William F. Raffeld was an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Theatre Program. His training in theater began at the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts where he earned two degrees—bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Theatre Arts. After finishing theater school he directed plays for various theaters in Hollywood and worked in the production department at ABC Television in Hollywood. Eventually, he returned to Chicago and worked on his Ph.D. at Northwestern University. His work also included working in a number of summer stock companies as an actor and dancer. He directed for the Pasadena Playhouse, Northwestern University, Cal State Long Beach—where he was a resident guest artist for two years—and UIC.
He directed for a number of Chicago theaters way back when—before the current group of companies existed. He founded his own theatre school in the 80’s at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. He founded his own theater company in Chicago, the Old World Theatre Company, in 1979. He was the associate artistic director and artistic director of Timberlake Playhouse where he worked for 16 summers. He worked for the Latin School of Chicago as a director and teacher for 16 years. He worked at UIC for 45 years. His various titles have included associate professor, director of the theater, coordinator of the theater program, coordinator for the international theatre exchange programs, and head of the B.F.A. and degree programs.
His primary teaching was in performance courses—all levels of acting, directing, and staging plays. He also worked as a dancer and actor in Chicago. He was the grandfather in the Nutcracker at the Arie Crown Theater for 26 years and played the role for Civic Ballet of Chicago’s Nutcracker.
He directed over 200 plays including stagings in Moscow, Russia for the Theatre of Moscow Southwest. One of his greatest pleasures was the development of the international exchange with Theatre of Moscow Southwest which lasted from 1989–2006. He took student productions and one alumni production to Russia and hosted seven residencies of the Theater of Moscow Southwest at UIC. Exchanges in theater were also set up with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain between the years 1986 and 1992. The National brought over three productions. A number of guest artists from the theater in England have come to UIC to teach conservatory classes in theater.
His directing work included all forms and styles of theater from Shakespeare to musical comedy, tragedy, melodrama, and comedy—you name it he did it. A scholarship at UIC has been set up in his name. He served on a number of boards and committees including the Civic Ballet of Chicago, the Chicago/Moscow Sister Cities Committee, and Congregation Kol Emeth.
On May 17, 2020, he passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of his brother and two sisters. His impact and influence on UIC theater alumni continue to be felt in Chicago and abroad. UIC Theatre alumni have dedicated a Facebook group titled “Bill’s Kids” where alumni, friends and family share memories and photos of Bill.
Contributions may be made to the William F. Raffeld Award at UIC Chicago, https://theatreandmusic.uic.edu/donate (locate UIC William F. Raffeld Award, SAUIC, and follow instructions) or, by checks payable of the University of Illinois Foundation, and mailed to 1305 W. Green Street, MC-386, Urbana, IL 61801. Add a note this is for the “UIC Professor William F. Raffeld Award.”
The William F. Raffeld Award is intended for a continuing undergraduate student at UIC, majoring in Communications and Theater, of outstanding creative ability, must have demonstrated exceptional ability in the department’s production program, and who has a minimum 3.0 grade point average.
Read the Chicago Tribune obituary, published on Sunday, May 24, 2020 here.
Read UIC Article spotlight on William “Bill” Raffeld, September 2015 here.