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A star-studded lineup of Northwestern University School of Communication alumni turned the newly christened Ryan Fieldhouse into a rollicking reunion on April 21, paying tribute in music and comedy to the school’s storied past while challenging the next generation of students to carry on the tradition.

Emceed by “Late Show” host and 1986 alum Stephen Colbert, (class of ’86), the variety show “A Starry Night” drew a crowd of more than 2,600, who were treated to performances by dozens of famous alumni and current Northwestern students.

Mr. Colbert, known for skewering President Donald Trump, told the crowd he only wanted to talk about one president – Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, who was seated near the stage.
 
“Everyone loves Morty,” Mr. Colbert said during his opening remarks. “Morty breathes purple. … He took something great and made it better. He’s like the guy who put cheese in a pizza crust.”
Much of the evening was spent reminiscing about the legendary professors who helped launch countless careers and about the more than 300 students both on stage and behind the scenes.

Broadway star and 1978 alum Richard Kind talked about having drinks in an Evanston bar the night before rehearsals, where he spoke with theater professor Rives Collins about what students need to survive and thrive in the world of entertainment. He said it boiled down to one word: resilience.

The evening’s show-stopper was a performance by Tony and Grammy Award-winner Heather Headley, (class of ’97), whose rendition of “Home” from “The Wiz” brought the crowd to its feet.

The show was set inside the recently opened Ryan Fieldhouse, which was transformed by students in the MFA stage design program with a sprawling, sparkling stage and lights that twinkled behind the performers to mimic a night sky.

The night began with a VIP reception and dinner. In his remarks, President Schapiro underscored the importance of both science and the humanities in making Northwestern a great university.

After the VIP dinner, the crowd settled in for the show, which kicked off with a pre-recorded video skit that featured Mr. Colbert and fellow alum Seth Meyers, a 1996 graduate. The CommFest weekend was designed, in part, to showcase plans for a new MFA in acting degree which will operate out of Abbott Hall on the Chicago campus, which will also be the site of a new media arts center.