Columbia celebrates Sheldon Patinkin



Sheldon Patinkin was a Columbia professor and a former chair in the college’s Theatre Department for 29 years.

By Campus Reporter

The Columbia community will celebrate the life of the late Sheldon Patinkin, a Chicago theater icon and former chair of the Theatre Department, on Jan. 26 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Illinois.

Members of the college who knew Patinkin partnered with The Second City and Steppenwolf Theatre to organize the event celebrating Patinkin’s life and accomplishments. He died Sept. 21, 2014, at the age of 79.

The sold-out event, which will include a presentation from guest speakers followed by a reception, is expected to attract more than 700 attendees, according to Erica Daniels, Steppenwolf’s associate artistic director and one of the event’s organizers.

Patinkin, who also served as an artistic consultant for Second City and Steppenwolf, is recognized as an influential figure in Chicago’s theater community.

“The deep history [Patinkin] has is enormous,” Daniels said.

Anne Libera, director of the Comedy Studies program at Columbia, worked alongside Patinkin for almost 30 years. She said the event’s organizers decided they wanted to commemorate him together.

“He talked a lot about ensemble, and each of these ensembles he was an integral part of,” Libera said.

Daniels said it is important to commemorate Patinkin because many people he taught and worked with have successful careers today and want to honor him.

“The rippling touch of Sheldon—I don’t know when we’ll see the end of it,” Daniels said.

Libera said they waited until January to host the event so they could find a large venue to accommodate all of his students and coworkers and that would be available when Columbia was in session so more students could attend.

Magdalene Brenner, a senior theatre major who worked with Patinkin on Columbia’s production of “Into the Woods,” said many of the show’s cast members plan on attending the event because they were unable to attend Patinkin’s funeral.

Scott Adsit of “30 Rock” will be hosting the event, introducing other notable guest speakers such as Andrew Alexander, Second City’s CEO and executive producer.

“[Patinkin] was at the very beginning of the small theater renaissance in Chicago,” Alexander said. “We now have over 200 theaters in Chicago, and Sheldon was there at the very beginning of that.”

Callie Johnson, a 2012 musical theatre alumna and a former student of Patinkin’s, will perform a song from “The Tempest” at the reception, the last professional production Patinkin directed that she  was cast in.

“I loved him and I miss him so much,” Johnson said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor him other than to perform for him. I’m performing for him when I do this.”

Daniels said she hopes Patinkin’s colleagues and students leave the event re-inspired and remember to live in the present. 

“Sheldon was honorable,” she said. “He was one of the most honorable men, and I hope people remember what the Chicago community is most about. It really is about people working in such a noble and honorable way. It’s about the work, and Sheldon was always about the work. I hope people just walk away remembering all the great things that he instilled in us.”