Teaching at Harold Washington College is in Rachel Iannantuoni’s blood – her parents met at what was then called Loop College as English professors and spent the majority of their careers teaching at the college.
“I pretty much grew up here – they would bring me to class when I was very young – three or four years old,” remembers Rachel.
When Rachel became interested in acting when she was in high school, she turned to HWC’s theater professor Sydney Daniels. He became her first acting teacher and mentor, beginning her long and successful career in the world of theater. She attended Hampshire College, where she studied theater and politics, then joined a theater company in Massachusetts once she earned her bachelor’s degree. The following years included performing off Broadway, TV and film gigs, getting her Masters of Fine Arts in Drama/Acting at the University of Washington in Seattle, and starting a theater company with friends from college.
She ended up back in Chicago when her husband started a doctorate program at Northwestern – and in fact, she had left acting by then. But after a few years back in her hometown, she realized she missed theater and started looking for teaching jobs. As luck – or fate – would have it, there was an adjunct position available at Harold Washington College, and she was officially continuing the family tradition and stepping into her mentor’s shoes.
“One of my favorite classes to teach is Acting 1, which is also the first acting class I ever had,” she said. “I love helping students discover acting and discover that they have a talent. It’s very fun to be a part of the first step of someone’s journey.”
Her classes benefit from the diversity of HWC’s student body. She says, “there is such a diverse group of people in the room. It’s really fun to see people of different ages and backgrounds become an ensemble, come together, form friendships, and have an experience that maybe isn’t what they expected in some way.”
Rachel also appreciates the downtown location, and thinks it offers something unique. Theater students get to see shows at internationally recognized theaters just blocks from campus. And if she knows someone who is working on a show, her students get to sit in on rehearsals or go backstage.
“Being in such close proximity to things is helpful for students to see themselves in those places down the road,” she says. Alumni Jaegen Ellison, Maday Favela, Christina El Gamal, and Anastacis Narrajos are all examples of students who were mentored, supported by, and cheered on by Iannantuoni – and who are now pursuing careers in theater.
She continues to work as a professional actor, most recently playing Amy in JUNK by Ayad Akhtar at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.
Now a mom herself to two young children, Rachel thinks her parents find it entertaining that she is now teaching where they spent so much of their careers. And who knows? Maybe her kids will carry on that tradition.