DePaul University's Bella Konrath-Itkin Dies at 90
The Theatre School at DePaul University sadly announces the passing of Dr. Bella Konrath-Itkin, who died at St. Joseph¹s Hospital in the afternoon on Wednesday, February 9th at age 90. Dr. Itkin was Professor Emeritus of acting at The Theatre School at DePaul University, formerly the Goodman School of Drama, where she taught for 47 years, and directed over 200 productions, including THE SEAGULL, ROMEO AND JULIET, TOYS IN THE ATTIC, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and the Chicago premiere of Tennessee Williams' ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE.
Dr. Bella Konrath- Itkin is a legend in the halls of The Theatre School at DePaul University, where she helped to foster the careers of innumerable actors, directors, and theatre artists. Dr. Bella, as she was known to her students, was a force to be reckoned with, and served as a role model in
the male-dominated theatre community, beginning in the 1940s. She was a proponent of non-traditional casting before the phrase became commonplace, and believed that all students should be provided with the tools to excel in their craft. She was a true theatre artist whose first love was teaching, and her dedication to mentoring could easily be evidenced by her office
walls, which were covered with pictures of former students. Her visceral approach to acting and teaching helped her to become a revered director and influential teacher in the Chicago theatre community.
Bella came to this country from Russia in 1932 at the age of 12 with her mother and sister. Her father, David Itkin, was a member of the Moscow Art Theatre's Jewish theatre, Habima, and had already settled in Chicago. He taught and directed at DePaul University¹s Department of Drama, as well as at the Goodman School of Drama, where Bella became her father¹s assistant. In 1944, Dr. Bella Itkin began the Lake Zurich Playhouse, a summer theatr that provided early visibility for actors such as the late Geraldine Page and the late Lois Nettleton.
In 1967, Dr. Itkin married Frank Konrath only six months after meeting him when he came to the Goodman School of Drama to work as a carpenter on Hamlet. Frank was a native Chicagoan from the South Side. He and Bella enjoyed many yearly summer visits to Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Bella often referred to Frank as a calming and patient influence, and a true inspiration for her work.
Dr. Itkin was Professor Emeritus of acting at The Theatre School at DePaul University, formerly the Goodman School of Drama, where she taught for 47 years, and directed over 200 productions, including THE SEAGULL, ROMEO AND JULIET, TOYS IN THE ATTIC, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and the Chicago premiere of Tennessee Williams' ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE. Dr. Itkin felt was drawn to the works of authors with a certain poetry, sensuality, and passion, including Tennessee Williams and Anton Chekhov.
Dr. Itkin received her MFA from the Goodman School of Drama, studied with the late Sanford Meisner, and earned her doctorate from Case Western Reserve University. During her 15-year term as Artistic Director of the Goodman Children's Theatre, known today as Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences, she directed Treasure Island, Puss In Boots, A Doctor In Spite Of Himself and A Midsummer Nights' Dream, among numerous others. Her work laid the foundation for today¹s thriving children¹s theatre scene in Chicago.
She was a nationally renowned acting coach whose ³inner approach² to acting has helped foster the careers of former students such as Kevin Anderson, Linda Hunt, Harvey Korman, Joe Mantegna, Elizabeth Perkins, Michael Rooker, Kevin O¹Connor, and the late Geraldine Page. Her phrase ³Loves of my life, what is this phoney baloney?² was heard often in the theatre and classroom, and continues to bring a smile of recognition to the faces of her former. She retired from full-time teaching in 1989 and continued to teach part-time until 2000.
In 1994, Dr. Itkin's book Acting: Preparation, Practice, Performance was published by Harper and Collins, and defined an acting technique based on sensory response. The text takes an actor through ³experience exercises² which focus on the five senses individually to explore physical/emotional relationships as they relate to subtext in scene work.
Bella was formerly a member of the Theatre Conference, the American Association of University Professors, and the American National Theatre Association. She was awarded the Sara Spencer Award from the Children¹s Theatre Association in 1980 for long-term contributions to children's theatre in the United States, DePaul University¹s Via Sapientiae Award in 1990, and the Joseph Jefferson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bella is survived by the countless students and performers who thank her every time they go on stage.