Navy Pier’s Shakespeare Theater’s GALA 2018

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An estimated 500 enthusiastic fans of the stage and screen recently gathered at Navy Pier to celebrate “GALA 2018,” Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting the Theater’s Classrooms and Communities programs, nationwide education classes, and our very own “Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks” tour. In the spotlight on this very festive night were Marilynn and Carl Thoma, being honored with the Spirit of Shakespeare Award.

Shakespeare Theater’s
Five hundred attendees enjoyed a one-night-only performance in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare for GALA 2018. Photo by Johnny Knight Photo.

Since 1989 (when she joined the Board of Directors,) Marilynn has been an inspirational and entrepreneurial success story with all of her achievements for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. A major accomplishment occurred in 1999 when the Theater moved to its present location at Navy Pier. Founders of the Thoma Art Foundation, Carl and Marilynn Thoma are well – deserved recipients of the Spirit of Shakespeare Award; their generosity has greatly enabled several cultural institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Lyric Opera’s Women’s Board.

Shakespeare Theater’s
UK Deputy Consul General Martin Whalley (second from left) and Rafael Veloso (second from right) pose with costumed characters, portrayed by actors Caitlan Taylor, Jennifer Latimore, and Jeri Marshall. Photo by JLauryn Photography

This year’s Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Honoree is John Lithgow, whose credentials are quite extraordinary; having appeared in over 40 feature films, earning him Academy Award nominations two years in a row for Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp. His success on T.V. has been eye-opening as well, winning six Emmy Awards, three SAG Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards. John’s accomplishments on stage include 20 Broadway productions, two Tony Awards, and four Drama Desk Awards. Not to be overlooked are his nine N.Y. Times best – selling children’s books.

Shakespeare Theater’s
GALA 2018 Spirit of Shakespeare Artistic Honoree John Lithgow (second from left) with Chicago Shakespeare Theater leadership: Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, Creative Producer Rick Boynton and Executive Director Criss Henderson. Photo by Johnny Knight Photo.

Providing entertainment at this glamorous event was Grammy and Tony Award winner Heather Hedley along with singer-songwriter Chris Mann, a finalist on NBC’s “The Voice.” These two talented individuals performed live in The Yard: an impressive, new multidimensional theater venue, capable of holding an audience of 850 spectators. Considering the original Shakespeare Theater, the Theater company boasts three stages, including the “Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs” at Navy Pier.

Shakespeare Theater’s
The theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare was transformed into a decadent starlit garden party for the seated dinner reception. Photo by Michael Litchfield.

The Theater’s Founding Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and GALA 2018’s headline sponsor Thoma Bravo truly have a lot to be proud of, as the Thoma’s extraordinary philanthropic endeavors will benefit artistic institutions and their patrons in Chicago and nationwide for generations to come.



About Jim Wattron

Jim graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, with a degree in Business Administration. Jim has worked with the team from the beginning and he consistently strives for innovation with refreshing topics that inspire readers with context of new adventures and happenings, locally and internationally. Read more from this author.