Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Shakespeare 400 Chicago centerpiece

Tug of war: foreign fire

Edward III, Henry V and Henry Vi, Part 1

Thrilling saga of Shakespeare's histories from Barbara Gaines

Infused with music and inventive storytelling

Limited engagement of 18 performances beginning May 12


On the occasion of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s legacy in 2016, Chicago Shakespeare Theater  (CST) prepares to begin an epic theatrical endeavor—Artistic Director Barbara Gaines’ Tug of War, which distills six Shakespeare histories into two action-packed dramas. Adapted and directed by Gaines as the Theater’s centerpiece of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival, the Tug of War saga traces the injustice and intrigues of war from the perspectives of both kings and common soldiers through two, six-hour marathon productions—Foreign Fire (Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI, Part 1) in the spring and Civil Strife (Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III) in the fall. Featuring some of Chicago’s most celebrated actors, the dynamic ensemble cast of 19 performs over 100 characters throughout the electrifying drama. The musicality of Shakespeare’s text is complemented with live music performances ranging from Bach and the blues, to contemporary pop and folk anthems. Songs from P!nk, Pete Townshend and Tim Buckley are accompanied onstage by a band of ensemble members on electric guitar, cello, keyboard, ukulele and percussion. Tug of War: Foreign Fire debuts on the Courtyard Theater stage for a limited run of only 18 performances, May 12–June 12, 2016.

In the spirit of addictive epic sagas, like Scandal anHouse of Cards, Tug of War encompasses multiple episodes of Shakespeare’s stories for a live binge-watching experience. Each six-hour theatrical event is punctuated with several short intermissions and a brief meal break, during which pre-ordered meal and snack options are available.

“Celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy, 400 years since his death in 1616, I set out to honor his history plays,” said director Barbara Gaines, “to honor the men and women in his plays, in his world and in our world who serve their country. The history of mankind and its relationship to war is, at its core, cyclical—and in that larger picture sits our Tug of War.”

A significant distinguishing element of this history cycle is that Gaines chose to begin with Edward III, only recently attributed by scholars in part to Shakespeare. As the father of the York and Lancaster branches, King Edward III’s struggle for domination over his archrival France launches the Hundred Years Wars and the War of the Roses. Tug of War: Foreign Fire continues with Henry V, in which Prince Hal sets aside his wild ways to become a revered king and France’s fearsome enemy. The marathon performance concludes with Henry VI, Part I. With the French territories lost again, the naïve Henry VI charges into the fray, taking on a country and its king who have fallen under the spell of Joan of Arc.

The Tug of War acting company takes on over 100 roles ranging from kings to commoners and spanning over a century of British history throughout the action-packed saga. Featuring some of Chicago’s most celebrated actors and many Chicago Shakespeare veteran favorites, the ensemble boasts a remarkable 137 previous CST credits among them. The Tug of War: Foreign Fire company includes returning Chicago Shakespeare performers Karen Aldridge, David Darlow, Matt Deitchman (also the production’s Music Director), Jed Feder, Neil Friedman, Kevin Gudahl, Heidi Kettenring, Michael Aaron Lindner, James Newcomb, Barbara Robertson, Steven Sutcliffe, Alex Weisman and Larry Yando. Making their Chicago Shakespeare debuts are Shanna Jones, Daniel Kyri, Freddie Stevenson, John Tufts, Tahirah Whittington and Dominque Worsley.

Creating the visual world of Tug of War is Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Susan Mickey and Lighting Designer Anthony Pearson. Davis has designed over twenty productions at Chicago Shakespeare, including Ride the Cyclone, Pericles and Road Show. The Tug of War set is open with multiple levels of performance space, becoming a playground on which the artists can inhabit a number of diverse settings. Mickey’s costume designs have been seen recently at CST in Sense and Sensibility, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Cyrano de Bergerac and The School for Lies, for which she won the Jeff Award. Lighting Designer Anthony Pearson makes his Chicago Shakespeare debut; his work has previously been seen on Broadway in Tuck Everlasting, On Your Feet, An American in Paris, Pippin and Kinky Boots (Associate Designer). Seven-time Jeff Award-winner Lindsay Jones serves as the production’s Sound Designer and also creates Original Music and Musical Arrangements for the piece, working within the wide range of musical styles and performance central to Gaines’ vision. Chicago Shakespeare’s resident Jeff Award-winning Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal returns after designing over 95 CST productions. Tug of War: Foreign Fire boasts a notable line-up of over fifty wigs and hair pieces—many of which have been built especially for the production.

Rounding out the creative team is Music Director Matt Deitchman, Assistant Director Geoff Button, Fight Choreographer Matt Hawkins, Movement Director Harrison McEldowney, Dialect Coach Eve Breneman and Verse Coach Larry Yando. Scholar Stuart Sherman, Professor of English at Fordham University and currently Bain-Swiggett Visiting Professor of Poetry at Princeton, serves as the Scholar-in-Residence for the project.

Tug of War: Foreign Fire
adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines
May 12–June 12 | CST's Courtyard Theater

Thursday, May 12 – 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, May 14 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 15 – 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 18 – 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, May 21 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 22 – 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 25 – 11:00 a.m.
Friday, May 27 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 28 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 29 – 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 1 – 11:00 a.m.
Friday, June 3 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 4 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 5 – 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 8 – 11:00 a.m.
Friday, June 10 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 11 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 12 – 1:00 p.m.

For more information about the production, visit

Tug of War: Foreign Fire will be performed in CST’s Courtyard Theater May 12–June 12, 2016. Tickets start at $85 each when Foreign Fire and Civil Strife are booked together, or $100 for just one part. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at


Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is a leading international theater company and the recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award®. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, CST is dedicated to creating extraordinary production of classics, new works and family programming; to unlocking Shakespeare’s work for educators and students; and to serving as Chicago’s cultural ambassador through its World’s Stage Series. Through a year-round season encompassing more than 650 performances, CST attracts 225,000 audience members annually. One in four of its audience members is under eighteen years old, and today its education programs have impacted the learning of over one million students. CST is proud to take an active role in empowering the next generation of literate, engaged cultural champions and creative minds. During 2016, CST has spearheaded the Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival in addition to announcing the creation of an innovative performance venue, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare.


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 Julius Frankel Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, this quadricentennial celebration is anticipated to be the world’s largest and most comprehensive celebration of Shakespeare’s enduring legacy.

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