Chicago Shakespeare Theater GALA 2013 Raises More Than $1 Million

H3_a_NLChicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) celebrated its season on Monday, June 17, with GALA 2013 at its home on Navy Pier, raising more than $1.1 million forChicago Shakespeare in Urban Communities.  Five hundred and fifty of Chicago’s civic and cultural leaders attended the event benefiting the Regional Theatre Tony Award® recipient’s education and civic engagement initiatives including Team Shakespeare, annually serving more than 40,000 students and their teachers, and the expanded Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, touring eighteen neighborhood parks this summer. Through GALA 2013 Lead SponsorsDonna Van Eekeren Foundation and Food For Thought Catering, the support of the GALA 2013 Host Committee and the advocacy of CST’s Board of Directors, the $1.1 million raised supports the Theater’s continuing work as a partner in literacy for Chicago Public Schools and as a cultural ambassador, bringing Shakespeare to citizens and visitors throughout the city ofChicago. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the third annual Spirit ofShakespeare Awards to this year’s Civic Honoree, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, andArtistic Honoree, legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

GALA 2013 showcased Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s home on Navy Pier, offering sweeping views of Chicago’s skyline. The Theater’s multi-level lobbies were transformed into enchanting dining spaces with décor from Frost Lighting and fresh flower arrangements accented with theatrical flourishes by Bukiety. Adding a fanciful ambiance to the celebration, actors dressed in costumes from the season adorned the lobbies as living art installations, entertaining guests and highlighting the extraordinary productions on CST’s stages. Attendees enjoyed a delectable three-course dinner, sponsored by Food For Thought, which, in a nod to Richard M. Daley’s work with the Green City Movement, included a Braised Beef Short Rib in a Summer Peach Glaze and Sunchoke Panna Cotta, paired with wines courtesy of Van Duzer Vineyards.

Following dinner, guests gathered in CST’s Courtyard Theater to view a program created by CST Creative Producer Rick Boynton, Artistic Associate and Casting Director Bob Mason, and Jeff Award-winning director Rachel Rockwell. The evening featured a one-night-only performance by Broadway stars, husband and wife Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie, singing favorites composed by Artistic Honoree Stephen SondheimDanieley was last seen earlier this season in his triumphant portrayal of the title character in CST’s production of Sunday in the Park with GeorgeMarin Mazzie most recently co-starred in the highly anticipated Off-Broadway revival ofCarrie (the musical) based on the Stephen King novel, and starred on Broadway as Diana in Next to Normal opposite Jason Danieley. Also in attendance was five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, who earlier in the day was honored with the Sarah Siddons Society Award for her outstanding achievements in the arts.

The second annual “Spirit of Shakespeare Awards” honored those who keep the spirit ofShakespeare alive through community service and artistic leadership. This year CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines presented the Civic Honoree award to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the longest-serving mayor in Chicago’s history. Daley’s groundbreaking work to position the city as a world-class destination enhanced the cultural landscape of the city and led to the creation of a permanent home for Shakespeare in Chicago—CST’s artistic home on Navy Pier.Mayor Rahm Emanual’s congratulatory video message commended Mayor Daley’s lasting impact on the advancement of the City and his legacy in bringing the arts to all Chicagoans, exemplified by the new initiative Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. This public-private partnership of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Chicago Park District, Boeing and BMO Harris Bank brings free Shakespeare performances to neighborhoods throughout the City.  In accepting the honor, Mayor Daley invoked Shakespeare in a guiding belief, “What is a city but its people?,” and remembered his late wife Maggie for her commitment to arts education.

CST Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin presented the Spirit of Shakespeare Award to the Artistic Honoree Stephen Sondheim, one of the most influential and accomplished composer/lyricists in Broadway history and the winner of an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards®, including the Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award. A special video tribute documented CST’s longstanding commitment to the Sondheim canon. In accepting the honor, Sondheim applauded CST’s education initiatives in Chicago’s classrooms, quoting from his musical Sunday in the Park with George when he said that the most important treasures in the world are “children and art.”

The “Stand Up for Shakespeare” auction offered top-bidding guests three unique packages including:

  • a trip to Las Ventanas in Los Cabos, Mexico with two round-trip tickets courtesy ofAmerican Airlines and a weeklong stay at a stunning ocean-front retreat
  • a dinner for 10 guests on the Courtyard Theater stage catered by the prestigious one-star Michelin-rated Acadia
  •  “The Ultimate Bard” package: an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience atShakespeare’s Globe in London—including two round-trip tickets from American Airlines and a four-night stay at the Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel—and a walk-on role in CST’s production of Henry V in the Courtyard Theater

Guests also pledged varying levels of direct support to CST’s nationally recognized education and community engagement initiatives.

The GALA 2013 festivities concluded with a dessert reception courtesy of Phil Stefani Signature Events, where guests mingled with the performers and Spirit of Shakespeare Award recipients.

Alongside Lead Sponsors Donna Van Eekeren Foundation and Food For Thought Catering, the GALA 2013 Host Committee included: Allstate, Mark Ouweleen and Sarah Harding – Bartlit, Beck, Herman, Palenchar & Scott LLP; Steve and Holly Quasny – BMO Harris Bank; Bulley & Andrews; Steve and Robin Solomon – Exelon Corporation; Michael and Jacky Ferro – The Sun-Times Foundation/The Chicago Community Trust; Ellen and Paul Gignilliat; Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P.; ITW; Jan and Bill Jentes; Donna Van Eekeren and Dale Connelly – Land O’Frost ; Sheila Penrose and Ernest Mahaffey – Jones Lang LaSalle; Brit and Marilyn Bartter – J.P. Morgan; Richard Porter and Lydia Marti – Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Bill and Char Tomazin – KPMG; Ray and Judy McCaskey; Burton X. and Sheli Z. Rosenberg; John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe; Carole and Gordon Segal; Marilynn and Carl Thoma; and an Anonymous donor.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater has become a global theatrical force known for vibrant productions on its stages at the heart of Navy Pier and for being Chicago’s cultural ambassador, bringing its work to theaters around the world and hosting international artists in Chicago. Its far-reaching service to the community affects the lives of 40,000 students and their teachers under the banner of the Theater’s Team Shakespeare education and civic engagement programs—one of the country’s largest arts-in-education programs offered by a professional theater.