John Lithgow with the Shakespeare Theater leadership

Chicago Shakespeare Theater: GALA 2018



The spirit of Shakespeare was alive and well at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s GALA 2018, with humor, humility, fanfare, and great storytelling taking center stage that evening.


GALA 2018 program. Photo by JLauryn Photography.

The city’s civic and artistic leaders gathered at the theater’s sun-filled Navy Pier location to toast the Bard’s enduring legacy, enjoying cocktails and mingling among artists in lavish costumes, followed by a three-course dinner by Host Committee sponsor Food for Thought. The Victorian garden theme featured lush floral arrangements by Pollen and striking visuals courtesy of MDR Creative Inc. all framed by the stunning skyline views.


Notes of gold and abundant greenery transported guests. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


UK Deputy Consul General Martin Whalley (second from left) and Rafael Veloso (second from right) pose with costumed characters. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


Lavishly costumed actors adorned the event spaces as living art installations. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


The Victorian garden decor was lush and elegant. Photo by Michael Litchfield.

The 500 attendees then filed into CST’s newest theater space, The Yard, lauded for its dynamic design, to honor three individuals who embody the storied playwright’s spirit through community engagement and artistic leadership with the annual Spirit of Shakespeare Awards. CST Artistic Director, Barbara Gaines, helped introduce this year’s Civic Honorees, Marilynn and Carl Thoma, both instrumental in the founding of the Theater and driving forces behind its evolution and growth. As civic leaders and philanthropists, their generosity has fostered myriad cultural organizations and artists across the country.


Guests were greated by playful Shakespeare fans (later made good use of during the paddle raise) as they entered the theater. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


The stage. Photo by Johnny Knight Photo.


GALA 2018 Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Honoree John Lithgow (second from left) with Chicago Shakespeare Theater leadership: Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, Creative Producer Rick Boynton and Executive Director Criss Henderson. Photo by Johnny Knight Photo.

The 2018 Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Honoree, John Lithgow, was recognized for his extensive career as a Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award-winning actor. Lithgow, whose witty, personal stories of growing up in the world of Shakespearean theater had the audience in stitches, declared of the honor: “This not only gives me a chance to pay tribute to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, but also Chicago theater, period.”


Chicago Shakespeare Board of Directors Chair Steve Solomon, Executive Director Criss Henderson, Spirit of Shakespeare Civic Honorees Carl and Marilynn Thoma, Artistic Honoree John Lithgow, Heather Headley, Chicago Shakespeare Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, Chris Mann, and Creative Producer Rick Boynton. Photo by Johnny Knight Photo.

The crown jewel of the evening, culminating the enchanting affair, was a one-night-only performance featuring Tony and Grammy Award-winner Heather Headley and The Voice all-star Chris Mann. In the star-studded concert, audiences were treated to selections including Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” sung by Headley, and duet performances of “Written in the Stars” from Aida and “For Good” from Wicked.

Best of all, this spectacular event raised an astounding $1.6 million through generous sponsorship, including Headline Sponsor, Thoma Bravo; community support; and a fast-paced paddle raise for Chicago Shakespeare in Classrooms and Communities initiatives, which include the Theater’s nationally-recognized education programs and free citywide Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour.

In honor of the festivities, Mayor Rahm Emanuel shared, “I want to thank Barbara Gaines, Criss Henderson, and the entire Chicago Shakespeare family for not only having a great celebration tonight here in the three theaters, but taking this beautiful artistic creation into our neighborhoods and into our parks all summer long for all our kids and families to enjoy.”


Verett Mims and Amrit Singh. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Jim Pierpont, Francia Harrington, and Vern Broders. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


David Hiller and Darcy Evon. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Marco and Yolanda Ambriz. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


Chicago Shakespeare Board Member Pallavi Verma with Stacie Immesberger and Anjuli Karna. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Maurice Smith and Christopher Walker with Sal and Nazneen Razi, a Chicago Shakespeare board member. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Terry and Jill Isselhard with Judy and Ray McCaskey, of the Chicago Shakespeare Board of Directors. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


Liam Ouweleen, Chicago Shakespeare Artistic Associate/Casting Director Bob Mason, and Board Member Mark Ouweleen. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


Glenn and Gayle Tilles, a Chicago Shakespeare Board Member, with daughter Rebecca Tilles. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


David and Linda Ross with Lydia Marti and Richard Porter, a Chicago Shakespeare board member. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Dan Kuruna and Justine Jentes, member of Chicago Shakespeare’s Producers’ Guild. Photo by Michael Litchfield.


Marilyn J. Halperin, Chicago Shakespeare Director of Education and Communications, with Sheila Penrose and R. Ernest Mahaffey. Photo by JLauryn Photography.


Paul and Lisa Oswald with Karmen and Brendan Keane. Photo by Michael Litchfield.