Chicago—Chicago Shakespeare Theater celebrated GALA 2019 on Monday, June 10, 2019, raising $1.2 million for Chicago Shakespeare in Classrooms and Communities initiatives—which include the Tony Award-winning Theater’s nationally recognized education programs and free citywide Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour.
During the event, Chicago Shakespeare presented the annual Spirit of Shakespeare Awards, honoring those who embody Shakespeare’s spirit through community engagement and artistic leadership.
This year’s Civic Honoree, BMO Harris Bank, has been an instrumental partner in making the arts accessible to every person in Chicago through their leadership support of the free Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour since its inception in 2012. For 200 years, BMO Harris has been committed to making tomorrow better through a Community Giving philosophy anchored in the tenets of collaboration, learning, and innovation. As civic leaders and philanthropists, they work with an impressive portfolio of community partners across Chicago and nationwide. David Casper, U.S. CEO, BMO Financial Group, accepted the honor on behalf of the institution.
In honor of the citywide Year of Chicago Theatre initiative in 2019, the Spirit of Shakespeare Award Artistic Honoree collectively recognized “The Chicago Actor.” The award salutes thousands of local actors whose talent and passion have served as the heart of Chicago Shakespeare since the company’s founding. Actors Kevin Gudahl, Heidi Kettenring, Emma Ladji, Ross Lehman, and Mike Nussbaum shared their experiences with Chicago Shakespeare on behalf of the Chicago Acting Community.
Artistic Director and Founder Barbara Gaines shared the impact of the Chicago Actor stating, “What thousands of Chicago’s actors give and have given to audiences every night—on stages across the city—are their hearts, and souls, their invention…they shine lights in the world where there are none.”
Following a cocktail reception and seated dinner across the Theater’s lobbies, 350 attendees from Chicago’s civic and cultural community enjoyed a one-night-only performance from the Chicago Shakespeare cast of the hit North American Premiere musical SIX in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. In the star-studded concert, audiences were treated to selections including “Life of the Party” performed by Samantha Pauly, “Best of My Love,” performed by Adrianna Hicks, “Rise Up,” performed by Anna Uzele, “Proud Mary,” performed by Brittney Mack, “I’ll Never Love Again,” performed by Andrea Macasaet, and “Waving Through a Window,” performed by Abby Mueller. The Queens finished off their performance with the electrifying confetti-filled finale from SIX, which was recently extended due to popular demand for five additional weeks, now through August 4.
Through the generosity of the Lead Consortium, the Host Committee and the advocacy of Chicago Shakespeare’s Board of Directors, GALA 2019 supports the Theater’s Chicago Shakespeare in Classrooms and Communities initiatives that annually serve thousands of students, teachers, and family audiences.
Every year, CST’s Team Shakespeare programs introduce more than 40,000 students to Shakespeare in performance, and have positioned the Theater as a partner in literacy to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for nearly 25 years. This fall, teams representing fifty high schools from across the Chicago region come together to celebrate the power of Shakespeare and their own voices in the Theater’s third annual Chicago Shakespeare Slam. Chicago Shakespeare in Classrooms and Communities also encompasses the annual free citywide summer tradition Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, now in its eighth year. From Kelvyn Park to Loyola Park, to Ping Tom Memorial Park, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks engages communities across the north, west, and south sides of the city.
GALA 2019 brought together the City’s civic and artistic communities to toast Shakespeare’s enduring legacy. Guests enjoyed a three-course dinner from Host Committee sponsor Food For Thought with grand spectacle and stunning skyline views. Following a sumptuous soup and salad course, the main course featured a pairing of Peppercorn, Dijon and Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin and Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, accompanied by Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms, Fondant Fingerling Potatoes, “Vichyssoise” Sauce, and a Sweet Pea and Corn Shoot Salad. The meal concluded with guests’ choice of Lemon Pistachio Baked Alaska, Blackberry Sorbet, Lemon Curd, Toasted Meringue, or Pistachio Streusel. The meal was paired with wines courtesy of Van Duzer Vineyards.
The festive Old Hollywood-themed atmosphere featured striking visuals from MDR Creative Inc. and lush floral arrangements from Pollen across the company’s multi-level campus on Navy Pier. In the Lobby, artists in lavish costumes from past Chicago Shakespeare productions mingled and posed for photos with guests. To cap the night, guests pledged direct support to Chicago Shakespeare’s education and community initiatives during a paddle raise.
GALA 2019 was generously supported by the Lead Consortium, including: BMO Harris Bank; Exelon Corporation–Robin and Steve Solomon; Harve A. Ferrill; Food for Thought; Kirkland & Ellis–Richard Porter and Lydia Marti, Linda and Dennis Myers, and Kevin and Joan Evanich; Burton X. and Sheli Z. Rosenberg; Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation; and The Segal Family Foundation.
The Host Committee included: Allstate–Jess and Amanda Merten; AON; BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois–Maurice Smith and Nazneen Razi; The Boeing Company; Bulley & Andrews; The Crown Family; Kent and Liz Dauten–Keystone Capital; Virginia and Gary Gerst; ITW; The Jentes Family; The Family of Jack Karp; KPMG–Bill and Char Tomazin; Ray and Judy McCaskey; Northern Trust; John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP–Brian and Yasmina Duwe; and Marilynn and Carl Thoma.
More information at www.chicagoshakes.com.
ABOUT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be—a company that defies theatrical category. This Regional Tony Award-winning theater’s year-round season features as many as twenty productions and 650 performances—including plays, musicals, world premieres, family programming, and presentations from around the globe. Chicago Shakespeare is the city’s leading presenter of international work, and has toured its own productions across five continents. The Theater’s nationally acclaimed arts in literacy programs support the work of teachers, and bring Shakespeare to life on stage for tens of thousands of students annually. Each summer, the company tours a free professional production to neighborhood parks across Chicago. In 2017 the Theater unveiled The Yard, which, together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs, positions Chicago Shakespeare as Chicago’s most versatile performing arts center.