Yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago

Marking 400th anniversary of shakespeare's legacy

Saturday, april 23, 2016

Season's first spectacular fireworks at Navy Pier

Special guest performance by Alan Cumming at Chicago Shakespeare

Riccardo Muti conducts Verdi's Falstaff


ChicagoApril 14, 2016—In the midst of the world’s largest yearlong celebration of Shakespeare bringing 850 events to more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors throughout 2016, Shakespeare 400 Chicago announces highlights for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 2016, a date which also marks the playwright’s 452nd birthday. The world pays tribute to the playwright’s remarkable legacy on this day—but nowhere with as much spirit as in Chicago. Culminating in a spectacular “Celebration of Shakespeare” Fireworks display over Lake Michigan set to a Shakespeare-inspired score, Shakespeare takes center stage in two signature Shakespeare 400 Chicago events on April 23: Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Chorus and internationally celebrated soloists in Verdi’s Falstaff at Chicago’s Symphony Center, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule serve as honorary co-chairs for an event that hosts the city’s civic community at Chicago Shakespeare Theater featuring a special guest performance by Tony, Olivier and Golden Globe winner Alan Cumming. Around the globe the occasion will be marked by Talk Like Shakespeare Day, a chance for individuals to celebrate Shakespeare’s words online and in daily life.

Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the yearlong festival unites 60 of the city’s world-class institutions, and welcomes scores of leading artists from nations around the world including Australia, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom and beyond. Events spanning theater, opera, music, dance—even cuisine—celebrate, interpret and reimagine Shakespeare’s work. Highlights range from Barbara Gaines’ electrifying six-play history saga Tug of War at Chicago Shakespeare and the Shakespeare’s Globe production of The Merchant of Venice starring Jonathan Pryce to a Peking Opera version of Hamlet from China (The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan) and Culinary Complete Works featuring 38 of Chicago’s top chefs re-imagining Shakespeare’s 38 plays in dishes and tasting menus in their restaurants across the city.

The April 23rd festivities culminate in a dazzling display of fireworks that will light up the Chicago skyline over Lake Michigan from Navy Pier at 10:15 p.m. The show will be underscored by sweeping musical works inspired by Shakespeare. This special display in honor of Shakespeare’s Quadricentennial will be the very first of Navy Pier’s legendary Aon Firework shows of the season. Chicagoans can snag the best views from the dock or aboard an evening cruise, operating with extended hours especially for the celebration. No other city in the United States plans to stage a spectacle of this magnitude in marking the occasion.

At Chicago’s Symphony Center for an 8:00 p.m. performance, more than 2,200 audience members will experience Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera Falstaff conducted by world-renowned Verdi interpreter and CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti. The performances of Falstaff in April 2016 mark the culmination of Muti’s traversal of Verdi’s Shakespeare operas with the CSO and Chorus, which also included Otello in 2011 and Macbeth in 2013. Singing the title role is Ambrogio Maestri, heralded as “the most sought after Falstaff singer of his time” by The New York Times.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on April 23, Chicago’s civic community will gather at Chicago Shakespeare—including corporate leaders and the heads of the city’s cultural institutions. The headquarters of the anniversary festivities will feature grand spectacle and stunning skyline views throughout the Theater’s multi-level lobbies as Chicago comes together to toast Shakespeare’s enduring legacy. Famed actor of stage and screen Alan Cumming performs on Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard stage. Known for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Eli Gold on CBS’s The Good Wife and his Tony Award-winning performance as the Emcee in Broadway’s Cabaret, Cumming has established himself also as a talented Shakespearean actor, with sensational performances in the title roles of Hamlet (Donmar Warehouse), Macbeth (Broadway, National Theatre of Scotland) and Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre Studio). The “Spirit of Shakespeare” Award will honor ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore.

Everyone is encouraged to join Shakespeare 400 Chicago on April 23rd in observing Talk Like Shakespeare Day, an annual event established by Chicago Shakespeare Theater as an occasion for citizens from Chicago and across the globe to bring the words of the playwright into their daily lives. Shakespeare is credited with contributing over 1,700 words and phrases to the English language which we still use today—including “bedazzled,” “swagger” and “new-fangled.” Take part in the festivities online at and on social media at #TalkLikeShakespeareDay.

For the most up-to-date information about programming, tickets and event venues, go to

Download press images of April 23 Shakespeare 400 Chicago events here.


Shakespeare 400 Chicago is a yearlong international arts festival in 2016 celebrating the vibrancy, relevance and reach of Shakespeare. As the world commemorates the four hundred years since Shakespeare’s death in 1616, Shakespeare 400 Chicago engages more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors to the City through 850 events. Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and with leading support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Pritzker Military Museum & Library and the Julius Frankel Foundation, this quadricentennial celebration is anticipated to be the world’s largest and most comprehensive celebration of Shakespeare’s enduring legacy.


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