The productions for our 2015/16 Season range from innovative reimaginings of the classical canon to exciting new works. Anticipating Shakespeare 400, the international celebration of the playwright's four-hundred-year legacy in 2016, the season honors Shakespeare’s spirit of inventiveness and audacity.
September–November 2015 | CST's Courtyard Theater
by William Shakespeare | adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller | songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan | choreography by Matt Kent, Pilobolus
Shakespeare’s enchanted island is transformed in this inventive production from Aaron Posner and Teller (of the legendary duo Penn & Teller), who also contributes astonishing feats of magic. Larry Yando returns to Chicago Shakespeare following his iconic performance in last season’s King Lear to take on the role of the vengeful and mysterious Prospero, who conjures a storm shipwrecking his old enemies on the island. This classic tale of revenge is reimagined as a traveling tent show of trickery and amazement—underscored by haunting ballads from the inimitable Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, and featuring choreography by the pioneering dance collective Pilobolus. In a production full of “such stuff as dreams are made on,” sorcery gives way to the inclinations of the heart.
Ride the Cyclone
September–November 2015 | Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare
book, music and lyrics by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell | directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell | with musical direction by Doug Peck
Part comedy, part tragedy and wholly unexpected, Ride the Cyclone is a wildly imaginative new musical with a refreshingly offbeat twist. The lives of six teenagers from the Uranium, Saskatchewan chamber choir are cut short in a freak accident aboard a roller coaster called the Cyclone at the Wonderville Traveling Fairground. The fair’s mechanical fortune-teller Karnack invites the teens to tell their stories of lives interrupted—and offers them the chance to come to terms with their fates. At once quirky and smart, edgy and beautiful, this irreverent new musical directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell ultimately reveals the resilience of the human spirit in spite of senseless tragedy.
The Heir Apparent
December 2015–January 2016 | CST's Courtyard Theater
by David Ives, adapted from Le Légataire Universel by Jean-François Regnard | directed by John Rando
From David Ives comes the cheeky romp The Heir Apparent, based on Jean-François Regnard‘s comic masterpiece and directed by Tony Award®-winner John Rando. Another hilarious retooling of a classic from the acclaimed playwright takes the stage at Chicago Shakespeare after his critical and popular successes with The School for Lies (2011) and A Flea in Her Ear (2006). Young Eraste seemingly has it all—good looks, a beautiful fiancée and the prospect of a sizable inheritance from an elderly uncle. There’s just one snag: the uncle won’t die and he has bequeathed his entire fortune to someone else. Hilarious rhyming couplets and contemporary slang abound in this deliciously off-color tribute to commedia dell'arte, bringing seventeenth-century bawdiness into the twenty-first.
February–April 2016 | CST's Courtyard Theater
by William Shakespeare | directed by Jonathan Munby
With the launch of Shakespeare 400 celebrating four centuries of the playwright’s legacy in 2016, renowned British theater artist Jonathan Munby directs actor Dion Johnstone from Canada’s Stratford Festival in the title role of Shakespeare’s Othello. Both return to Chicago Shakespeare after collaborating in Munby’s 2013 production of Julius Caesar. Othello is the unequaled hero of his age—a fearsome leader, respected citizen and devoted husband. But he is also an outsider whose success has created enemies driven by envy and prejudice. Shakespeare’s intimate tragedy excavates the most universal of human emotions: passion in love—and jealousy.
Tug of War: Foreign Fire
Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI, Part 1
May–June 2016 | CST's Courtyard Theater
Tug of War: Civil Strife
Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III
September–October 2016 | CST's Courtyard Theater
by William Shakespeare | adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines
Inspired over decades of exploring the canon, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines unveils the world premiere of her landmark six-play Shakespeare history cycle, Tug of War. This ambitious undertaking explores Shakespeare’s battle-scarred history plays from the perspectives of kings and common men—revealing the playwright’s wisdom on war, both foreign and domestic, and its very human consequences. The multi-generational narrative unfolds over two installments: in Spring 2016, Tug of War: Foreign Fire incorporates the oft-disputed Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI, Part 1; in Fall 2016, Tug of War: Civil Strife takes the stage with Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III. Each installment is approximately six hours including several intermissions and a brief meal break. With a production as large in scale as the subject matter, this bold enterprise offers fresh insight into the playwright’s brilliance.
Disney's The Little Mermaid
July–August 2015 | CST's Courtyard Theater
music by Alan Menken | lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater | book by Doug Wright | based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film | directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell | with musical direction by Roberta Duchak
This summer, families will venture under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends to the tune of one of Disney’s most beloved classics. Chicago Shakespeare’s newly adapted 75-minute production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is based on the full-length Broadway musical and staged by Jeff Award-winning director and choreographer Rachel Rockwell. Featuring the Academy Award®-winning song “Under the Sea,” children and adults alike will delight in the dazzling production and unforgettable music following Ariel’s adventure to find true love—and her voice. Each performance features special opportunities for audiences to interact with the actors for one-on-one conversations and photos.
Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks: Shakespeare's Greatest Hits
July–August 2015 | Free performances in neighborhood parks throughout Chicago
by William Shakespeare | conceived by Barbara Gaines | adapted and directed by Geoff Button
Chicago’s favorite summer tradition, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks brings Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits, free for all to audiences in 18 Chicago Park District parks throughout the city. In this Chicago Shakespeare original, Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and scenes come to life, mashed-up with a score of today’s popular music. From Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth to The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It, audiences will experience a lively medley of Shakespeare’s thrilling stories. Affirming the Theater’s commitment to Chicago communities, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tours to neighborhood parks on the city’s south, west and north sides in partnership with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, Boeing and production sponsor BMO Harris. Tour dates and park locations to be announced.
Short Shakespeare! Twelfth Night
March–April 2016 | CST's Courtyard Theater
April–May 2016 | on tour to schools around the region
by William Shakespeare | adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly
Shakespeare’s romantic comedy is designed to immerse students, young audiences and families alike in the playwright’s timeless work in this 75-minute abridged production adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly. A pair of shipwrecked twins set into motion a tale of mistaken identity and unlikely love. Separated from her brother Sebastian, the quick-thinking Viola adopts a male disguise and enters the service of the handsome Duke Orsino—only to find herself in the middle of a triangle of unrequited love. After each public performance on Saturdays, the actors remain on stage for a question-and-answer session, then join the audience in the Lobby for conversations and photos.
Schedule to be announced later this season | Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare
created and directed by GQ and JQ | a hip-hop adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream | developed with Rick Boynton
Creators of international sensations Othello: The Remix and Funk It Up About Nothin’, the Q Brothers have captivated audiences around the world, from South Korea to Abu Dhabi to Poland—and now return home to Chicago with the world premiere of their newest collaboration, Madsummer. This fired-up, hip-hop adaptation forged by the Q Brothers with CST Creative Producer Rick Boynton takes inspiration from the original genius lyricist: Shakespeare. Sharply rewritten over original beats with the Q Brothers’ signature comedic touch, the crew takes on the mismatched lovers and mischievous sprites of Shakespeare’s popular comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for an unforgettable, high-energy performance experience.