Ensemble members Jenny, Hillari, Brandon and Casey spar in stage combat during rehearsal for CPS Shakespeare! Macbeth, which will be performed on CST’s Courtyard Theater stage, November 6 and 7. 2015 (photo by Liz Lauren).

Award-Winning CST Shakespeare! 2015 Ensemble to Take on Shakespeare's Macbeth

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) will present the tenth anniversary of CPS Shakespeare! to master Shakespeare’s text and create an original Shakespeare production on CST’s Courtyard Theater stage. Under the direction of Matt Hawkins, the ensemble will complete an intensive six-week rehearsal process, culminating this year in performances of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. Last November, the program, which  empowers an intergenerational ensemble of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and teachers—supported by a team of CST theater professionals— was honored at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

The citywide ensemble for this year’s CPS Shakespeare! performance includes 17 students and 6 teachers from 7 CPS schools: Benito Juarez Community Academy; DRW College Prep; Hancock College Preparatory High School; Lake View High School; Mather High School; Prosser Career Academy and Wendell Phillips Academy.

Now in its tenth year, the transformative program has engaged hundreds of student and teacher participants in productions of Othello, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet on Chicago Shakespeare’s stage. Developed by Director of Education and the Ray and Judy McCaskey Education Chair Marilyn Halperin and director Kirsten Kelly, the CPS Shakespeare! program has actually become a national model for immersive arts-in-education programming. The theater originally launched the initiative as a way to reach students with untapped potential from under-resourced schools.

In a ceremony hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House on November 10, 2014, the initiative was honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYPA), which recognizes the country’s best creative youth development programs for engagement in the arts and the humanities. Current CPS Shakespeare! participant and Prosser Career Academy senior Jennifer Guadalupe Gonzalez was selected as the student representative to address the gathering of elected, civic and cultural leaders and share her experiences through the program.

Longtime program collaborator Matt Hawkins, who has previously served as the program’s Movement and Voice Director, directs this year’s production. A multiple Jeff Award-winner, Hawkins is a noted director, fight choreographer and actor. He is a founding member of The House Theatre of Chicago and Artistic Associate and resident director with Strawdog Theatre. Hawkins will be joined this year by Assistant Director Sandra Shimon, Prosser Career Academy English Department Chair and teacher, who has participated in the program for the past eight years.

Joining Hawkins and Shimon on the creative team for CPS Shakespeare! Macbeth is Costume Designer Mieka van der Ploeg, Lighting Designer William Kirkham, Sound Designer James Savage, Wig and Make-up Designer Miguel Perez and Properties Master Cassandra Westover.

CPS Shakespeare! Macbeth is presented in CST’s Courtyard Theater Friday, November 6 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 7 at 10:30 a.m. Each performance will be followed by a 30-minute post-show discussion with the entire ensemble.

Tickets are $5 and may be purchased by calling Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visiting the theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com/cpsshakesmacbeth.