Yearlong festival marks global celebration of 400-year legacy

All Chicago's a stage

with shakespeare 400 chicago

April highlights around Shakespeare's birthday

and anniversary of his death on April 23


Chicago—March 23, 2016—All eyes are on Shakespeare in 2016 as the world celebrates 400 years of the playwright’s enduring legacy since his death in 1616. The largest global celebration is taking place in Chicago: Shakespeare 400 Chicago. Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the city’s world-class institutions and leading artists from around the globe interpret and reimagine Shakespeare’s work in 850 events on stages and in museums, parks, schools, neighborhoods, even restaurants across the city throughout 2016. The yearlong international cultural festival will engage more than 500,000 Chicagoans and visitors in events spanning theater, opera, music, dance, cuisine, exhibitions, workshops and discussion series. The global festivities particularly look forward to Shakespeare’s birthday and the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, 2016.

“It will be hard to be anywhere in this city in April where something Shakespeare-related isn’t happening,” said Chicago Shakespeare Theater Executive Director Criss Henderson. “We’ve been overjoyed and overwhelmed by the wonderful participation in Chicago from around the globe and across disciplines honoring a world renowned playwright and true inspiration.”

While Shakespeare 400 Chicago offers exciting performances and events throughout the year, select highlights in April include:

  • At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, two productions of Othello illustrate the exciting range of interpretations for a single text: Jonathan Munby’s modern staging of Shakespeare’s tragedy in the Courtyard Theater through April 10, and the Q Brothers’ award-winning hip-hop “ad-rap-tation” Othello: The Remix created with Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Creative Producer Rick Boynton in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Othello: The Remix returns to Chicago April 12–May 8 after international tours to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, South Korea, New Zealand, Poland, the United Arab Emirates and beyond.
  • Chicago Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Barbara Gaines’ reimagined six-play history cycle Tug of War is in rehearsal, preparing to take the stage for the first of two highly anticipated events: Foreign Fire, opening May 12, to be followed by Civil Strife, opening September 14. The dynamic ensemble cast performs over 100 characters ranging from kings to commoners throughout the action-packed drama spanning more than a century of British history. A vibrant musical soundscape encompasses music from Bach and the blues, to contemporary pop and rock anthems.
  • The Gift Theatre Company’s highly acclaimed Richard III, featuring Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton in the title role, is presented in the Steppenwolf Garage, in partnership with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, through May 1. On April 23, the production will be livestreamed via Periscope for audiences worldwide.
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra fills the month of April with Shakespeare-inspired works of classical music conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti at Symphony Center, including:
    • Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet featuring international superstars Ekaterina Gubanova, Paul Groves and Dmitry Belosselskiy, April 7–9.
    • Tchaikovsky’s overtures for Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, along with Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, performing April 14–24.
    • Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, April 21–26. Singing the title role is Ambrogio Maestri, “the most sought after Falstaff singer of his time” (The New York Times).
  • The Supernatural Shakespeare exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago launches April 10 and is on display through October 10. The artistic exhibition brings the Bard’s mischievous witches and faeries to the fore.
  • Culinary Complete Works translates the 38 plays of Shakespeare through the talents of 38 chefs in restaurants across the city throughout 2016. Curated by star restaurateur and tastemaker Alpana Singh and developed with Chicago Shakespeare Creative Producer Rick Boynton, each participating chef will artfully interpret one of Shakespeare’s plays through food. Offerings available in April include:
    • Kevin Cudihee, TWO – Antony and Cleopatra
    • Jimmy Ferguson, Jimmy Jamm’s Sweet Potato Cafe, The Merry Wives of Windsor
    • John Manion, La Sirena Clandestina – Othello
    • Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno – Troilus and Cressida
  • On April 28, University of California, Davis Professor Gina Bloom will introduce her new highly interactive digital game at Northwestern University, Play the Knave, in which everyone has a chance to design, direct and act in scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, karaoke–style. A motion capture camera maps each player’s movements onto a 3D avatar that mirrors their gestures.
  • Throughout the month of April, thousands of students across the region will experience the tour of Chicago Shakespeare’s abridgement, Short Shakespeare! Twelfth Night.
  • High school students and teachers from 50 Chicago public, private and parochial schools will begin the first phase of Battle of the Bard—developed in partnership with Chicago Youth Shakespeare—in which students will perform scenes plus their own creative mash-ups from the canon in a slam-style arena.
  • Chicago Public Library’s Check Out Shakespeare initiative offers screenings of Shakespeare and Shakespeare-inspired films; a new Shakespeare Read-Aloud Book Club; special online resources that offer historical information about Shakespeare and his works; and even a chance to learn to talk like Shakespeare.
  • City Desk 400 correspondents from ten of Chicago’s world-class universities will respond online to the remarkable body of artistic work encompassed by Shakespeare 400 Chicago.
  • Worldwide celebrations of the playwright will reach the pinnacle on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, 2016, which also marks the 400th anniversary of his death. Shakespeare 400 Chicago joins in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s observance of Talk Like Shakespeare Day, an occasion for citizens from Chicago and across the globe to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday by bringing the spoken words of the playwright into their daily lives. Penning 154 sonnets and 38 plays, Shakespeare is credited with contributing over 1,700 words and phrases to the English language—including “bedazzled,” “swagger” and “new-fangled.”
  • Chicago Shakespeare hosts GALA 2016, which will draw five hundred of the city’s civic and cultural leaders to CST’s home on Navy Pier to enjoy theatrical-inspired décor and living art installations. Proceeds from the event directly support Chicago Shakespeare in Urban Classrooms and Communities—the Theater’s nationally recognized education programs and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour.
  • Shakespeare’s birthday festivities on April 23 and Chicago Shakespeare’s GALA 2016 event will culminate with a special Navy Pier Fireworks display at 10:15pm in honor of this momentous 400-year legacy anniversary. Set to music curated by Chicago Shakespeare, the bright lights will illuminate the Chicago skyline in a singular celebration of the world’s greatest playwright.

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

ABOUT SHAKESPEARE 400 CHICAGO 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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