December events wrap up Shakespeare 400 Chicago

Yearlong festival's wide-reaching impact

Projects 1.1 million attendees at 863 events


Chicago—November 22, 2016—Shakespeare 400 Chicago, the yearlong festival marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, will wrap up a dynamic year of programming with a full calendar of events in December, having inspired an estimated 1.1 million people to take part in 863 events at 231 locations across the city of Chicago.

Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson—and in partnership with 60 local cultural institutions—the city’s festival is one of the largest Shakespeare quadricentennial celebrations in the world. The New York Times reported, “No American city seems to be marking the anniversary as enthusiastically as Chicago.” And The Guardian agreed, noting that Chicago stood “at the forefront of America’s commemoration.”

“Chicago Shakespeare Theater is an international leader in bringing the works of history’s greatest playwright to a new generation, and the Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebration is a unique opportunity to bring the Bard to life in Chicago’s neighborhoods,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Shakespeare 400 has united our cultural institutions, engaged students across the city, and reinforced Chicago’s status as a global destination for cultural tourism.”

These performances cap an exciting year. In 2016, Shakespeare 400 Chicago engaged 1,151 artists—including musicians, actors, dancers, chefs, designers and scholars—who made Chicago their stage, celebrating the vibrancy, relevance and reach of the playwright’s work across disciplines. Performers came from 12 countries, and interpreted Shakespeare in 11 languages. International artists traveled a total of 161,112 miles to Chicago, the equivalent of circling the globe more than 6 times.

For paid Shakespeare 400 Chicago events, the median ticket price was an accessible $21, generating an estimated $22.7 million in total ticket revenue across the organizations. But not every performance generated ticket fees, because 28% of all Shakespeare 400 Chicago events were free—fulfilling the festival organizers’ commitment that Shakespeare should be accessible to all.

“By engaging cultural attendees with such a diverse range of offerings across the city’s institutions, Shakespeare 400 Chicago has catalyzed the resources that make Chicago such an attractive cultural destination,” David Whitaker, President & CEO of Choose Chicago, said. “With over an estimated one million attendees spending not only on tickets but also restaurants, accommodations and shopping, it is easy to see the economic impact of Shakespeare 400 Chicago is in the tens of millions.”

An estimated 100,000 students, families and young people took part in Shakespeare 400 Chicago by attending performances or participating in arts-in-education programming. Students from public, private and parochial schools participated in Battle of the Bard—a slam-style competition which culminated in a “Finals Bout” on Chicago Shakespeare’s stage on November 14. Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, which toured 23 performances of Twelfth Night to 19 Chicago Park District parks citywide, welcomed 30,000 audience members throughout the summer. In addition, countless students accessed free online resources thanks to City Desk 400 and Chicago Public Libraries’ Check Out Shakespeare initiative.

The radically diverse line-up of Shakespeare 400 Chicago included programming ranging from the expected in the Shakespeare’s Globe production of The Merchant of Venice starring Jonathan Pryce, to the unexpected—an alt-rock concert Macbeth from Theatre Zuidpool at Thalia Hall; from the large-scale in Barbara Gaines’ two-part six-play saga Tug of War, to the intimate, one step at a time like this’ solo journey undreamed shores; from the near—Chicago’s own troupe Improvised Shakespeare, to far—a Peking Opera Hamlet from Shanghai; the musical, Riccardo Muti conducting Falstaff with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to the delicious, Culinary Complete Works, at which an estimated 29,000 people dined on Shakespeare-inspired dishes at 38 of Chicago’s most celebrated restaurants.

The festival’s final month offers a crescendo of varied offerings including: Spymonkey’s cheeky The Complete Deaths from the UK; a one-night-only cabaret performance Shakespeare Tonight!; The Newberry Library’s Creating Shakespeare exhibition; and the sold-out run of Cheek by Jowl’s internationally acclaimed production of The Winter’s Tale from the UK. A complete listing of Shakespeare 400 Chicago events in December is below.

Now, as the festival approaches its conclusion, it is clear that Shakespeare 400 Chicago has lifted the city in ways that are economic, creative and spiritual. The festival brought together Chicago’s world-class cultural institutions in an unprecedented collaboration, and united our citizens throughout a year that has had its trials and celebrations. Shakespeare 400 Chicago stands as a powerful model for a multidisciplinary collaboration that catalyzes cultural organizations around a common theme.

More information on programming at


Shakespeare 400 Chicago Festival Line-up



University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Arts Education for Adults + Graham School | Katia Mitova


December 2, 2016 at 12:15 p.m. | Claudia Cassidy Theater

In life, ambiguity frustrates us. In poetry, it delights us. In drama? As long as we are reading a masterpiece that allows for multiple interpretations, we perceive ambiguity as richness. Uncertainty intrigues us. But, how does one stage the ambiguity we perceive in Shakespeare’s characters, in the plots of his masterpieces, in his half-closures, in his brilliant puns? We’ve seen very different King Lears, Hamlets and Iagos, all of whom said the same words. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not always funny and The Winter’s Tale can be quite bitter, despite its “happy ending.” This lecture explores the tension between text and theater caused by Shakespeare’s ambiguity.

Free Admission • 773.702.1722

The Newberry


now through December 31, 2016 | The Newberry

A must-see exhibit for every Shakespeare fan, Creating Shakespeare is a masterpiece—featuring over 100 items, including treasures from The Newberry Library and other distinguished collections. The exhibition displays a variety of artifacts, manuscripts, printed books, artwork, music and more, while examining how Shakespeare’s works have been reimagined and recreated throughout the centuries. Curator-led tours of the galleries will be taking place in December.

Free Admission • 312.943.9090

Georges Bigot + Theatre Y


now through December 4, 2016 | Chopin Theatre

Georges Bigot–central to Ariane Mnouchkine’s Theatre du Soleil during the ’80s and ’90s and one of France’s most lauded contemporary actors–comes to Chicago to collaborate for a full year with Theatre Y, one of Chicago’s "bravest and most uniquely intriguing theater companies" (Chicago Stage Review). Known all over the world for highly physical ensemble work, Bigot’s style reads like a "mask in human form that, when turned towards an audience, hits you like a punch in the stomach" (Olivier Berardi). Bigot hunts for the paradox that animates the nightmare of Macbeth.

September 15, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
September 16, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
September 17, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.
September 18, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.

Tickets start at $25 • 773.278.1500

from THE UNITED KINGDOM | Spymonkey


directed + adapted by Tim Crouch │ co-produced with Brighton Festival + Royal & Derngate Northampton
developed at The Other Place at the Royal Shakespeare Company │ presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater
November 30–December 11, 2016 | Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

There are 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare—75 if you count the black ill-favored fly killed in Titus Andronicus. From the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony and Cleopatra. And then there’s the pie that Titus serves his guests. Spymonkey will perform them all—sometimes lingeringly, sometimes messily, sometimes movingly, sometimes musically, but always hysterically. The four “seriously, outrageously, cleverly funny clowns” (Time Magazine) will scale the peaks of sublime poetry and plumb the depths of darkest depravity. It may even be the death of them. Directed by Tim Crouch (I, Malvolio, An Oak Tree, Adler & Gibb), The Complete Deaths is a solemn, somber and sublimely funny tribute to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

November 30, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 1, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 2, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 3, 2016 – 3:00 p.m.
December 3, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.
December 4, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.
December 4, 2016 – 6:30 p.m.
December 6, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 7, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 8, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 9, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 10, 2016 – 3:00 p.m.
December 10, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.
December 11, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.
December 11, 2016 – 6:30 p.m.

Tickets start at $58 • 312.595.5600

Chicago Shakespeare Theater


written by Bob Mason │music direction by Beckie Menzie
December 5, 2016 – 7:30 p.m. | Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Celebrate the Bard on and off Broadway with music from the great American songbook by such illustrious composers as Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Written by Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Associate Bob Mason with musical direction and arrangements by nationally renowned cabaret artist Beckie Menzie, Shakespeare Tonight! will star some of the top cabaret and musical theater performers from Chicago and beyond. From reinterpretations of well–known songs from such classics as West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate to little–known gems like Frank Loesser’s jazz–inflected version of Hamlet and Jimmy Van Heusen’s blues–inspired Darn That Dream, this is an inspired marriage of Shakespeare and cabaret.

Tickets start at $25 • 312.595.5600

The Newberry + Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Coppélia Kahn


December 8, 2016 – 6:00 p.m. | The Newberry

Throughout the fall of 2016, The Newberry Library and Chicago Shakespeare Theater have invited three great American scholars from the world of Shakespeare to address three very different topics. The final presentation features Coppélia Kahn, one of the pioneers in Shakespeare gender studies, who turns her attention to the very timely topic of our cultural celebrations of Shakespeare, the focus of her current research and publication with Clara Calvo: Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration and Cultural Memory.

Free Admission • 312.943.9090



throughout 2016 | WTTW Channel 11

WTTW, Chicago’s “Window to the World,” will broadcast a range of programming celebrating Shakespeare’s work as it lives on screen and on air. Playing December 11, is the return of highly anticipated series The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses, directed by former Royal Court Theatre artistic director and Olivier Award-winner Dominic Cooke, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing King Richard III.

from THE UNITED KINGDOM │ Cheek by Jowl


written by William Shakespeare│ directed by Declan Donnellan │ designed by Nick Ormerod
presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater
December 14–21, 2016 │ Chicago Shakespeare Theater

The award-winning British company Cheek by Jowl returns to Chicago with a new production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Writing The Winter’s Tale after completing his great tragedies, this is a new Shakespeare. Unity of time, place and action are hurled aside as we move across Europe—from court to country, from high tragedy to low comedy—in a story that spans fourteen years. A delusional and paranoid king tears his family apart, but the struggle for redemption yields flickers of hope. Initial darkness gives way to joy as Time leads the characters to a shattering conclusion.

December 14, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 15, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 16, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 17, 2016 – 3:00 p.m.
December 17, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.
December 18, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.
December 20, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
December 21, 2016 – 1:00 p.m.
December 21, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

All performances are SOLD OUT • 312.595.5600



throughout 2016 | online + on the go

Chicago’s world-class universities are among our city’s most treasured resources, from the University of Chicago on the vibrant South Side to Northwestern University along its North Shore. Scholars from ten universities are responding online to the remarkable body of artistic work encompassed by Shakespeare 400 Chicago. Audiences from around the world can learn more about the immense range of work through the insightful lens provided by this group of academics—from emerging scholars to distinguished emeriti. Subscribe to receive instant updates, or check out the Shakespeare 400 Chicago website for the latest posts from our “City Desk 400 Correspondents.”

Chicago Public Library


throughout 2016 | in library branches across Chicago

Chicago Public Library is offering dozens of screenings of Shakespeare and Shakespeare-inspired films; a brand new Shakespeare Read-Aloud Book Club, featuring Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and monthly peeks into its Theater Collection for interesting artifacts of fellow Chicagoans performing, reading and engaging with Shakespeare throughout our city’s history. Online resources that offer historical information about Shakespeare and his works, words he created and even a chance to learn to talk like Shakespeare through the Mango Languages database, are accessible from anywhere in the world. The Library is prominently featuring their extensive collection of Shakespeare’s plays and huge variety of books, films, audiobooks, musical scores and other works that he has inspired. All programs are free.

Pritzker Military Museum & Library + Chicago Shakespeare Theater


throughout 2016 | Pritzker Military Museum & Library

Chicago is home to the incomparable Pritzker Military Museum & Library. This internationally renowned institution celebrates the personal journey of the citizen soldier and honors the courage of those who have served. Shakespeare’s canon has played a critical role in shaping our modern view of war and warfare, and the Museum & Library is proud to serve as a lead partner for Shakespeare 400 Chicago. From the inspirational St. Crispin’s Day speech of Henry V to the master class in political rhetoric that is Mark Antony’s call to action in Julius Caesar, across centuries, monarchs and soldiers alike have taken solace in Shakespeare’s words. A four-part video series, entitled Shakespeare and the Citizen Soldier, engages military bases around the world through varied perspectives on Shakespeare and the work of the citizen soldier. Hosted by Pritzker Military Museum & Library President & CEO Kenneth Clarke, the series includes interviews, dynamic excerpts and demonstrations from Shakespearean actors, military personnel, war historians and weaponry experts. Chicagoans have access to this exciting program on WYCC and around the world on the Pritzker Military Museum & Library website and podcast.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company


Thursdays, Fridays + Saturdays | The iO Theater

Based on an audience suggestion, the critically acclaimed Improvised Shakespeare Company creates a fully improvised Shakespearean masterpiece before your very eyes. Every “staggeringly brilliant” production employs plotlines and themes inspired by the Bard himself (Time Out Chicagom). The players effortlessly invent Shakespearean dialogue and rhyming couplets in verse, bringing you “a night of Elizabethan tomfoolery” that’s “downright hilarious” (Time Out Chicago, Edge Miami). Named Chicago’s best improv group by both Chicago Reader and Chicago Examiner, this is one production that would be a tragedy to miss.


# # #



Contact Us

Hannah Kennedy
Director of Communications

Emma Perrin
Public Relations & Digital Media Manager
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Media Office

Cathy Taylor
Cathy Taylor Public Relations

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
on Navy Pier
800 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Additional Pages