Chicago Shakespeare Announces 2021/22 Productions
Chicago Shakespeare Theater announced the return of in-person performances at the Theater's home on Navy Pier with the much-awaited debut of As You Like It infused with the hit songs of The Beatles, beginning October 6, 2021. Shakespeare's romantic comedy joins a dynamic line-up of productions and programs for the Theater's 2021/22 Season, which includes Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn in Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, the Broadway-bound World Premiere musical The Notebook from Ingrid Michaelson and Bekah Brunstetter, Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well staged by Shana Cooper, visionary director Sheldon Epps' startling new take on The Tempest, and a wide range of special theatrical events all year long. On the Theater's three stages, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare has established itself as a multifaceted cultural hub-inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect us.
"We're overcome with joy to be producing live theater again and sharing powerful artistic experiences with our audiences back where they belong at Chicago Shakespeare," shared Artistic Director Barbara Gaines. "And we couldn't wait! There's never been a more important moment for all of us to come together-to gather with one another, to share music and laughter-and to bring back the magic we've missed over these many months apart."
Audiences will not have to wait until the fall to "come together" in joyful reunion to celebrate the return of live theater. Chicago Shakespeare is kicking off its reopening with a string of free summer pop-up events as part of the "Come Together" series-culminating in the opening of The Beatles music-filled As You Like It on October 6. Neighbors across Chicago will come together for the 10th Anniversary of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks with the free theatrical event DREAM: A Community Reimagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream (August 24-September 4, 2021) created with Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Cage Sebastian Pierre, GQ, Joriah Kwame and local partners including: Me'Lo The Generation Hero and DJ Jeremy Heights from Englewood; Move Me Soul from Austin; Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center from Hermosa; Alexis Willis from West Pullman; and Yin He Dance from Chinatown. On September 10 at 6:30pm, the Theater will host the "Here Comes The Sun" Community Sing, inviting participants of all ages and experience levels to join together with members of the Chicago theater community in joyous song-culminating in an impromptu choral performance on the iconic Wave Wall steps on Navy Pier. Then on September 14 at 6:30pm, audiences can come together at the Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park at Navy Pier for a screening of the never-before-seen live performance recording from the World Premiere of the Q Brothers' Othello: The Remix at Shakespeare's Globe in London. Then on September 19 at 3:00pm, the Theater partners with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation to host the No Malice Film Celebration, which will screen original short films created by Illinois young people ages 11-21 exploring the topic of racial healing in our communities. The series concludes with a ceremonial Re-Lighting of the Marquee on October 6, just before audience members take their seats for the Theater's first in-person performance.
Chicago Shakespeare audiences return to the Courtyard Theater with a vibrant adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy As You Like It (October 6-November 21, 2021) adapted and directed by Daryl Cloran. Set in the '60s, the exuberant celebration of love features nearly 20 musical numbers from The Beatles songbook, performed live onstage, including "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Let It Be," and "Here Comes the Sun." The company includes Melanie Brezill (Celia), Adam Wesley Brown (Forest Lord/Hymen), Tony Carter (Oliver), Austin Eckert (Charles the Wrestler/Amiens), Lachrisa Grandberry (Audrey), Kevin Gudahl (Duke Senior/Duke Frederick), Heidi Kettenring (Phoebe), Kayvon Khoshkam (Touchstone), Kieran McCabe (Forest Lord), Steven Pringle (Adam/Sir Oliver Martext), Liam Quealy (Orlando), Lakeisha Renee (Rosalind), and Nancy Voigts (Corin).
Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn takes the stage in a tour-de-force solo performance, Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski (November 3-14, 2021). Originally created by The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, Remember This is written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman, and directed by Goldman. Best known for acclaimed performances in Good Night, and Good Luck, Nomadland, and Lincoln, Strathairn takes on the role of real-life World War II hero Jan Karski. After surviving the devastation of Poland by Nazi Germany, Karski swears allegiance to the Polish Underground and risks his life to carry the first eyewitness reports of the Holocaust to the White House, where his warnings are met with inaction and disbelief. Strathairn captures the remarkable life of the self-described "insignificant, little man" who spoke truth in the halls of power in a timely story of moral courage.
The Theater's raucous and irreverent holiday tradition Q Brothers Christmas Carol returns in a special limited engagement in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare (December 8-23, 2021). Created and performed by Chicago hip hop sensations the Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax, and Pos) and developed with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, this wildly entertaining 80-minute reinterpretation of the Charles Dickens classic mashes up hip hop with contemporary musical styles ranging from reggae and dancehall music, to dubstep and epic rock ballads-all underscored with beats spun live at the turntables by DJ Supernova. A Chicago Shakespeare production, Q Brothers Christmas Carol is presented by CST and Richard Jordan Productions. In collaboration with leading Broadway and regional theater multimedia company HMS Media, the production will be filmed in front of a live audience for broadcast distribution.
Following the success of 2020's virtual pop-up shop, the Holiday Artisan Market is slated to return in December 2021. From jewelry and ceramics to knitwork and more, the Holiday Artisan Market will not only be a one-stop-shop for bespoke and beautifully made gifts, but also celebration of the talent and resilience of our city's creative community. One hundred percent of proceeds will go directly to the featured artisans, all from the creative sector-including onstage performers, backstage technicians, designers, and community artist partners from the Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program. Last year's event showcased more than 200 one-of-a-kind treasures from 25 local makers and garnered nearly $10,000 in direct artist support.
This winter, acclaimed Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed-previously seen at Chicago Shakespeare with Fight Night (2018) and A History of Everything (2012)-virtually presents its new production TM (January 2022) as part of the WorldStage series. Made in collaboration with theater-makers from across the world and directed by Alexander Devriendt, TM beckons audiences into a live interactive one-to-one experience exploring media manipulation, populist ideology and conspiracy theories-and was hailed "an ingenious show that tears up theatre's playbook" by The Guardian.
In March, Chicago Shakespeare is proud to continue its role as a key partner in the development of new work with the debut of Broadway-bound new musical, The Notebook (March 15-April 24, 2022). The World Premiere production features music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson with book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter. Known for her distinctively soulful folk-pop style, Michaelson is a force in the music industry with four Top 20 albums and two Platinum singles: "The Way I Am" and "Girls Chase Boys." Brunstetter is a supervising producer and writer on NBC's Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series This Is Us, as well as an accomplished playwright whose work has played at theaters including Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory, Atlantic Theater Company, and The Old Globe. Broadway powerhouses Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal, Grey Gardens, RENT) and Schele Williams (Aida, Motown the Musical) team up to direct this deeply moving portrait of the enduring power of love. Based on Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel that inspired the hugely popular film, The Notebook chronicles the decades-long love story between a mill worker named Noah and a privileged debutante named Allie. Beginning with a whirlwind summer romance, their love affair spans an entire lifetime-in spite of the differences that threaten to pull them apart. With music direction by Carmel Dean and choreography by Katie Spelman, the World Premiere production will feature a diverse, multi-generational cast, reflecting the timeless and universal nature of the love story.
Beginning in April 2022, Shakespeare's nuanced coming-of-age love story All's Well That End's Well (April 23-May 29, 2022) is brought to new life in the uniquely intimate setting of the Courtyard Theater, staged by acclaimed director Shana Cooper. A company member at the acclaimed Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., Cooper's directing credits span classical theater to new works at leading regional companies including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, and Yale Repertory Theatre. She notably staged the world premiere of The COOP's inaugural production Terra Firma off-Broadway in 2019. Bold, complex characters and hilarious turns of wit and wisdom make for a vivid exploration of love and loss, courtship and class. Besotted with a man who does not return her love, the intelligent, resourceful young Helena navigates the complexities of unrequited romance, courtly drama, and the pesky meddling of her elders-only to discover the reality that happy endings are never quite as simple as they seem in fairy tales.
The new musical It Came from Outer Space (May 25-June 26, 2022) will make its World Premiere in the Spring directed by Laura Braza. Commissioned and developed by Chicago Shakespeare with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, the project reignites an artistic partnership with creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, following the success of their Jeff Award-winning 2011 musical, Murder for Two which premiered at Chicago Shakespeare and went on to be produced Off-Broadway and in theaters around the world. In this adaptation of the cult classic '50s sci-fi film from Universal Pictures, It Came from Outer Space spins Ray Bradbury's flying saucer tale with a clever musical score and creative physical humor-examining society's fear of outsiders and embracing the wonder of what lies just beyond the stars.
In September 2022, Chicago Shakespeare will join forces with leading director Sheldon Epps to stage a new production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. An award-winning director, Epps conceived and directed the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical Play On!, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set to the music of Duke Ellington, as well as the acclaimed musical revue Blues in the Night, which played on Broadway and London's West End. He directed the world premiere of Blue at Arena Stage Theatre, which went on to be produced off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre. In addition to serving more than 20 years as the artistic director for the Pasadena Playhouse, Epps has directed plays and musicals for many of the nation's major theaters including The Guthrie, the Old Globe Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, and Goodman Theatre. Epps is set to bring his artistic vision to a lyrical storytelling of Shakespeare's mystical romance.