Chicago—Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) celebrated the global impact of Shakespeare with GALA 2016 at the Theater’s home on Navy Pier on the 400th Anniversary of his death—April 23, 2016—a date which also marked the playwright’s 452nd birthday. As the signature celebration of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival, the night raised a record-breaking $1.4 million that will benefit the Tony Award®-winning theater’s Chicago Shakespeare in Urban Classrooms and Communities initiatives, including Team Shakespeare education programs and the FREE citywide Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour. GALA 2016 presented the Spirit of Shakespeare Award to Civic Honoree ComEd, represented by President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore. Five hundred attendees from Chicago’s civic and cultural community came together to toast Shakespeare’s enduring legacy and enjoy a one-night-only performance featuring Tony- and Olivier Award-winner Alan Cumming, followed by a spectacular Aon Fireworks display over the city skyline.
In addition to honorary co-chairs Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule, GALA 2016 co-chairs Ally and Suzette Bulley, Barbara Malott Kizziah and Keith Kizziah and Paulita Pike and Zulfiqar Bokhari spearheaded the evening’s events. The record fundraising total was made possible by the generous support of a Host Committee of 34 individuals and corporations led by Lead Sponsors ComEd/Exelon and Food For Thought Catering.
GALA 2016 dramatically showcased the multiple lobbies and performance spaces of Chicago Shakespeare with splendor and theatricality, thanks to lush floral arrangements from Bukiety and striking visuals from MDR Creative Inc. Throughout the event spaces, Chicago Shakespeare artists inhabited framed “Living Pictures,” depicting a range of fashions and inspirations from the last 400 years. Eclectic décor, including clusters of chandeliers coupled with forward-thinking chrome tables and stylized room settings, whimsically juxtaposed old-world with contemporary flair.
Guests enjoyed a three-course dinner from Food for Thought Catering. The main course paired succulent Beef Tenderloin with herb-crusted Barramundi, accompanied by sides of Sundried Tomato Rissoto, Mushroom Ragout, Rapini and Lemon Beurre Blanc. Drawing on the work of the playwright himself, dessert was “A Midsummer Night’s Cherry Trifle Dream” with buttery Pistachio Financier layered with airy Pistachio Cream and Tart Cherry Compote. The meal was paired with wines courtesy of Van Duzer Vineyards.
Following dinner, guests gathered in CST’s Courtyard Theater for the presentation of the Spirit of Shakespeare Award, which annually honors those that keep the spirit of Shakespeare alive through community service and artistic leadership. This year, CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson presented the Civic Honoree award to ComEd, represented by ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore, in recognition of the company’s reputation as both a reliable energy provider and a socially responsible business—striving to preserve the environment, support education, contribute to local arts and culture and aid in neighborhood development. In her remarks, Pramaggiore pointed to Shakespeare’s relevance today and her own experiences with the playwright as a student of theater.
Event attendees were treated to a special one-night-only guest performance by Tony- and Olivier Award-winner Alan Cumming. The famed actor of stage and screen delighted a full house with four musical numbers, accompanied by Music Director Lance Horne on the piano and Tug of War ensemble member Tahirah Whittington on the cello. Former CPS Shakespeare participant Roque Sanchez addressed the crowd, speaking to how the Theater’s education programs inspired him to help others and become an activist for homeless youth. The performance concluded with Chicago Public School student Ariana Burks singing Georgia Stitt’s musical rendition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, the very poetry that inspired the Theater’s Artistic Director Barbara Gaines’ love of Shakespeare.
The Stand Up for Shakespeare auction offered top-bidding guests unique packages including:
- A ‘two-Michelin star” dinner with Barbara Gaines in CST’s Courtyard Theater, with an exclusive menu designed by Acadia’s award-winning Chef Ryan McCaskey.
- A spectacular trip to Las Vegas including—compliments of this past fall’s The Tempest co-director Teller—two tickets to Penn & Teller’s live show at the Rio and a special opportunity to meet the stars backstage. Also, two tickets to the hit musical Rock of Vegas, first class airfare and three nights stay at the SLS Las Vegas, a Tribute Portfolio Resort.
- A Broadway Getaway to New York City, with a four-night hotel stay, first-class airfare, premium tickets to three Broadway shows, and a meet-and-greet with Broadway stars Brian D’Arcy James and Heather Headley.
- The ultimate Summer in Chicago package, featuring skybox seating for two Cubs games at Wrigley Field, two Lollapalooza four-day passes, two tickets to see Cyndi Lauper at The Chicago Theatre, and four Ravinia Pavilion tickets for two concerts.
- The Culinary Complete Works experience: a private Aon Fireworks party for 50 catered by DMK Restaurants, four passes to Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet and the exclusive Grand Cru and dinner for two at three participating Culinary Complete Works restaurants—Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, The Boarding House and Everest.
Guests also pledged varying levels of direct support to CST’s nationally recognized education and community engagement initiatives during a paddle raise.
The night of celebration culminated in a dazzling display of fireworks that lit up the Chicago skyline over Lake Michigan from Navy Pier. With prime viewing from the Theater’s lobbies’ floor-to-ceiling windows, the show was underscored by a sweeping music from the soundtracks of Shakespeare-inspired films. This special display was the very first of Navy Pier’s legendary Aon Fireworks shows of the season. Following the grand finale, guests mingled in the Theater’s lobbies for a dessert reception courtesy of Inspired Catering, where they sampled Shakespeare-themed signature cocktails featuring local CH Distillery spirits, including “The 1616” and “The Next 400.” Also during the after party, magician Nate Dendy—who most recently appeared as Ariel in CST’s production of The Tempest—whisked groups of guests away for private sleight-of-hand magic encounters, and Chicago band Diana & The Dishes performed.
Alongside Lead Sponsors, the GALA 2016 Host Committee included: Allstate Insurance Company – Jess and Amanda Merten; Aon; Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar and Scott LLP – Mark Ouweleen and Sarah Harding; BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois – Maurice Smith, Nazneen Razi; BMO Harris Bank; Bulley & Andrews; Citadel; Mr. and Mrs. Lester Crown; Dover Foundation; Exelon – Robin and Steve Solomon; Harve A. Ferrill and Karla Scherer; GCM Grosvenor; Virginia and Gary Gerst; ITW; JLL; Betsy and Jack Karp; Kirkland & Ellis LLP – Richard Porter and Lydia Marti; Malott Family Foundation; Raymond and Judy McCaskey; Northern Trust; Paulita Pike and Zulfiqar Bokhari – Ropes and Gray LLP; PNC; JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation; COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Founder, Pritzker Military Museum and Library; Burton X. and Sheli Z. Rosenberg; John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe; Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation; S&C Electric Company; Carole and Gordon Segal; Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom LLP – Brian and Yasmina Duwe; The Sun-Times Foundation/the Chicago Community Trust – Michael and Jacky Ferro and Marilynn and Carl Thoma.
ABOUT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
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. www.chicagoshakes.com