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Theater scion Drew DeSantis

Drew DeSantis

Drew DeSantis

From a young age, Drew DeSantis, (grandson of the late Anthony DeSantis, founder of Drury Lane dinner theatre) recalls helping his grandfather update the Rolodex, clean banquet chairs and peel carrots in the theater kitchen. It was good, honest work that prepared him to follow the family dream, and prepare it for a robust future.

Having recently graduating from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business with a masters degree, DeSantis serves as the CFO of Drury Lane, where he’s helped produce more than 41 productions. It’s still a family affair; his brother Kyle is Drury Lane’s CEO.

And in a twist any theater buff could appreciate, Drew embarked on a foreign adventure to sharpen his business chops. After finishing his undergraduate education Emory University, he moved abroad and interned at a small accounting firm outside of Barcelona, Spain. All the while he kept in touch with his family back home, learning the basics of their business strategy. It wasn’t always easy: His grandfather, grandmother and Aunt were sick. Though offered a job after his internship, DeSantis packed his bags and headed home to help take care of his family. He also assisted with the numbers behind the Drury Lane business.

“Within a year after I came back from Spain and started working in the accounting office, my grandfather had passed.” DeSantis recalls.

Though he’s grieved the passing of many close family members, he also inherited a determination to succeed—and better himself—from his grandfather. “Graduate school was an enhancement to my entrepreneurship background at Drury Lane,” states DeSantis. He also formed friendships and connections with many of his classmates.

Currently, DeSantis is working with one of his Booth Business colleagues on a joint business venture. They hope to have a search fund up and running by 2015, and plan on flipping the businesses for a profit. “The objective is to raise money for investors in a small business, run it better and sell it for more money, 5 to 7 years down the road.” DeSantis says.

DeSantis balances his time between the search fund and duties as CFO and producer at Drury Lane. Every Monday he participates in a theater trustee meeting, gathering with two cousins, his brother and other trustees. From a distance, his sister Abbie participates as well.

“Although she is away, she is still very involved with the business.” states DeSantis. Abbie is currently in South Africa, a volunteer educating and tutoring poor children in the arts.

In October 2014, Drury Lane hosted the Joseph Jefferson Committee awards. Drury Lane received four awards for its productions of “Next to Normal” and “Les Miserables.” “Camelot” is currently playing at the theater through January 4th. To conclude the 2014-2015 season, Drury Lane will present “West Side Story,” which opens on January 22nd and runs through March 15th, 2015.

While Drury Lane and the search fund keep DeSantis plenty busy, he has also partnered with MCL Theatre, a live music comedy venue in the city. “I hope to help them get a festival up and running in the near future,” DeSantis states. It’s an important goal to him, and philanthropy also ranks as a priority to Drew and his family. “My grandfather started the DeSantis foundation.” DeSantis says. The foundation donates food to soup kitchens and many Catholic charities. Cancer has also hit his family hard, so they also participate in cancer research. Beyond this commitment, the DeSantis family supports arts groups such as the Chicago Children’s Choir and the Geoffrey Ballet.

DeSantis can rest assured that his grandfather would be very proud of him. He frequently thinks of cherished memories, including the wisdom Anthony passed on in his old age: “He would look at me with those shaky hands and make a rollercoaster motion,” DeSantis recalls. “He said to me, ‘Drew, this is what life is like: Ups and downs. Ride the coaster as long as you can, but some stuff is out of your control.’”

The late Anthony DeSantis was born in Gary, Indiana before moving to the Roseland community. His empire expanded all across the Chicagoland area. DeSantis was very proud of his Italian American roots and his ancestors hailed from Abruzzi, Italy. He passed away on June 6th, 2007 at the age of 93.

In the years since, Drew DeSantis and his family have continued to craft a legacy through a time-honored, well-known business in the Chicago area. “My grandfather was always one to open more theaters,” DeSantis says. “We want to produce new works and shows.”

Put another way, the future’s an open curtain.

About Alanna Chiefari

Alanna Chiefari is a 2007 graduate of Saint Mary's college-Notre Dame. She has been writing for Fra Noi since the winter of 2011 and is absolutely thrilled to feature young Italian-American adults who are off to a great start. Alanna has been working as a client associate on a wealth management team for Merrill Lynch since May of 2007. In her spare time, she loves exploring Italian culture by reading books, trying new restaurants and meeting Italian Americans who are benefiting the community. Follow her on Twitter at @LannaDionne.

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