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Business Takes the Stage: Lessons from the Theater Community

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Polsky Exchange

1452 E 53rd St

2nd Floor

Chicago, IL 60615

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As part of the Arts & Innovation Series presented by the Logan Center and the Polsky Exchange, representatives from local non-profit and for-profit Chicago theaters will share their thoughts on their business models. They will discuss arts as a model for collaboration; how to create a space where difficult conversations are had; and the ability to create community and co-create with audiences both inside and outside of the theater. ​Panelists will include David Schmitz of Steppenwolf Theatre​, Kelly Leonard from Second City, and Lester Coney. Frank Sennett, Director of Digital Strategy and Custom Media at Crain's Chicago Business​, will serve as moderator.​





About the panel:


David Schmitz has worked at Steppenwolf for nearly 11 years, serving in the role of Director of Finance and Administration, General Manager and currently as Executive Director. Prior to working at Steppenwolf, Schmitz was the General Manager at Lookingglass Theatre Company, Associate Artistic Director of Stage Left Theatre and Business Manager at the entertainment agency Adair Performance. Currently, he serves as Vice President of the Board for The House Theatre of Chicago and is a former board member for the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce. Schmitz has worked as a strategic planning, business practices, finance and hiring consultant for numerous Chicago organizations, including The House Theatre of Chicago, The Hypocrites and Stage Left Theatre, among others. He holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado, an MFA from the Theatre Conservatory at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University and a Certificate in Non Profit Management from Roosevelt University.

Lester Coney serves as executive vice president in Mesirow Financial’s Office of the Chairman. He is responsible for originating and nurturing new business opportunities, and expanding and maintaining client relationships across the firm’s investment management, insurance, global markets and consulting divisions. As a civic leader, Les has been actively involved in many organizations in support of the arts, civic betterment, and minority and ethnic issues. He is a trustee for many organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago and was named a life trustee for the Goodman Theatre. Les is a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, the Lookingglass Theatre, the League of Chicago Theatres and serves on the board of governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a member of the presidential advisory committee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is a founding chairman of Congo Square Theatre Company and currently serves as Illinois board president of Wades World Foundation.

Kelly Leonard is the Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at The Second City. His book, “Yes, And: Lessons from The Second City” was released to critical acclaim in 2015 by Harper Collins and was praised by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair who called it “...an excellent guide to the lessons that have bubbled up in Second City’s improv workshops.” Kelly is a popular speaker on the power of improvisation to transform people’s lives. He has presented at The Aspen Ideas Festival, TEDx Broadway, the Chicago Ideas Festival, The Stanford Graduate School of Business and for companies such as Coca Cola, Microsoft and DDB Worldwide. Kelly co-created and co-directs a new initiative with the Center for Decision Research at the Booth School at the University of Chicago that look at behavioral science through the lens of improvisation. He also hosts the podcast, “Getting to Yes, And,” for Second City and WGN radio that features interviews with thought leaders such as Simon Sinek, Robert Sutton, Gretchen Rubin, Dan Pink and Angela Duckworth.

For over twenty years, Kelly oversaw Second City’s live theatrical divisions where he helped generate original productions with such talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, Keegan Michael Key, Amy Sedaris and others. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Anne Libera and their children Nick and Nora.


Frank Sennett works at Crain's Chicago Business as the director of digital strategy and custom media, which includes overseeing program book production for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Goodman Theatre and Joffrey Ballet. He previously served as president and editor-in-chief of Time Out Chicago.




Live Illustration by Ink Factory!
Ink Factory is a team of artists that helps organizations communicate visually. With over 35 collective years of experience, we are a leader in visual note-taking: the art and science of translating conversations into real-time drawings that help people process and remember information.

During the panel discussion, artist Dusty Folwarczny will be taking visual notes. This means she will be synthesizing the speakers words into images and text to visually represent the key concepts and themes being presented to you. Their slogan is You Talk, We Draw, It's Awesome and we think you will agree!

Please feel free take pictures and share the images using the hashtag #UChiTechSummit. And don’t be afraid approach Dusty and ask questions after she is finished drawing—she doesn't bite!



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Date and Time

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Polsky Exchange

1452 E 53rd St

2nd Floor

Chicago, IL 60615

View Map

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