What is The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare?

The Yard is a new kind of artistic platform that redefines the traditional, fixed relationship between artist and audience, offering instead flexible configurations to match the unique vision for the scale and orientation of each production. This fully enclosed, indoor theater connects through adjoining lobby spaces on two levels to Chicago Shakespeare’s existing building—home to the 500-seat Courtyard Theater and 200-seat theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Together, the three theaters create an expanded campus on Navy Pier.

What is the design for The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare?

The Yard features a first in flexible design: a set of nine moveable audience seating towers—each the size of a double-decker bus stood upright—that can be reconfigured to suit audience capacities from 150 to 850. Each tower houses extensive theatrical technology, and is connected to a network of HVAC components and sprinkler systems for patron comfort and safety. The compressed air skid technology (imagine a mini-hovercraft) lifts the 35,000-pound tower millimeters from the ground, allowing three stagehands to re-configure the towers between productions. More environmentally and economically responsible than entirely new construction, The Yard’s sustainable and adaptive design repurposes components of what was formerly Skyline Stage. The design incorporates a fully enclosed auditorium “box” for year-round use, built beneath the iconic white tent. The existing stage house and backstage support spaces have been reused. The lobby wall, which features a stunning two-story electrochromic glass wall (akin to transition lenses used in eyeglasses), significantly reduces glare and energy costs by varying the degree of opacity, dependent upon the level of sunlight.

What makes The Yard unique?

The uniqueness of The Yard is a synthesis of a number of elements: the adaptive re-use of an existing theater space on Navy Pier; its first-of-their-kind moveable, self-contained audience seating towers; the flexibility to accommodate a number of seating configurations, from intimate to large scale; and Chicago Shakespeare’s signature, broadly diversified programming that patrons have come to associate with this Theater’s work.

The Yard is one of the most flexible theater venues in the world. Audiences will come to “expect the unexpected” with each visit: the relationship between audience and actor will be newly redefined by the vision of each creative team as The Yard’s audience towers are reconfigured to the needs of each production.

Why a third venue?

Chicago Shakespeare currently produces as many as 650 performances of 19 productions and operates extensive education programs annually. The company’s two-theater home on Navy Pier was straining to house all of this work. With this dynamic third, year-round venue our artists can develop increasingly complex and innovative projects, we can expand our service to students, and amplify our role as a world-class institution for generations of Chicagoans to come.

What kind of productions will I see across the three Chicago Shakespeare venues?

The Yard, with its inherent flexibility, aims to amplify, not alter, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s current mission, programming, artistic relevance, and community impact. The Theater’s tradition of artistic excellence will continue: audacious imaginings of Shakespeare’s plays; acclaimed new plays and musicals; engaging productions for young audiences; and international imports that connect Chicago to the world. Chicago Shakespeare will program across all three venues. Season ticket holders will continue to be guaranteed the best seats at the best price in every configuration.

What about parking for more patrons?

All patrons of Chicago Shakespeare will continue to have guaranteed, dedicated parking in Navy Pier garages at a discounted rate.

How do I enter The Yard?

Audiences will be welcomed to The Yard through its entrance across from Chicago Shakespeare’s existing front doors. Once inside The Yard’s lobby, audiences will cross one of two bridges leading to the Main Floor or to three levels of Gallery seating in the audience towers. The box office, serving all three theaters, will remain in the lobby of the Courtyard Theater.

Is The Yard accessible?

Aligned with Chicago Shakespeare’s mission of making live performance available to all, The Yard is fully accessible to patrons with disabilities. Features include accessible seating, restrooms, elevators, ramps, and assisted listening devices, Braille and large-print materials, along with a range of programming, including audio-described performances, American Sign Language interpretation, touch tours, and open captioning.

Why is it called “The Yard”?

“The Yard” is a nod to the area of Elizabethan-era theaters where the audience actively engaged with actors. It is reflective of the personality of Chicago Shakespeare’s newest performance venue. Evoking the forward-thinking, surprising, raw, world-class space it defines, “The Yard” is a historical reference with a modern sensibility.

Who designed The Yard?

Collaborating with CST Executive Director Criss Henderson, the team behind the forward-thinking design includes: top Chicago-based firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG)—winner of the 2015 American Architecture award and designers of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Tower, which upon completion will be the tallest building in the world—along with award-winning, UK-based theater consultancy firm Charcoalblue, whose projects include venues for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre of Great Britain and St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.



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