Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents CPS Ensemble in Othello

CPS students and teachers from neighborhoods across Chicago work together to put a scene from Shakespeare's Othello on its feet during rehearsals


Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) presents CPS Shakespeare! Othello, a citywide ensemble of 29 students and teachers from eleven Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high schools who develop and stage a fully realized production of William Shakespeare's Othello on CST's Courtyard Stage. This innovative program exemplifies CST's role as a partner in literacy with CPS. Working under the guidance of director of stage and film, Kirsten Kelly, the ensemble members are currently engaged in an intensive five-week rehearsal process led by a team of theater professionals, who include text coaches, designers and a fight choreographer. The participants will use their personal perspectives to interpret Shakespeare's story of passion, jealousy and the ultimate consequences of vengeance. Performances of CPS Shakespeare! Othello, adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly, will be presented in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Courtyard Theater on Friday, November 1 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 2 at 10:30 a.m.



The citywide ensemble for this year's CPS Shakespeare! production include 21 students and nine teachers from: Al Raby High School, Alcott College Prep, Austin Polytechnical Academy, Benito Juarez Community Academy, Curie Metropolitan High School, Gage Park High School, Hubbard High School, Mather High School, Multicultural Academy of Scholarship, Perspectives Charter-IIT Math and Science Academy and Prosser Career Academy.



 Developed by CST Director of Education and Communications Marilyn Halperin and Director Kirsten Kelly, the CPS Shakespeare! program has engaged CPS students and teachers for eight years, featuring productions of Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. This year's CPS Shakespeare! program staff also includes Assistant Director Sandra Shimon, a Prosser Career Academy teacher and English Department Chair, who has participated in the program for the past six years. Assisting CST's Education staff is high school student alumnus Warren Baskin, a three-time participant who will serve as the CPS Shakespeare! intern. A 2010 graduate of Percy Julian High School in the Washington Heights neighborhood, Warren is now a senior at University of Illinois at Chicago. While a student in the program, Warren appeared in Romeo and Juliet (2007), Macbeth (2008) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009).




On his experience as a participant in CPS Shakespeare!, Warren said, it is really the only time you get to interact with people of different nationalities. Through the teamwork and the ensemble-building, I formed some great relationships with people who I wouldn't typically approach on the street. So, it definitely gave me the confidence to know we are all the same. We all share similar experiences. We all get nervous. I just remember CPS Shakespeare! as a whole was really a life-changing event for me.


This year marks the eighth annual production of CPS Shakespeare! at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, recipient of the Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare Steward Award. Ensuring the future of CPS Shakespeare!, Eric's Tazmanian Angel Fund has made a generous commitment to support Chicago Shakespeare's arts-in-education program. This fund also provides for the Eric Curtis Skowronski Spirit Award, providing a monetary gift to the school of each participating teacher for their support of the arts, literature or library programs.


Joining Kelly and Shimon on the directing team, Matt Hawkins returns as the Movement and Voice Director. The creative team for CPS Shakespeare! Othello includes: Costume Designer Bob Kuhn, Lighting Designer Aaron Porter, Sound Designer James Savage, Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal and Properties Master  Cassandra Westover.


CPS Shakespeare! Othello runs Friday, November 1 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 2 at 10:30 a.m. in CST's Courtyard Theater. Each performance is followed by a 30-minute post-show discussion with the entire ensemble, led by CST Director of Education and Communications Marilyn Halperin. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased by calling Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visiting the Chicago Shakespeare CPS school web pages. 



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Photos: Liz Lauren 

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