The 2014-2015 performing arts season will mark the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University’s milestone 125th anniversary. The national historic landmark, led by Brett Batterson, executive director and Melvin L. Katten, Board Chairman, recently announced programming for its new anniversary season.

Built in 1889 by the pioneering genius of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, along with their young draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright, the Auditorium Theatre, often referred to as “the eighth wonder of the world,” would catapult Chicago onto the world’s stage driving both culture and tourism to the Windy City.

In honor of its 125th anniversary, the Auditorium Theatre has announced First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Michelle Obama, as the Honorary Chair for its historic season-long celebration. Honorary Co-chair for the 125th season, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to the dual Chicago benefactors of the enduring legacy of the theater: the city’s arts and architecture. "On behalf of all Chicagoans, we are thrilled to celebrate the Auditorium Theatre’s 125th birthday,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This national historic landmark is representative of our rich history in the arts as well as the unique Chicago architecture styles that have influenced American building structures for generations..."

At the time of its opening in 1889, the Auditorium Building was the epitome of modern design, the largest structure in the United States and the tallest in Chicago. It housed not only a spectacular theater, but also a luxurious 400-room hotel and 136 offices. The theater itself was a marvel of cutting-edge technology, featuring the prominent display of an astounding 3,500 bare carbon filament light bulbs (only publicly seen for the first time in 1879), unrivaled acoustics, air conditioning (which called for the delivery of 15 tons of ice daily), 26 hydraulic lifts that could easily raise and lower sections of the stage, and an expansive 95-foot loft above the stage for flown scenic elements.

The upcoming Anniversary Season will pay homage to the extraordinary caliber of dance presented at the theater over the past 125 years with the return of The Royal Ballet to Chicago after a 37-year absence. Led by director Kevin O’Hare, the company will present Carlos Acosta's production of “Don Quixote” and a triple bill of Wayne McGregor's “The Art of Fugue,” Christopher Wheeldon's “Aeternum”—which premiered at the Royal Opera House in February 2013 and was nominated for an Olivier Award—and an as yet, un-choreographed piece by Liam Scarlett, which will premiere at the Royal Opera House in February 2015. The company will make their Auditorium debut during a three-city tour of the U.S. that includes The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“I am delighted to bring The Royal Ballet back to Chicago as part of our US Tour in 2015,” said O’Hare. “The Company has a long history of performing in North America and we’ve always been made to feel very welcome by our American audiences. The Royal Ballet hasn’t visited Chicago since 1978 so the two programs we plan to bring are designed to showcase the depth of the company’s repertory and the talent of our dancers led by our world-class roster of principals. We are honored to be part of such a special season at the Auditorium Theatre.”

In November 2014, Dance Theatre of Harlem, known for its innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression will make a triumphant return to the Auditorium Theatre Stage after 16 years with a mixed repertoire performance.

Highlighting the anniversary celebration is a special gala performance on December 9, 2014, exactly 125 years from the date the Auditorium Theatre’s doors first opened in 1889. The evening will host Chicago’s premiere cultural institutions including members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, singers from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as The Apollo Chorus – who participated in that first opening night 125 years ago. These institutions, including surprise celebrity guests (soon to be announced) will present an evening’s program that will include a tribute to the diverse entertainment that has been and continues to be presented at the theater including Broadway, Pop, Rock, dance and a special salute to the military, which made its home at the Auditorium Theatre during wartime. The gala performance will be followed by a celebrity dinner at the Palmer House.

Other season highlights include returning favorites like the internationally acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre and St. Petersburg’s Eifman Ballet, along with gripping new series spotlighting Chicago-based arts ensembles. “Made in Chicago’ will offer dance, variety and film series that will present world class programming from artists and groups originating right here in the Windy City.

The season will also bring the theater’s new Department of Creative Engagement, which launch a collection of free or low cost family and community programming for the city to enjoy throughout the 125th Anniversary Season celebration. Kicking off the educational programming, the Auditorium Theatre and Landmarks Illinois will partner to present a free year-long series of lectures celebrating the architectural landscape of 1889 in Roosevelt University’s Murray-Green Library (430 S Michigan).  Other highlights include a free Family Fun Day when the theater open its doors for a day filled with arts activities and performances for the entire family. Celebrating Honorary Chair of the 125th Anniversary Season First Lady Michelle Obama’s fitness agenda “Let’s Move!,” the Auditorium will present Dance Fit Day, urging and inspiring Chicagoans to get moving with dance focused fitness classes featuring Chicago based dance companies. Event dates are yet to be announced.

Lead sponsors for the upcoming special anniversary season are The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, David D. Hiller, and International Dance Series Sponsor NIB Foundation. The theater will announce additional planning for programming and fundraising to continue the renovation and refurbishment of the landmark theater over the next six months.  
The Landmark Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (photo courtesy of The Auditorium Theatre)

Auditorium Theatre to Usher in Landmark Season with First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Season Chair