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Nate Dendy, Tom Nelis and Charlotte Graham in "The Tempest" at American Repertory Theater (photo by The Smith Center/Geri Kodey)

Chicago Shakespeare Theater 2015–16 Season To Feature Epic Bard History Cycle

Artistic director Barbara Gaines will present her exploration of Shakespeare’s history plays, plus the Q Brothers’ hip-hop ‘Madsummer’ and magician Teller’s ‘Tempest.’

CHICAGO: Chicago Shakespeare Theater will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by producing a mix of world premieres—Shakespeare-inspired and otherwise—and classics during its 2015–16 season. Season highlights include a six-play Shakespeare history cycle, a Tempest from magician Teller and a hip-hop Midsummer Night’s Dream from the Q Brothers.

Opening the season will be the The Little Mermaid, from Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater and Doug Wright (July–Aug. 2015). Based on the Disney film, the musical will be directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell, with musical direction by Roberta Duchak.

For its annual free Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks production, the theatre will present the mash-up Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits at various city parks through July and August. The production, conceived by artistic director Barbara Gaines, will be adapted and directed  by Geoff Button. It will feature Shakespeare’s most memorable characters combined with contemporary pop music.

The term out-of-the-box will take a literal turn with The Tempest (Sept–Nov. 2015), in an adaptation by Aaron Posner and Teller (of the stage magic duo Penn & Teller). The production will feature songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, and choreography by dance collective Pilobolus. Larry Yando will play the banished duke Prospero; Yando played King Lear at CST last season. Posner and Teller, who codirected the production in its inaugural run at American Repertory Theatre last year, will return to direct the Chicago iteration.

Director Rockwell will get another credit, overseeing and choreographing the musical Ride the Cyclone (Sept–Nov. 2015). The musical, from Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, is about a group of teenagers who arrive in limbo after being killed in a freak accident on a roller coaster.

David Ives’s adaption of Jean-François Regnard’s The Heir Apparent (Dec. 2015–Jan. 2016) will come in time for the holidays. The production will be directed by Tony winner John Rando.

Next will be Shakespeare’s Othello (Feb.–April 2016), directed by British theatre artist Jonathan Munby. Dion Johnstone, coming in from the Stratford Festival in Canada, will play the Moor of Venice.

For young audiences, the theatre will present its annual Short Shakespeare! play. The production, Twelfth Night (March–April 2016) will play at CST before going on tour to local schools in April and May. Frequent CST director Kirsten Kelly will adapt Twelfth Night to 75 minutes and direct the production.

Then, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, artistic director Gaines will unveil her six-play Shakespeare history cycle Tug of War. The series, presented in two parts, will explore Shakespeare’s history plays from the perspectives of both kings and commoners. The first installment Tug of War: Foreign Fire—incorporating Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI, Part 1—will play in May and June 2016. Tug of War: Civil Strife—containing Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III—will play September and October 2016.

Finally, CST’s 2015–16 season will contain the world premiere of Madsummer, created by the Q Brothers, GQ and JQ; CST creative producer Rick Boynton will direct. From the creators of Othello: The Remix, Funk It Up About Nothin’ and A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol (which all played at CST) comes a hip-hop adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The run dates will be announced at a later date.

Founded in 1986, Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a mix of classics, new works and family programming, producing work on its stages while also touring regionally and internationally.

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