Transformation Announced for Navy Pier through New Chicago Shakespeare Stage

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater will take over the footprint of the existing Skyline Stage, keeping the white canopy to enclose a year-round, indoor reconfigurable theater.

By Anca Gagiuc, Associate Editor

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

Chicago—The announced development of the innovative performance venue The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare gathered together Chicago Shakespeare Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, Executive Director Criss Henderson, Board Chair Sheli Rosenberg, Navy Pier Inc. CEO Marilynn Gardner, Board Chair William Brodsky and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring and the first production is expected to be staged in the 2017-18 season.

“Creating this state-of-the-art performance venue is another step in the redevelopment of Navy Pier to ensure that it remains one of Chicago’s premier centers for commerce, but also for culture, and I want to thank Chicago Shakespeare for their tremendous contribution to that effort,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “There is no better time to announce this new performance space than in the year when we will bring local and international artists together for Shakespeare 400 Chicago, which will keep the spirit of Shakespeare alive in our schools and on our stages.”

The new project will cost $35 million and will repurpose components of the venue formerly known as Skyline Stage, situated adjacent to Chicago Shakespeare. The existing facility, which currently houses two theaters, will be connected to the Yard through expanded lobbies. The year-round, flexible venue can be configured in various shapes and sizes with audience capacities ranging from 150 to 850. The audience members will be seated on one of nine towers—each roughly the size of a city bus. Each tower will seat about 50 patrons, and come with its own heating and cooling equipment, as well as lighting positions and other technical capabilities designed for maximum creative adaptability.

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare is part of Navy Pier’s Centennial Vision—celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Building on the Theater’s 16-year partnership in residence on Navy Pier, The Yard will be developed through a $15 million investment by Navy Pier Inc. and $20 million in capital funding raised through Chicago Shakespeare’s Our City, Our Shakespeare Campaign.

Award-winning, U.K.-based theater and acoustics consultancy firm Charcoalblue and Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture are also involved in the project.

“We’ve long needed a third theater, but we knew that a fixed theatrical space would not serve next-generation theater makers or the artistic ambition of our company” said Gaines. “The Yard will offer a new kind of venue, one that allows us the freedom to reconfigure and recalibrate a playing space each time we approach it.”

Chicago Shakespeare’s Board Chair Sheli Rosenberg said that, in total, the Theater has secured $40.4 million of the $55 million initiative that will provide: $20 million for the construction of The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare; $15 million for theatrical equipment, including The Yard’s “towers”;and $20 million for artistic and endowment funds—supporting Chicago Shakespeare’s artistic, educational and international programming.