Chicago Shakespeare Theater was founded in 1986 by Barbara Gaines as the Chicago Shakespeare Workshop. In 1987, the name changed to Chicago Shakespeare Repertory. Its first twelve seasons were performed in the Ruth Page Theatre. In 1997, Chicago Shakespeare announced plans to move to Navy Pier, and in 1999 the name was changed to Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The new facility opened in 2000. In 2011, Navy Pier announced that Chicago Shakespeare would be expanded as part of a larger project on the pier, the primary component of which will be a 950-seat theater.
Production history available here.
“The mission of Chicago Shakespeare Theater is to bring to life the plays of William Shakespeare, and to present other great performances for audiences from all walks of life and from around the world.”
Leadership (Past and Present)
Barbara Gaines is the founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where she has directed more than thirty of Shakespeare’s plays. Honors include: the 2008 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre; and Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Production (“Hamlet,” “Cymbeline,” “King Lear” and “The Comedy of Errors”) and for Best Director (“Cymbeline,” “King Lear” and “The Comedy of Errors”). In 2005, Ms. Gaines was awarded the prestigious Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her contributions strengthening British-American cultural relations. She received the Public Humanities Award from the Illinois Humanities Council, and is the recipient of the Spirit of Loyola Award. Ms. Gaines received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Dominican University and this spring received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Lake Forest College. Ms. Gaines serves on the Shakespearean Council of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and is a Life Trustee of Northwestern University. She is a member of the Cultural Affairs Advisory Board for the City of Chicago and has served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Executive Director, has produced CST’s past nineteen seasons. Under his leadership the Theater has become one of the city’s major cultural attractions; honors include the 2008 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre as well as multiple Laurence Olivier and Joseph Jefferson Awards. Mr. Henderson was named Arts Administrator of the Year by Arts Management Magazine; was recognized among the top forty business people under the age of 40 in Crain’s Chicago Business; and was recently named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture of France. Mr. Henderson serves as president of the Producers’ Association of Chicago area Theaters and on the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Illinois and the League of Chicago Theatres. Mr. Henderson is director of the MFA/Arts Leadership Program, a two-year graduate-level curriculum in arts management training created through a joint partnership between Chicago Shakespeare Theater and The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Productions of Note
2008 Regional Theatre Award
“The Comedy of Errors” (2008): Production – Play – Large; Director – Play (Barbara Gaines); Costume Design – Large (Ana Kuzmanic); New Adaptation (Ron West)
“Funk It Up About Nothin’” (2008): Ensemble
Waterworks: Chicago Shakespeare brings Ilotopie to Lake Michigan
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Artists of Note
Alaric Jans & Lindsay Jones: Original Incidental Music, “Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2” (2006)
Ana Kuzmanic: Costume Design – Large, “The Comedy of Errors” (2008)
Barbara Gaines: Director – Play, “The Comedy of Errors” (2008)
Ben Carlson: Actor in a Principal Role – Play, “Hamlet” (2007)
David Ives: New Adaptation, “A Flea in Her Ear” (2006)
Mara Blumenfeld: Costume Design, “A Flea in Her Ear” (2006)
Michael Rourke: Lighting Design, “Kabuki Lady Macbeth” (2005)
Rick Boynton: Actor in a Supporting Role – Play, “A Flea in Her Ear” (2006)
Ron West: New Adaptation, “The Comedy of Errors” (2008)
Setting the Bard: How Gary Griffin’s first Shakespeare found its music
Operatic Gaines: Chicago Shakespeare founder at her Macbest at Lyric Opera
First Ladies: Tony-winning director Mary Zimmerman prepares her musical debut while Chicago Shakespeare founder Barbara Gaines takes on the opera
Shakespeare’s Force: From Hamlet to Jedi with Michael Pennington
Passionate Chicagoan: Despite success on Broadway, Gary Griffin won’t give up his Windy City roots
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Where They Perform
“Two complementary performance spaces in our theater on Navy Pier provide a perfect home for artists and audiences alike. The thrust stage of the 500-seat Jentes Family Auditorium (inspired by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre) necessitates an intimate, immediate relationship between the actors and their audience members, who sit around three sides of the stage. By contrast, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater, a 200-seat black box, offers practically limitless versatility to suit the creative choices of an artistic team.”
“Follies” by Stephen Sondheim, directed by Gary Griffin
“Elizabeth Rex” by Timothy Findley, directed by Barbara Gaines
“The Tempest…” adapted by Jessica Thebus, directed by Jessica Thebus and Frank Maugeri
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare, directed by Gary Griffin
“Timon of Athens” by William Shakespeare, directed by Barbara Gaines
Ontroerend Goed’s “A History of Everything” directed by Alexander Devriendt
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, directed by Rachel Rockwell
“Sunday in the Park with George,” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, directed by Gary Griffin
The National Theatre of Scotland’s “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” created by David Greig, directed by Wils Wilson
The National Theatre of Scotland’s “Black Watch” by Gregory Burke, directed by John Tiffany
“The School for Lies” based on Molière’s The Misanthrope, by David Ives, directed by Barbara Gaines
“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, directed by Jonathan Munby
“Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
“Henry VIII” by William Shakespeare, directed by Barbara Gaines
Full season announcement here.
Box Office: 312.595.5600
Tickets range from $20-$70
$20 student tickets available through Under 35 program
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
On Navy Pier
800 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Unless otherwise noted, all biographies and quotations are from the theater’s website.