Before the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1979 in the renovated Hewitt Hall, theater students took the stage in Bradley Hall in what was then called Neumiller Chapel. Later they performed at the Carousel Playhouse, a former hardware store near University and Main, and occasionally in the Student Center Ballroom.
The cover of this edition of Bradley Hilltopics highlights one of the biggest stars to get started in our theater program: NEIL FLYNN ’82. For the last 11 years, Neil has come into millions of homes every week through two of the most popular comedies on television, Scrubs and The Middle.
Neil “broke through,” as have so many other Bradley alumni who came to the Hilltop with a love for acting. Through the years — from Neumiller Chapel to the Carousel Playhouse to the Hartmann Center — the University has had successful theater alumni. Here are just a few of them:
CAL GIBSON ’68 is a well-known character actor and comedian in Los Angeles who has had roles in popular television shows such as Castle, Murphy Brown, Barney Miller and Sanford and Son. His movie credits include Scrooged with Bill Murray and Best Men with Drew Barrymore, and he toured the country for 15 years as Waylon Jennings’ opening act. Besides performing, he is a teacher and acting coach at The Harvey Lembeck Comedy Workshop in L.A.
AMRO SALAMA ’93 came to Bradley as a civil engineering major, but he found his heart on the stage. He’s had roles on television — Modern Family, Third Watch, Law & Order — and films, including The Siege with Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Amro continues to perform and also serves as an acting and audition coach to other aspiring actors in Los Angeles.
ERIC PETERSEN ’03 is our latest Bradley star, playing Shrek in Shrek the Musical during its 13-month national run that concluded last summer. Recently, Eric appeared on Modern Family and is shooting a guest-starring role on Jessie for the Disney Channel. Eric also was part of the national tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and was in Shrek the Musical on Broadway. Coincidentally, Eric played George Gibbs in Our Town at Bradley, the same role played by Neil Flynn 19 years earlier. It is a small Bradley world!
FLORENCE ANN ROMANO ’08 is just getting started in the business, but she has an extensive resume. Her credits include Ghosts and The Laramie Project on stage, television pilots, and a feature film, Officer Down, that is slated for release. She recently joined a new Chicago theater company and has been cast in Six Degrees of Separation.
These impressive alumni have left a legacy that continues. The Department of Theatre Arts has a national reputation for creativity, innovation and imagination. In 2008 the department received the Internet2 IDEA Award for The Adding Machine, and the ORION Learning Award of Merit for Alice (Experiments) in Wonderland. The plays were produced simultaneously in Canada, Florida and Peoria. This semester the department’s outstanding season was equally ambitious. (See photo).
As always, I invite you to visit campus to experience the progress we are making on the Hilltop in Theatre Arts and every other academic discipline. I remain humbled to serve our beloved University.