Angel Ysaguirre, a cultural leader in Chicago, has been appointed executive director of the University of Chicago’s Court Theatre, effective Sept. 4.
Ysaguirre will join Charlie Newell, the Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director, as co-leader of the University’s professional theater dedicated to innovation, inquiry, intellectual and community engagement. Court and its artists mount theatrical productions in collaboration with faculty that pose enduring and provocative questions that define the human experience today.
For the last five years, Ysaguirre has served as executive director of Illinois Humanities, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of strengthening the social, political and economic fabric of Illinois through constructive conversation and community engagement. During his tenure, the organization established a number of new programs demonstrating the contribution that the humanities can make in addressing today’s most pressing challenges.
“Angel is an exceptional cultural leader whose passion for theater will ensure that Court Theatre, in partnership with faculty and students from across the University, continues to present impactful theatre of the highest quality,” said Provost Daniel Diermeier.
“I am thrilled to have this chance to serve as the executive director of the Court Theatre in partnership with Charlie Newell,” Ysaguirre said. “This opportunity to strengthen the vision for the theater with greater integration with the University of Chicago and the South Side community is an invigorating challenge.”
A cultural leader in Chicago for many years, Ysaguirre served as deputy commissioner of the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, playing a significant role in developing and implementing the city’s cultural plan. His rich philanthropic experience includes having served as program officer with the McCormick Tribune Foundation, where he managed a portfolio that covered arts and arts education; and as director of global community investing for Boeing.
“I am excited to partner with Angel. Together with our artists, Board, and the University, Court Theatre now has the opportunity to reach a whole new level,” Newell said. “Angel’s innovative approach—most recently highlighted by his work in expanding the conversations around criminal justice in Illinois—gives me such optimism for the future of our theatre.”
Ysaguirre has a long history of working with the University, leading efforts 18 years ago to develop the Odyssey Project, a partnership between Illinois Humanities and the University of Chicago. The program provides opportunities for low-income adults who were unable to attend college to take humanities courses taught by University of Chicago faculty, encouraging greater civic participation. More recently, Ysaguirre developed strong partnerships with seven communities across Chicago including Bronzeville to launch the Illinois Humanities Envisioning Justice Initiative, which invites residents to take part in a series of conversations, classes, artists commissions and an exhibition that address the challenges of over-incarceration. Ysaguirre’s commitment to building community through the arts, humanities and theater will benefit Court Theatre’s ongoing work to create theater that has significant impact in communities.
“Given his long history as a cultural leader in Chicago, my fellow board members and I are confident that Angel and Charlie partnering with the board, University faculty and the broader community will further enhance the role of Court Theatre as a cultural leader at the University, across Chicago and beyond,” said Tim Bryant, chairman of the Court Theatre Board.