Theatre School grad works to expand access

One in a series of stories about DePaul University’s Class of 2017

Mishari Zambrano
A first-generation college student, Mishari Zambrano says she learned about service and the arts from her mother. She spent her time in The Theatre School answering the question “What must be done?” and will earn a bachelor’s degree in theatre management. (DePaul University/Diane Smutny)
CHICAGO — As a child, Mishari Zambrano stepped into a circus tent with her mother and felt transformed. The swooping acrobats, thrilling music and kaleidoscopic light show of Cirque du Soliel sealed her love of the arts.

“That was my first theatre experience, seeing these completely fantastical productions that were so imaginative,” said Zambrano. “Access to the theatre is so important because I know my life would be so different if I hadn’t been able to see art growing up.”

As a student in The Theatre School at DePaul University, Zambrano worked to make sure more people, including those with disabilities, could have access to theatre. Recently, she assisted with the production of DePaul’s first sensory-friendly performance for children with autism.

Zambrano will graduate June 10 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre management and will be a first-generation college graduate, but not for long.

Zambrano’s mother, Reina Magaña-Goodman, is enrolled in DePaul’s School for New Learning, where she is studying multicultural leadership alongside her colleagues.  A first generation Mexican-American, Magaña -Goodman put her own college dreams on hold to raise her daughter. She is set to graduate from DePaul University next year.

“This is exactly what I’ve dreamed for Mishari — to go to a great school, receive a top-notch education,  have strong values and care about people. I think everything else just comes along with it,” said Magaña-Goodman. “Mishari’s going to walk across that stage proud — a young woman, Latina, who stayed close to her roots. She was never ashamed of where she came from — because I always remind her.”

Giving back is a family value

As a child, Magaña-Goodman’s parents brought her from Mexico to Chicago. She watched as her sisters went on to pursue higher education, but she had to focus on raising her young family.​ During her 27-year career in banking, Magaña-Goodman has risen through the ranks and broken down barriers as a minority woman without a college degree. 

Mishari and Reina
Mishari Zambrano and her mother, Reina Magaña-Goodman, are slated to graduate from DePaul University one year apart (Photo courtesy of Reina Magaña-Goodman)
“I had to work really hard to get a VP title,” said Magaña-Goodman. “In banking, it’s still a man’s world. But I refused to not go for it. I always thought, ‘What else do I need to do and what’s next?’”

All along, her daughter was paying attention. “Being a mission-driven person is how I grew up,” said Zambrano. She tagged along as her mother volunteered on a local nonprofit’s board of directors, where Magaña-Goodman now serves as vice chair, and helped pack boxes when they collected school supplies to children. Those lessons stuck, and Zambrano started thinking about a career in fundraising for the arts.

“As a first-generation college student, telling my mom that I was going to major in theatre was an interesting conversation. But she supported me the whole way,” said Zambrano.

Creating accessibility in theatre

At DePaul, Zambrano found many outlets for her interests. She served as director of special events for DemonTHON, the 24-hour dance marathon on campus that raises funds for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Her business management, and media and communications minors helped her land an internship with the city of Chicago’s office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Additionally, she used her burgeoning event-planning skills and co-founded a DePaul chapter of the national honors fraternity Phi Sigma Pi, where she organized networking events and other workshops.

The heart of Zambrano’s time at DePaul, however, has been in The Theatre School.

As an assistant to theatre manager Leslie Shook, Zambrano learned ways to make theatre productions accessible to non-traditional audiences. She took classes in American Sign Language and created video tours of DePaul’s theatres and their accessibility features, which give patrons a sense of what to expect when they arrive to watch a show. When parents of children with autism showed interest in a performance adapted for their needs, the team stepped up. Zambrano helped with research and execution of those efforts.  

“I love the fact that DePaul is so mission-driven,” said Zambrano. “My friends laugh, because I’m constantly asking ‘What must be done? What can we do?’ The Theatre School offering accessible performances is something that needed to be done, and we figured it out.”

After graduation, Zambrano will spend the summer as a special events and development assistant at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Her dream is to someday work in development at a large arts nonprofit in Chicago. “There’s so much art, and so many places and so much food and things to do in the city. Chicago is my home, and I want to stay,” she said.

No matter what happens, Zambrano will be back next spring for her mother’s graduation.

“I know my mom is proud of me, but I am so proud of her,” said Zambrano. “Everything I am is because of her.”

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Media contact:
Kristin Claes Mathews
kristin.mathews@depaul.edu
312-241-9856

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