CHICAGO: After 36 years at the helm of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, founder and artistic director Barbara Gaines has decided to step down in 2023. Gaines has directed 60 productions, including 33 Shakespeare titles and six world premieres. She is recognized for her populist approach to classical theatre, making Shakespeare accessible to wider audiences.
“Barbara Gaines has had an indelible impact on the global cultural landscape as the founder and artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare—her vision, passion, and tenacious spirit are unequaled,” said Mark S. Ouweleen, the chair of Chicago Shakes’s board of directors, in a statement. “Her audacious impulse to build a Shakespeare theatre for Chicago has blossomed into a world-class theatre that continues to raise the bar for artistry and service.”
Gaines’s first production in 1986 took place on the rooftop of the Red Lion Pub in Lincoln Park. She has since been awarded the 2008 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, the Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her service to British-American cultural relations, and the Chicago History Museum’s Making History Award, recognizing her contributions to the city of Chicago.
“I feel it’s time now for the theatre to welcome new artistic leadership,” said Gaines in a statement. “Change can infuse a new and bold creative energy, as our work to imaginatively explore Shakespeare alongside other playwrights continues and evolves in new ways to meet our changing world…I am immensely proud of all that we’ve done and deeply inspired by the thrilling possibilities ahead for Chicago Shakespeare in the decades to come.”
With big shoes to fill, the Chicago Shakespeare board of directors will conduct a comprehensive search process to find new artistic leadership.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater is an award-winning cultural hub and theatre featuring as many as 20 productions and 650 performances annually. The theatre is known for its international work and educational outreach, including its free Shakespeare in the Parks program.
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