functioned."

- Design Student, Summer 2019​

Program Information

The summer 2020 session will run from Saturday June 27 to Saturday July 18.  The showcase day for families will be on Friday July 17, 2020.

Students should schedule their travel in order to arrive on-campus by 5pm on the Program's start date, Saturday June 27, 2020. This will give you sufficient time to get settled in before dinner and the Summer Program Orientation. The administrative office must be notified if you must arrive later than 5pm.

The last day of the program is Saturday July 18, 2020 and that is the morning students will be in the university residence hall. Departures from campus can be scheduled any time before noon on Saturday July 18.

Students and their families are responsible for arranging travel to/from the program. The two airports in Chicago (O'Hare International and Midway) are equidistant from campus. The Summer Program does not offer a shuttle service to/from the airport but many cab companies offer flat rates from the airports and students can also arrange their own Uber or Lyft. Directions to The Theatre School building and parking information can be found here.

All classes are held at The Theatre School on DePaul University's Lincoln Park Campus. While DePaul University has a second campus in the Loop (downtown Chicago), students will not commute for their classes. Students will have a daily lunch break and, depending on coursework, may have a free period during the day. Classes take place between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Saturday.
Most weeknights will have required programming, including panels, shows, and master classes. Some of the master classes and panels for the summer 2019 program included: Wellness for Theatre Artists, Radical Inclusivity in Theatre, Contact Improvisation, Photoshop, Stage Combat, Backstage 101, and The Business of Theatre - Managing the Delicate Balance. Experiencing shows throughout the city provides an opportunity for students to experience the professional production culture of Chicago; the Summer Program travels as a group to the Loop on designated evenings to attend performances and events. Students will always travel with chaperones and the Director or Assistant Director.
Our faculty-to-student ratio varies from 1:7 to 1:10. Summer Program faculty and staff live alongside the students in the residence halls as Resident Hall Directors and Resident Hall Assistants (RAs) to provide evening supervision.
Attendance at all program activities and classes is absolutely mandatory.

Our faculty-to-student ratio varies from 1:7 to 1:10 and Summer Program faculty and staff live in the residence halls as Resident Hall Directors and Resident Hall Assistants (RAs) during the program. The school is assigning RAs per every 7-10 students. RAs will also be available on Sundays to help students plan their days off and will assist with escorting students to any required off-campus events or performances during the program. Summer Program students must abide by an 11:00pm curfew unless otherwise determined by the Summer Program Director.

Students are expected to attend and participate in all of their classes; complete all assigned coursework, homework, and projects; and participate in our end-of-program showcase. Summer Program students are expected to meet the same level of professionalism and respect for conduct as all DePaul students. View the DePaul Code of Student Responsibility.
Students must be able to communicate with the Director and Assistant Director by email and phone if and when necessary, particularly on the students' days off (two Sundays during the program.) Parents/guardians need to be reachable at all times in case of emergencies. Please make sure we have your most current phone number/email on file.
For the two Sundays off during the program, we highly recommend that students travel in pairs around the city (if not in larger groups.) A Resident Hall Assistant (RA) will need to know each student's itinerary on those two Sundays off.
All students will stay in the residence hall (dorm) at DePaul University with no exceptions, as this supports the creation of community and ensemble among students in the program. Students will be paired with roommates and bathrooms will be shared. Students can request a roommate and we will do our best to accommodate everyone's needs and preferences. For the safety of those living on-campus, residence halls are locked at all hours; students are responsible for their own personal belongings and so are strongly advised to lock their individual rooms at all times. Loss of their University residency room key will result in a $150 fine to replace it. No guests are allowed in the residence halls. You can learn more about DePaul's housing policies here.
Over the summer, towels and bedding are provided but students will need to bring their own pillows. (See "What should I bring?" below for a more complete suggested packing list.) There is a laundry facility in the basement of the residence hall, free of charge.
Any hospitalization or emergency room visits must be covered by the student's own insurance; it is not covered by the Summer Program or by DePaul University. Students are therefore required to bring their health insurance card with them.
- A pillow (other bedding is provided by the residence hall for Summer Program students)
- Laundry pods/detergent and dryer sheets (washing machines are free to use in residence halls)
- Toiletries (towels are provided by the residence hall for Summer Program students)
- Backpack
- Pens, pencils, and a notebook
- Comfy clothes and shoes
- Reuseable water bottle
- Rain jacket
- Laptop (if available)
- A form of I.D.
- Insurance card
- Extra spending money if a student plans to buy off-campus meals or souvenirs during their days off

We work closely with students and their families on a case-by-case basis to best accommodate any special needs that a student may have - this includes any dietary needs. Please alert us as early as possible on the health questionnaire (accessible after the student is admitted) so that we have sufficient time to help make the program accessible to all students.

"In class I was able to learn a lot about myself and theatre. The evening events provided new prospective to the work we worked on, but also on storytelling and its importance."

- Directing Student, Summer 2019

Summer High School Training Program Brochure - collage of pictures from 2018 summer cohort

Application Information

The application for summer 2020 is now open; applications and materials should be submitted by March 1, 2020(After March 1, applications will continue to be reviewed until the program is full.) Applicants can indicate an interest in multiple concentrations, however students can ultimately only enroll in only one concentration: acting, comedy arts, design, directing, or playwriting.

The total cost of the summer program for 2020 is $7,600. If admitted, a $3,000 deposit will be due by May 1 to secure your place in the program. The remaining balance will be due by June 1.

The cost for the Summer Program covers all classes, programming, DePaul University housing, three daily meals, field trips, theatre performance tickets, and transportation to/from all required off-campus events. Students will attend multiple professional theatre performances in and around Chicago during the Summer Program and these costs are all included as part of tuition.

Students will have two Sundays off and may choose to bring additional spending money for meals off-campus, souvenirs, museums, etc. on these days.

The Theatre School offers financial aid (in the form of scholarships) to students who demonstrate financial need. The financial aid application can be submitted as part of the application process. If a student is awarded a scholarship based on the financial aid application, the scholarship amount will be communicated in their acceptance letter.

We also encourage students to apply for additional outside funding. Your local charity groups (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, National Honors Society, etc.), your school's Arts & Activities Fund, or your school's Parent Teacher Associations will sometimes offer financial support and can be an effective way to help reach your goal. Another way to gain financial support is through national scholarship foundations that target summer program funding for high school students, such as:

The American Theatre Wing's Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative focuses on "providing America's youth access to theatre through the power of education." Click here for more on this scholarship's 2020 application process.

The Anthony Quinn Foundation Scholarship Program is a valuable resource available to "high school students who wish to attend a recognized pre-college, or summer intensive arts education program." Click here for more information about this foundation's 2020 scholarship process.

Admission is open to rising high school juniors and seniors. All applicants must demonstrate permission from parents/guardians in order to enroll and attend the program.

International students are welcome! Because the High School Summer Training Program is a non-credit program, you will not need a student visa in order to attend. However, you may need a non-immigrant Visitor Visa if you are not a citizen of a country eligible for travel to the U.S. without a visa. There are no additional application documents necessary to apply to the program as an international student, but all application materials must be in English or translated into English. The program is taught entirely in English and participating students must be confident in intermediate written and spoken English.

Application Materials

This is the first step in the application process. As part of the application form, you will need to submit your essay, resume, and photograph. Your letter of reference and high school transcript will be uploaded separately after you submit the application form.

The essay is part of the online application form will be in response to the following prompt:
How do you plan to impact the world through theatre?
As part of the application form, upload a brief list or description of your theatrical and/or artistic experience highlighting creative and artistic work accomplished, activities, and previous training.

The photograph does not need to be an official headshot.

The letter should be from someone who is qualified to speak to your ability to participate in this program such as a teacher, a director, etc. On the application form, you will have the opportunity to list the recommender's name and email address (you will be able to change/update this after submitting, if needed.) After you submit the application form, an email will be sent to your recommender prompting them to upload their letter to your application file.

The letter can also be uploaded by the applicant on the application portal after submitting the application form.

As part of your application, you will be asked to upload a copy of your student transcript. This can be an unofficial copy. Please use the "upload materials" section on the application portal to upload your copy. The transcript should be as up-to-date as possible.

"I have gotten to see my work on stage and learn to push for my vision. I feel more confident in my work and am ready to fight for my future."

- Playwriting Student, Summer 2019


Questions about the Summer High School Training program can be sent to Kayla Raelle Holder, Director of the Summer High School Program, by emailing More information about Kayla's work and experience can be found here.

2019 Summer Program students