Chicago Shakespeare Theater has come a long way since it was founded in a pub in 1986. Today, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is a theatrical force, globally renowned for its ability to communicate language, the human condition, and a powerful story through performance. Artistic Director Barbara Gaines leads the company’s diverse portfolio of classics, new works and family programming. Equally impressive is the theater’s location in the heart of Chicago’s top tourist attraction: Navy Pier. Today, it has a 500-seat space called the Courtyard, a more intimate 200-seat venue called Theater Upstairs, and a flexible outdoor space known as The Yard.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Facilities
Since October 1999, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater has held residence in a purpose-built, seven-story facility on Navy Pier, the city’s leading tourist attraction. The 810,000-square-foot building houses the box office, administrative offices, and three performance venues.
The primary production venue is the 510-seat Courtyard Theater. It features impressive acoustics and state-of-the-art technology with a thrust stage and deep proscenium. The result is a flexible performance space for large crowds.
The Upstairs space offers a more intimate black box venue to seat 200. It is devoted to smaller productions like “Romeo and Juliet Musical: The People Vs. Friar Lawrance, The Man Who Killed Romeo and Juliet,” by The Second City.
In 2017, the theater added on an outdoor venue, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. The innovative design offers versatility to arrange anywhere between 150 and 850 seats. It can also transform from proscenium to in-the-round.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Programs
For devout theater patrons, CST offers several subscription packages. Buy a package of four or five plays for first-rate seats to an array of shows—from low-cost previews to prime weekends. Or, mix and match to create your own package. Book five to save 25%.
Productions span tastes and budgets. The roster will feature iconic Shakespeare plays like Romeo and Juliet along with contemporary performances. Currently, CST is showing Jane Austin’s Emma interpreted as a charming musical and As You Like It, a combination of Shakespeare’s poetry and hit songs by The Beatles. There are always holiday-themed shows as well, like the raucous Q Brothers Christmas Carol.
CST also hosts international touring acts through its World Stage program. To date, it has featured more than 1,000 artists from 22 countries on five continents. The venue has hosted such iconic troupes as Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre from London, The Abbey Theatre from Dublin, and the Chekhov International Theatre Festival from Moscow.
Along with performances, Chicago Shakespeare offers robust educational programs. The program aims to bring Shakespeare to life in the school curriculum. CST offers professional learning for educators, performances for students, opportunities for students to perform, and comprehensive teaching resources.
Getting to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Chicago Shakespeare patrons are able to park in Navy Pier garages. Even if the lot says “full,” tell Navy Pier Security you are “here for Shakespeare” and they will direct you to the theater’s dedicated parking entrance. If you need parking validation, coat check, assisted listening devices, or large print or braille programs, visit Guest Services located just inside the entrance doors to The Yard.
For public transit, there are several ways to access Navy Pier by bus. Take the #2 Hyde Park Express, #29 State, #65 Grand, #66 Chicago, or #124 Navy Pier Express. There is also a seasonal free Navy Pier trolly and water taxi in warmer months.