Chicago Shakespeare Theater Creative Producer Rick Boynton, Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Honoree Phylicia Rashād, Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, Executive Director Criss Henderson and Artistic Honoree Simon Callow at CST’s GALA 2015 on Monday, June 8 at the Theater’s home on Navy Pier. (photo by Daniel Ribar).
Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) celebrated Shakespeare’s vibrant legacy with Gala 2015 on Monday, June 8 at the Theater’s home on Navy Pier, raising $1.2 million for Chicago Shakespeare in Urban Communities initiatives. Three hundred and fifty of Chicago’s civic, corporate and cultural leaders attended the event benefiting CST’s award-winning engagement programs including Team Shakespeare education initiatives and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the fifth annual Spirit of Shakespeare Awards to this year’s Civic Honoree, Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and ITW Vice Chairman David Parry and his wife Ros Parry, and Artistic Honorees, Simon Callow and Phylicia Rashād.
Gala 2015 showcased the multiple lobbies and performance spaces of Chicago Shakespeare with theatrical flourishes. The enduring legacy of Shakespeare’s words remained at the core of the celebration, with aspirational quotes from the Bard’s plays projected onto walls and windows. Dotting the event landscape were actors embodying iconic characters from the canon—attired in lavish costumes and wigs by CST’s award-winning designers. The festive atmosphere, featuring lush floral arrangements from Bukiety and striking visuals from MDR Creative Inc., was truly “such stuff as dreams are made of” (The Tempest).
Attendees enjoyed a three-course dinner, sponsored by Food For Thought, which was as delicious as it was artful. The main course featured a pairing of Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Butterfish, accompanied by a rainbow of fruit and vegetables—including Compressed Watermelon Relish, Carrot Gratin, Stewed Purpletette Onions and a White Wine Gastrique. Complementing the crisp white décor, the dessert was a White Chocolate Mousse atop a Jasmine Tea Meringue and adorned with White Violas. 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 Awards, which are given annually to honor those that keep the spirit of Shakespeare alive through community engagement and artistic leadership.
Civic Honoree Vice Chairman David Parry and his wife Ros Parry accepted the Spirit of Shakespeare Award on behalf of ITW, in recognition of the company’s tradition of generosity and excellence. In the course of his remarks, Parry recounted to hilarious effect the “pinnacle of his acting career” portraying Tom Snout and Wall in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at age eleven. Regarding ITW’s commitment to the Theater’s nationally acclaimed education programs, Parry shared, “We support the arts and culture with vigor…ITW is very proud to be involved with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.”
Barbara Gaines presented the Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Award to artistic collaborator and longtime friend, Simon Callow. Having appeared at Chicago Shakespeare in his award-winning one-man performances of The Mystery of Charles Dickens and Being Shakespeare, Callow shared his enthusiasm for the Theater’s work and artistic vision: “I adore what this theater stands for…the passion, the immediacy, the sheer Shakespearean quality.”
Artistic Honoree Phylicia Rashād was recognized for her extensive career as an actor and director, including her ground-breaking portrayal of television’s attorney Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Of her early-career dreams to perform Shakespeare, she said, “as young actors in training, we long to play these roles. In my time as a student, that longing—because of the era in which I was a student—didn’t seem a possibility because of exclusion. I am happy to see that does not exist here.” Ms. Rashād emphasized the importance of the arts in outreach and education in today’s society, relating, “You don’t know what it means to the young people who will be reached through this program, but I can tell you—as one who was reached as a young person—it means everything.”
Illustrating firsthand the transformative power of Shakespeare in young people’s lives, CPS Shakespeare! student participants performed excerpts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. CPS Prosser Career Academy junior Jennifer Guadalupe Gonzalez, who earlier this year traveled to the White House to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, related the powerful impact of her time at CST and the opportunities it has opened up to her both academically and personally. In her impassioned speech, she said, “In our ensemble, we are all such different people—we come from every part of the city and we are all from different cultures. This program has made me notice every person out in the world. We are all human beings with feelings. I want to help people and teach them what Shakespeare taught me.”
The “Stand Up for Shakespeare” auction offered top-bidding guests unique packages including A weeklong Parisian Getaway with accommodations in a fabulous apartment in the 7th Arrondissement and a private tour of the Musee d'Orsay with noted art expert Chris Boicos; and an exclusive day on set with the cast of HBO’s hit television series VEEP hosted by star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, capped off by a 4-night stay in the luxurious Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.
Attendees were treated to musical performances by legendary Chicago actress and cabaret performer E. Faye Butler and Broadway actor Sean Allan Krill, who most recently appeared as Colonel Brandon in CST’s world premiere musical Sense and Sensibility. Guests also pledged varying levels of direct support to CST’s education and community engagement initiatives during a paddle raise.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Shakespeare Theatre Gala Raises $1.2M for Urban Communities Initiatives