Pre•Amble scholars present free pre-performance lectures as part of the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Inquiry and Exploration Series that bridge the worlds of scholarship and performance, examining a play in its historical context as well as the interpretive choices made by the director, design team and acting ensemble. Pre•Ambles are held at the Theater an hour before curtain on select Saturday and Sunday matinees for most productions in our subscription season. Listen to past recordings.

Stephen Bennett earned his PhD in English and American Literature at New York University, where he was a Dean's Dissertation Fellow. His dissertation, Reading Elizabeth: Menopause and the Cult of the Virgin Queen, explores how and why representations of Elizabeth I changed at her menopause and at her death. During a nearly 20-year career teaching literature and writing at the college level, he became increasingly fascinated with how a K-12 education prepares students for college, and he is now a special education teacher at Pickard Elementary in Chicago. He has also taught at Roosevelt University, New York University, and the University of Utah.


Katie Blankenau

Katie Blankenau is an assistant professor at Mount Marty University in South Dakota, where she specializes in early modern drama and poetry. Her dissertation, Entertaining Strangers: Hospitality and the Early Modern Representation Market, explores how early modern English writers used the language of hospitality to characterize newly commercial but nevertheless hospitable relations with their audiences. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Northwestern University, an MA in English from Southern Methodist University, and received her BA English and BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas.


Regina Buccola is Professor of English and Chair of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she specializes in Shakespeare, non-Shakespearean early modern drama, and Women's and Gender Studies. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Early Theatre Journal, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, and Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. She is the author of Fairies, Fractious Women and the Old Faith: Fairy Lore in Early Modern British Drama and Culture. She is the editor of A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Critical Guide, and co-editor with Peter Kanelos of Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Suiting the Action to the Word.


Casey Caldwell

Casey Caldwell is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Northwestern University. He has worked previously at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the American Shakespeare Center, Austin Shakespeare, and Shakespeare at Winedale. His research interests include early modern drama, history and theories of money, market culture, and history of sexuality. Casey is co-editor of The Hare, an academic journal publishing reviews of "old" scholarship and performances in early modern drama. He is an award winning scholar and teacher, and has become increasingly involved in prison education through Northwestern University. Casey holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University; an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Partnership with the American Shakespeare Center; an MA in Philosophy from the University of Auckland; and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin.


Beth Charlebois is Professor of English at St. Mary's College of Maryland, the designated public honors college of the State of Maryland, where she teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance drama. Her work, both in the classroom and in print, focuses on performance and interpretation. Professor Charlebois began her work with Chicago Shakespeare's Education Department in 1995 while a graduate student at Northwestern University, where she earned her PhD in English literature in 2000. Her Pre•Amble talk on Antony and Cleopatra in 1999 was the first one of its kind offered by CST, and she has continued to help develop and expand the program since she relocated to Maryland.


Rebecca L. Fall

Rebecca L. Fall is a nonprofit administrator, public humanities strategist, and award-winning Shakespeare scholar. After receiving her PhD in English from Northwestern University, Rebecca completed a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowship at The Public Theater in New York. She now works at the Newberry Library and is an editor for The Map of Early Modern London. She is finishing a book that traces the surprising social functions of nonsense writing and silly jokes in Renaissance England against a longer history of culturally productive (and destructive) senselessness from eleventh-century France to the present-day United States.


Ira S. Murfin is a scholar, artist, and arts programmer based in Chicago. He holds the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre & Drama from Northwestern University, and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His research investigates the relationship between extemporaneity, artistic discipline, and media technologies in late 20th Century artistic vanguards, and his creative practice primarily focuses on approaches to talk as a performance material. His criticism and scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in Performance Research, Journal of American Theatre & Drama, Theatre Topics, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, and Review of Contemporary Fiction.  His performance work has been presented by MCA Chicago, Links Hall, Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, Chicago Cultural Center, Block Museum of Art, and Sector 2337, among other places. He is currently the Program Coordinator for the Guild Literary Complex and Performance Editor for the literary journal Requited. Ira is pleased to have been a PreAmble Scholar at Chicago Shakespeare Theater since 2012. More at:


Sara B.T. Thiel

Sara B.T. Thiel is a scholar of Shakespeare in performance. Her book, Performing Pregnancy on the Early Modern English Stage, 1603-1642 is currently under contract with Routledge’s Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama series. Her essay, “Performing Blackface Pregnancy at the Stuart Court: The Masque of Blackness and Love's Mistress, or the Queen's Masque,” (Renaissance Drama, 2017) recovers the Stuart Queen’s influence on early modern dramaturgy and performances of gestation in Stuart England. She also researches and publishes on contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare. Previously, Sara previously held the position of public humanities manager in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s education department. At the University of Pittsburgh, she taught theater history, early modern race studies, and the drama of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Sara holds a PhD in Theatre Studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.





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