Sparking Creativity at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

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In addition to their philanthropic work through the Thoma Foundation, the Thomas also support cultural organizations like Chicago Shakespeare Theater. On March 2, 2016, Chicago Shakespeare announced the endowment the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Chair and the creation of The Yard, an innovative performance venue connected to Chicago Shakespeare’s existing facility.

The Theater’s capital campaign has already received 14 gifts over $1 million, with the lead individual gift pledged by Carl and Marilynn Thoma to establish the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Chair, held by the Theater’s founder Barbara Gaines. The Thomas, who took part in the press announcement on March 2, have been involved in the life of the theater for 25 years. They were one of three lead donors when the company established the first theater on Navy Pier 16 years ago. “We have marveled at the artistry with which the human soil is revealed in the productions of this leading center for the work of Shakesepeare,” said Marilynn Thoma. “Barbara Gaines, the founder and artistic director, stands at the center of the inspring and procative productions and, for that reason, we are so very proud to endow the position of artistic director.”

The Yard will be Chicago Shakespeare’s third stage and will allow the Theater to expand its reach to more diverse and larger audiences and to service Chicago schools through its nationally recognized arts-in-education programs. The new theater has been named The Yard in homage to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London whose open-air space in front of the stage allowed audiences to stand and watch performances.

The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation was established in 1986 to fulfill the Thomas’ broad passion for philanthropy and was followed in 2014 by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation to distinguish the Thomas’ initiatives in, and support of, visual art. This gift to Chicago Shakespeare Theater is outside the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s organizational grant programs.

Construction on the new space will begin this spring, and the Theater plans to stage its first production in The Yard in the 2017-18 Season.

More information about Chicago Shakespeare Theater is available at