Court Theatre is a professional theater on the campus of the University of Chicago. Established in 1955 as an amateur company, Court has grown into an organization with an operating budget in excess of $3.2 million and an annual audience of 35,000. Court presents five main stage productions per season, with a longstanding commitment to presenting innovative productions of the classics. Since Charles Newell became artistic director in 1994, Court has expanded its focus to present more of the African-American canon and musical theater works. Described as “the most consistently excellent theater company in America” by The Wall Street Journal, Court has a national reputation for excellence and innovation.
Court Theatre was founded in 1955 as an amateur outdoor summer theater at the University of Chicago. In 1971, classics professor Nicholas Rudall assumed the role of director and conceived Court’s tradition of translating and adapting classic texts for contemporary audiences; the theater was then established as a professional company with Actors’ Equity Association in 1975. In 1981, Court built its current home, the intimate, 251-seat Abelson Auditorium, and in 1983 the theater incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization. Charles Newell was named artistic director in 1994.
Production history available here.
“The mission of Court Theatre is to create innovative productions of classic plays that are thought provoking, character-driven, and thematically enduring. Through main stage productions, audience enrichment programs and collaborations with the University of Chicago, we re-examine, re-envision and renew classic texts that pose enduring and provocative questions that define the human experience.”
Leadership (Past and Present)
Charles Newell has been Artistic Director of Court Theatre since 1994, where he has directed more than thirty productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with “The Triumph of Love,” which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Directorial highlights at Court include “The Wild Duck,” “Caroline, Or Change,” “Titus Andronicus,” “Arcadia,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Raisin,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Travesties,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Hamlet,” “The Invention of Love,” “The Little Foxes,” “Nora” and “The Misanthrope.” Charlie has also directed at the Goodman Theatre (“Rock ‘n’ Roll”), the Guthrie Theater (Resident Director: “The History Cycle,” “Cymbeline”), Arena Stage, John Houseman’s The Acting Company (Staff Repertory Director), the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard and New York University. He is the recipient of the 1992 TCG Alan Schneider Director Award. He has served on the Board of Theatre Communications Group, as well as on several panels for the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera directing credits include Marc Blitzstein’s Regina at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Rigoletto at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Charlie is a multiple Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago’s highest theatrical honor) nominee and recipient. Most recently, his production of “Caroline, Or Change” at Court was the recipient of four Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production–Musical and Best Director–Musical.
Stephen J. Albert (Executive Director) is a founding Partner in Albert Hall & Associates, LLC a leading arts consulting firm. Prior to forming the consulting practice, Albert was recognized as a leading arts manager. He has led some of America’s most prestigious theatres, including the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group, Alley Theatre and Hartford Stage Company. Albert began his career with the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles where he worked in senior management positions for over a decade, rising to Managing Director. He went on to become Executive Director of Houston’s Alley Theatre where he led a turnaround that stabilized the organization, enabling the Alley to return to national standing and drove a capital campaign that secured the organization’s future. At Hartford Stage, his partnership with Mark Lamos resulted in some of the theatre’s most successful seasons and reinforced Hartford Stage’s position at the forefront of the regional theatre movement. During his tenure in Hartford, Mr. Albert led the initiative to create a 25,000 square foot, state-of-the-art production center, securing the donation of the facility and the funding for its renovation. Albert has served as both President and Vice President of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and as a board member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG). He has also written and produced a variety of productions for television, is an ACE award nominee, and has been an associate producer of numerous acclaimed Broadway productions. He is a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Forum, a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds a MBA from the UCLA Graduate School of Management.
Productions of Note
“Caroline, or Change” (2009): Production – Musical – Large; Director – Musical (Charles Newell); Actress in a Principal Role – Musical (E. Faye Butler); Music Direction (Doug Peck)
“Fences” (2006): Production – Play; Director – Play (Ron OJ Parson); Actor in a Principal Role – Play (A.C. Smith); Actress in a Principal Role – Play (Jacqueline Williams)
“Man of La Mancha” (2006): Production – Musical; Ensemble; Scenic Design (John Culbert); Lighting Design (Mark McCullough); Musical Direction (Doug Peck)
“Putting It Together” (1998): Production – Revue
Ten Seconds to Change: Taking in the show backstage at “Irma Vep”
Voices from the Dead: SITI Company returns to Chicago with the “ultimate ghost story” in Radio Macbeth
Change is Here: Court Theatre brings a contemporary masterpiece to Chicago
A History of Violence: Joanne Akalaitis directs Thyestes
To see all Newcity reviews and other coverage, click here.
Artists of Note
A.C. Smith: Actor in a Principal Role – Play, “Fences” (2006)
Alison Siple: Costume Design, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” (2010)
Barbara Robertson: Actress in a Principal Role – Play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (2005)
Charles Newell: Director – Musical, “Caroline or Change” (2009)
Director – Musical, “Man of La Mancha” (2006)
Doug Peck: Musical Direction, “Caroline or Change” (2009); Musical Direction, “Carousel” (2008); Musical Direction, “Man of La Mancha” (2006)
E. Faye Butler: Actress in a Principal Role – Musical, “Caroline, or Change” (2009)
Jessie Mueller: Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical, “Carousel” (2008)
John Culbert: Lighting Design, “The Illusion” (2010); Scenic Design, “Man of La Mancha” (2006)
Mark McCullough: Lighting Design, “Man of La Mancha” (2006)
Mary Beth Fisher: Solo Performance, “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2010)
Newcity’s The Players: The fifty people who really perform in Chicago
Charles Newell (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009)
Sean Graney (2011, 2010, 2009)
Doug Peck (2012, 2011)
Timothy Edward Kane (2012)
Chris Sullivan (2010)
Alison Siple (2010)
E. Faye Butler (2009)
To see all Newcity reviews and other coverage, click here.
Where They Perform
Since 1981, Court has staged its productions in the 251-seat Abelson Auditorium. The theater is part-proscenium, part-thrust, with three raked banks of seating.
“Spunk,” adapted from Zora Neale Hurston by George C. Wolfe, directed by Seret Scott
“An Iliad,” adapted from Homer by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, directed by Charles Newell
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, adapted by Oren Jacoby, directed by Christopher McElroen
“Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” by Tony Kushner, directed by Charles Newell
“Angels in America: Perestroika” by Tony Kushner, directed by Charles Newell
“Jitney” by August Wilson, directed by Ron OJ Parson
“James Joyce’s ‘The Dead'” book by Richard Nelson, music by Shaun Davey, lyrics conceived and adapted by Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey, directed by Charles Newell
“Skylight” by David Hare, directed by William Brown
“Proof” by David Auburn, directed by Charles Newell
“The Misanthrope” by Moliere, directed by Charles Newell
“Tartuffe” by Moliere, directed by Charles Newell
Full season announcement here.
Box Office: (773) 753-4472
Tickets range from $10-$70
Student Discount (any university): 25 percent discount at any time; $10 tickets available rush (one hour before each performance)
Student Discount (University of Chicago only): $10 advance, $5 rush; some Wednesday/Thursday performances offer a limited number of free tickets; student subscriptions also available
5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
Unless otherwise noted, all biographies and quotations are from the theater’s website.