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TaRon Patton, Charles Newell, Mark J.P. Hood, and Mahmoud Khan gear up for THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS at Court Theatre. (Photo by Joe Mazza.)

Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell to Step Down in 2024

As he caps his 30-year tenure, the University of Chicago Office of the Provost will lead a comprehensive search for his successor in the coming months.

CHICAGO: Court Theatre, the University of Chicago’s professional theatre, has announced that Charles Newell will transition out of his role as Marilyn F. Vitale artistic director in June 2024, rounding out a 30-year tenure. Newell will program the 2024-25 season and then continue with the company through June 2025 as senior artistic consultant.

“In my time at the university, I have had the good fortune to witness the monumental impact of Charles Newell’s work,” said University of Chicago provost Katherine Baicker in a statement. “His contributions have been instrumental in defining the University of Chicago’s place within the creative ecosystems of both Hyde Park and the greater Chicago area. Charlie leaves an enduring legacy of artistic excellence.”

Newell made his Court Theatre debut in 1993 and was appointed artistic director a year later. During his tenure, Newell has directed more than 60 productions as Court worked to interrogate classic works, reimagine musicals, and commission new works and adaptations like Invisible Man, Native Son, Man in the Ring, and The Adventures of Augie March. Over the years, Newell has received a number of accolades, including the SDCF Zelda Fichandler Award, TCG’s Alan Schneider Award, the League of Chicago Theatres’ Artistic Achievement Award, and four Joseph Jefferson Awards. Under his leadership, Court received the 2022 Regional Theatre Tony Award. In the community, Newell, alongside Joanie Friedman, Harry Davis, and Gabrielle Randle-Bent, co-founded the Civic Actor Studio, a program aimed at creating space for South Side community members to practice and embody civic leadership.

“Charlie is the closest collaborator I’ve ever had,” said executive director Angel Ysaguirre in a statement. “It’s always been a joy to think with him, to consider what Court Theatre is and where it’s going. His care for the plays we produce has led to consistently high-quality work, and his quiet spirit of adventure is exciting. While his relationship with Court will change, I am pleased that he’ll remain a vital part of the theatre and the arts community at large.”

As senior artistic consultant, Newell will work to bolster fundraising initiatives, foster creative innovation, empower developing leaders, and cultivate relationships across the University, according to the theatre. In a statement, Newell also said this move will allow for him “to pursue artistic projects that were previously impossible, given my steadfast devotion to Court.” A comprehensive international search for Newell’s successor will be led by the Office of the Provost at the University of Chicago in the coming months.

“I have put considerable thought into this transition and its timing,” said Newell in his statement. “There is almost never an ideal moment for a change like this. However, as we build back from the pandemic, we find ourselves at a unique inflection point. We are emerging stronger and more resilient with the addition of talented new staff members, the establishment of a new engagement division, and a closer relationship to Chicago’s South Side. It has been my life’s honor to lead Court Theatre to this point and I eagerly anticipate welcoming a new artistic director who will lead us into the future.”

Located at the University of Chicago, the Court Theatre has operated as a nonprofit, professional arts organization reimagining classic theatre through a contemporary lens during over six decades.

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