A Day at Chicago Shakes!

As you know, this spring, our ensemble will perform on the Mainstage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater as part of the international festival, Shakespeare 400 Chicago! This weekend we got a special chance to visit the theater, see a version of the same story we're working on, meet some professional actors, AND get up onstage! 


Chicago Shakespeare Theater has been a great supporter of our program since the beginning. Director of Education Marilyn Halperin came to our very first production of Romeo & Juliet, and through the years, the education team has been a valuable resource and vocal champion for ABLE. Each year, they produce a 75-minute abridgment of one of Shakespeare’s classics designed for young audiences, and, so a spring field trip to CST has become an annual tradition for us:

  • 2011: Backstage tour
  • 2012 Short Shakespeare: Taming of the Shrew
  • 2013 Short Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet
  • 2014 Short Shakespeare: Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • 2015 Short Shakespeare: Macbeth

This year, it just so happens that the Short Shakespeare production is Twelfth Night! In all of this time, this is the first time that the short Shakespeare production has been the same as the show we’re working on in class. This was a great opportunity for us to see the story and the characters we’ve been working on come to life.  It offered tremendous clarity for us especially seeing Malvolio in his yellow stockings, and watching Olivia’s transformation from soul-sick to love-sick, and confusion as Sebastian and Antonio appear in Illyria. Our ensemble will audition for their favorite roles this week, and surely having this show fresh in their minds will inform their choices and characterizations.


After the show, our two casts had a chance to meet in the theatre and talk some more about putting on this show. Quincy asked what everyone’s favorite part of the show is. La Shawn Banks who plays Malvolio answered that he loves performing the yellow stockings scene, but also commended his fellow actors and pointed out some comedic moments for Sir Toby and Orsino that he loves watching. We got some advice about working on a thrust stage from Will Mobley who plays Feste: he suggested we look around the audience and direct each line to one specific person. We talked about some specific moments from different characters, reviewed all the different marriages that happen at the end, and Emily K invited everyone to our production!


Then our Monday and Friday ensembles took turns going up on the stage and seeing what it felt like to perform. The Monday group did a good vocal warm up and made some tableaus of different characters. The Friday ensemble played a game of “Stage Manager Says” to practice moving around the stage and looking out at the audience. During this time, the professional company was gracious enough to sign autographs and chat one-on-one with our actors, and Chicago Shakes arranged for us to have some professional pictures taken on the stage. We look forward to sharing these with you soon!


We look forward to our field trip every year, and everyone at CST always goes out of their way to accommodate our group. We are so grateful to the production team giving us some special time onstage in the middle of their busy schedule, and to the Short Shakespeare company for taking extra time after their performance to make our cast feel special.


Short Shakespeare: Twelfth Night is running for one more week at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and then will go on tour to schools around the region. It’s a beautiful production with gorgeous costumes, and some truly fun comedy and music. If you want to see the show, click here to grab your tickets.  And remember, our big show is coming up May 28th at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, you can click here to get your seats for our show.