UChicago community joins arts festival honoring 400 years of William Shakespeare

Spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago recently launched a yearlong international arts festival honoring William Shakespeare, celebrating 400 years since his death in 1616. Shakespeare 400 Chicago features 850 events in more than 120 locations across the city, engaging more than 1,000 local and international artists.

The University of Chicago joins more than 60 other Chicago institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Newberry Library. Showcasing the collective impact of Chicago’s cultural community, the festival incorporates dance, theater, music, lectures, art, cinema, comedy, technology and cuisine.


“The Chicago Shakespeare Theater has created a dynamic and exciting citywide festival and reached out to a diverse group of partners across the city, including the University,” said Bill Michel, executive director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. “We were pleased to be able to participate in the festival by contributing a range of programming from organizations across the University.”

UChicago Arts has engaged in multiple partnerships with arts organizations across the city, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, Muntu Dance Theater, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. “Over the last decade, the University has worked in partnership with a number of great organizations to support a vibrant arts and cultural scene on the South Side of Chicago and throughout the city,” added Michel.

Throughout 2016, the University is hosting 10 events for the Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival. Two previous events covered music and film: a performance by Joey Brink, University carilloneur, playing Rockefeller Memorial Chapel’s world famous, 72-bell carillon, and an a cappella at Rockefeller Chapel and a screening of King Lear with Richard Strier, the Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature.

On May 6 and Oct. 15, the Smart Museum of Art will feature David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, who will discuss engravings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Bevington will analyze how the prints, commissioned by Alderman Boydell in the 1790s, are illustrative of how artists of the late 18th-century interpreted important characters and events.

“The festival is a chance to bring so many different ways of seeing Shakespeare’s plays to the world, and it widely expands our exposure to other nations and cultures that use them to explore their own identities and social problems,” said Bevington, who is also one of 32 scholars from 10 Illinois universities participating in discussions and sharing commentary on City Desk 400, a web companion to the festival. “It richly deserves to be supported. I’m glad to help reach out to Chicago and the rest of the world in terms of where Shakespeare stands in our culture today.”

From July 14 to Aug. 18, the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies is hosting an adult summer course, “Shakespeare at War,” at the Gleacher Center. Featuring Cynthia Rutz, visiting assistant professor of Valparaiso University, the seminar will examine the six plays that inspired Barbara Gaines’ adaptations Tug of War: Foreign Fire and Tug of War: Civil Strife.

UChicago’s Theater and Performance Studies will present Winter’s Tale from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8. Also on Oct. 8 is Logan Family Saturday, which will take place at the Logan Center. Geared toward families with children ages 2 to 12, this free event aims to inspire a new generation of Shakespeare fans in the community.

On Oct. 26, the Logan Center is hosting theater practitioner Aaron Todd Douglass for “Exploring Cultural Identity: Shakespeare on Stage.” This event will explore how cultural identity informs casting in productions of the Bard’s work.

“This festival is a really wonderful opportunity for our faculty and students to both participate in an exciting citywide cultural event and contribute to the intellectual discourse on the impact that Shakespeare has had in the past and will continue to have long into the future,” said Michel.