Center Stage with the Bard

July 30, 2014

By Matt Hawkins

A Bradley graduate is bringing the Bard to life this summer in Bloomington. Rachel K. Strack ’10, recently named the Illinois Shakespeare Festival’s director of operations, is managing the summer festival’s business and marketing aspects.

Strack, a theatre arts and public relations double major, achieved the career goal after four years working her way up as a seasonal staffer. She served as front-of-house staff, company manager and assistant director of operations since graduation.

“I have loved being able to return year after year being able to grow in my craft,” Strack said. “Everyone at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival loves their craft and wants to see the productions succeed. We all get very close and it’s a very family-like environment that reminds me of my theatre family at Bradley.”

Strack’s promotion will mean more responsibility during the summer run, but she looks forward to the thrill of 12-plus hour days promoting the work of the famous playwright. Days will be filled with staffing matters, finances, social media outreach, concessions, merchandise and community relations.

“We have profoundly talented people who come from all over the world to work with us,” she said. “There is nothing quite like the Festival here in town. I feel very honored to be employed with them.”

Strack came to Bradley with high school drama club experience, but needed faculty and staff guidance to find her passion in theatre operations. Department of Theatre Arts secretary Debbie Perry helped her land the department’s publicist position as a student worker. From there, faculty members pushed her to develop her talents.

“All the professors in the Department of Theatre Arts want nothing more than to see you do great things,” Strack said. “That doesn’t mean they make it easy, but they really want to prepare you for your future.”

She also is grateful for the department’s curriculum, which forced her to take classes beyond her operations interest. That helped her grasp the full scope of theatre management.

“By taking those courses, I have a better understanding of how other theatrical elements work,” Strack said. “There is better communication between departments and greater respect for what they’re doing.”

Once the Shakespeare Festival ends, Strack will move to the San Francisco area for the fall and winter, where her summer experience will be valuable for working at similar or larger theatres on the West Coast. Strack indicated she would return home in the spring and summer to continue the position with her dream job at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.