Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Actress, Professor, Former Casting Director
Memorable Adelphi faculty: “Josephine Nichols of the Speech and Dramatic Arts Department. She was elegant and giving; she was my mentor.”
Fondest Adelphi memories: “My group of friends would hang out at Centurion Pizza on Nassau Boulevard. We called ourselves the ‘Have Had Its.’ It was the best circle of friends. We supported each other throughout our Adelphi years and kept up with each other years after graduating.”
Extracurricular involvement: My classmates and I wanted to do so many things on campus, and Adelphi allowed us to do them. For the 1961 May Festival, we were able to get Louis Armstrong to come to perform on campus for a jazz concert, and had Ogden Nash come to do a poetry reading.
Jane Alderman blew into the Windy City over 40 years ago looking to further her career as a talent agency associate, but ended up finding her niche in casting. Her major contributions to Chicago’s entertainment industry helped put the city on the map, transforming it into the vibrant performing arts scene and thriving acting community it is today.
Ms. Alderman spent three decades casting theatre, feature films, and television from her home base in Chicago. Throughout her highly distinguished career, she was instrumental in early roles for many actors such as Gary Sinise, Michael Shannon, Jon Favreau, Dennis Farina, and Joan Cusack and has worked with numerous directors including Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, and Oliver Stone.
For as long as she can remember, entertainment has always been at the center of her world. Born in England, Ms. Alderman moved to the United States after her father was killed in World War II, following her mother’s remarriage to an American serviceman. A member of a military family that moved all over the country, Ms. Alderman sought creative outlets to overcome the constant uprooting. “I always got through it by acting and writing,” she says.
As a first grade student, whose class was putting on a performance of St. George and the Dragon, she snagged the role of the dragon. In a third grade musical about George and Martha Washington, she insisted that she play George. By high school, she had written and cast her own play. When she enrolled at Adelphi in 1958, her passion translated into a major in speech and drama.
“Entering Adelphi as a transfer student, I had a lot to catch up on academically,” says Ms. Alderman. While she recalls starting at a new school her sophomore year to be a difficult transition, her active involvement in a wide array of clubs and organizations indicate otherwise.
A member of the sorority Delta Gamma, Ms. Alderman continued to hone her creativity at Adelphi as a member of The Oracle staff and through her involvement in Gold Mask productions. Although a speech and drama major, she ironically gravitated to a role behind the curtain. “I asked if I could do the sound,” she says. “I loved it.” In addition to being elected by her classmates as co-vice president of the student association and voted co-representative of her junior class, this student leader was also named May Queen her senior year.
She spent a few years acting following her graduation from Adelphi in 1961, after which she landed a job as a secretary at the talent agency, MCA. Working directly for Stark Hesseltine, an agent who represented many well-known actors and actresses throughout his career, she learned the ins and outs of the entertainment industry.
By 1966 she had moved to Chicago, where she eventually returned to acting. Over the course of the next decade, she landed a number of roles in movies and theatre; one of her most notable performances was alongside John Malkovich and Glenne Headly in the Goodman Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class.
As an actress immersed in a competitive talent pool, she recognized a crucial need that she wanted to fill. “There were no casting directors to serve and promote Chicago actors. I knew New York people who needed local talent,” says Ms. Alderman who decided that her focus would be casting moving forward.
With the encouragement from her former boss, mentor, and lifelong friend, she was able to get her start. “Stark Hesseltine wrote me a check for $500 and provided the moral support I needed,” says Ms. Alderman, who would go on to head up her own casting business, Jane Alderman Casting.
To find talent, she would go to the heart of Chicago. “I would see productions put on by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company as often as I could,” she says. “I’d bring actors from the stage to roles in television and film.”
Over the course of her prominent career she has done the Chicago casting for 62 films, such as Rudy, Flags of Our Fathers, Backdraft, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; 70 television shows, including The Untouchables, ER, and Early Edition; as well as 36 plays, among them is the national tour of Evita.
She is the winner of the Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards for Excellence in Casting of a Dramatic Pilot for EZ Streets and for Casting of a Movie for the Week for Normal. For her outstanding achievements in the Chicago film industry, she has been honored with Women in Film Chicago’s annual Focus Award. The Eclipse Theatre honored her with their First Annual Corona Award, presented to members of the entertainment industry who have demonstrated excellence in their craft and have made a major contribution towards the Chicago Theatre Community. She also holds a Jeff Award from the Chicago Equity Community — the Chicago equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards.
Ms. Alderman segued her retirement from casting in 2009 to a return to acting. In 2006 she appeared in the film The Breakup next to Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, and Ann Margret, followed by a 2008 performance in Steppenwolf’s production of Tracy Lett’s Superior Donuts. In 2009, she headed back to New York to reprise her role for her Broadway debut at the Music Box Theatre. The show ran for four months.
A veteran casting director, she found that 30 years in this capacity sharpened her acting skills. “Reading with actors every day and working with wonderful directors, I think by osmosis, made me a better actress,” says Ms. Alderman, who appeared alongside Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver in the 2010 film, Conviction.
When she isn’t performing on stage or for the big screen, she enjoys writing, reading, auditioning, and teaching. “I enjoy the craft,” says Ms. Alderman, who shared her passion and expertise as a professor at DePaul’s Theatre School for 18 years, and continues to teach at Act One Studios and Roosevelt University’s Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Ms. Alderman continues to call Chicago her home. She has a son and two grandchildren.