Shaking Things Up: Chicago Shakespeare Theater giving audiences mix of old and new favorites for new season

2013-04-17T18:15:00Z 2013-04-18T11:42:03Z Shaking Things Up: Chicago Shakespeare Theater giving audiences mix of old and new favorites for new seasonBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Long before Chicago Shakespeare Theater announced the theater's 2013-14 Season in March, discussions and drama behind the scenes about production preferences began two years ago.

"We are always talking about potential projects, but we also have to consider schedules, timing and availability before moving forward and making announcements," says Chicago Shakespeare Theater Creative Producer Rick Boynton.

"Every season always promises variety."

The new season includes William Shakespeare's popular comedy "The Merry Wives of Windsor," directed by Artistic Director Barbara Gaines; Shakespeare's epic history play "Henry V," staged by acclaimed British director Christopher Luscombe; and Edmond Rostand's classic romance "Cyrano de Bergerac," directed by Penny Metropulos and featuring Harry Groener in the title role.

Continuing what's been a popular programming journey in recent season, Chicago Shakespeare Theater is offering another nod Stephen Sondheim, a curtain gesture started with the Olivier and Jeff Award-winning "Pacific Overtures" in 2001 and most recently with the highly acclaimed productions like "Follies" 2011 and "Sunday in the Park with George" last year.

For the new season, Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin is staging two musicals spanning Sondheim's career, each with themes about pursuit of the American Dream. "Gypsy" will be produced in the Courtyard Theater, while "Road Show," formerly under the title "Bounce" and reworked and premiered at The Public Theater in 2008, re-imagined by Griffin in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Both productions are scheduled to run simultaneously in two sister theater spaces.

"Every production in the 2013-14 series will breathe new life into some of the most alluring characters to inhabit cherished, classic stories," says Gaines.

"From Falstaff to King Henry V, Cyrano to Momma Rose and the restless Mizner brothers, we will bring larger-than-life personalities into intimate proximity with our audience. Each production will illuminate the human condition—in love and war, success and failure—with bold drama, laughter and music."

Boynton, who started with Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 1995 working with casting, left from 2000 to 2005 to join the creative staff at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire before returning to Navy Pier's fabled performance space dedicated to The Bard.

"We've always had wonderful growth, which comes from both the productions and also our dialogue with our audiences," Boynton says.

"While we Shakespeare at our core, who also like to include a different approach to works and that begins with Barbara's excitement and vision and our tremendous artistic collective."

Boynton describes the successful formula as "stretching boundaries" while listening to subscribers.

The new season also includes Chicago Shakespeare's World's Stage Series, which will continue to bring international artists to Chicago, develop new work with theater artists from around the globe and also export Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions abroad.

Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/lyricist Sondheim will also receive from Chicago Shakespeare Theater the Spirit of Shakespeare Award this season, along with Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Artistic Honoree Sondheim will be recognized for his preeminent contribution to American theater and the celebrated productions of his work staged by Associate Artistic Director Griffin. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, honored for the first time since leaving office, is this year's Civic Honoree. The awards are presented at the annual gala kicking off the new season June 17 and both honorees will attend.

Boynton says audiences also know the unique and always transformed Chicago Shakespeare stage space is another inviting reason to attend performances.

"We are always reinventing our space," says Boynton, who originally hails from New Hampshire and graduated from Northwestern University.

"One of my favorite stagings was the large pool of water incorporated with the stage when we did 'Twelfth Night.' It's always nice to give audiences a surprise."

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