Court Theatre, the professional theater of the University of Chicago, and one of the most critically acclaimed theater companies in the country, can add a most coveted accolade to its trove of awards: the 2022 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The news was announced early Wednesday.
The honor comes with a $25,000 grant for the Hyde Park theater company currently in the midst of its 67th season.
The special Tony Award, which each year honors one non-profit professional regional theater from across the country for fostering “a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theater nationally,” is awarded by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, based on the recommendation the American Theatre Critics Association.
Court Theatre is the sixth Chicago theater to receive the regional Tony, joining Steppenwolf Theatre (1985), the Goodman Theatre (1992), Victory Gardens Theater (2001), Chicago Shakespeare Theater (2008) and Lookingglass Theatre (2011).
“[Court Theatre’s] dedication to fostering local talent, artistry and theatre within their community and their impact on a national scale, makes it a true honor to highlight their work,” said Heather Hitchens, president and CEO of the American Theatre Wing and Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, in the official announcement.
Court Theatre was founded in 1955 as an amateur summertime theater company at the University of Chicago, pivoting to a professional Equity company in 1975. It moved to its current location — the 251-seat Abelson Auditorium at 5535 S. Ellis — in 1981, and two years later incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization under the leadership of artistic director Charles Newell since 1994, and executive director Angel Ysaguirre since 2018. The theater company has been nominated for more than 250 Joseph Jefferson Awards, winning more than 50 of the honors that each year recognize the best stage productions in the greater Chicago area.
“It has been my life’s joy to be a member of this vibrant, fertile community. This award belongs to them. It belongs to the Court community, the South Side community, and the University of Chicago community. It belongs to everyone who has fought to see themselves onstage and to everyone who has been moved by the power of storytelling. … My feelings of gratitude mirror Cymbeline’s Imogen, ‘for mine’s beyond beyond,'” Newell said via statement.
The Tony Awards, hosted by Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose, will be presented on June 12 in a live telecast starting at 7 p.m. on CBS.
Some highlights of Court Theatre’s groundbreaking and critically acclaimed productions over the years:
— Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard (1998, directed by Charles Newell)
— Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s “Caroline, or Change” (2008 and 2018, directed by Charles Newell)
— August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2009, directed by Ron OJ Parson)
— Ira and George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” (2011, directed by Charles Newell)
— Adapted from Homer by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, “An Iliad,” (2011, directed by Charles Newell)
–Nambi Kelley’s “Native Son” (2014, directed by Seret Scott)
— August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” (2015, directed by Court Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson)
–Clarke Peters’ “Five Guys Named Moe” (2017, directed by Ron OJ Parson)
— Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51” (2019, directed by Vanessal Stalling)
— Ntozake Shange’s “For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” (2019, directed by Seret Scott)
— Owen McCafferty’s “Titanic: Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912” (2021, a streamed presentation, directed by Vanessa Stalling)