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A Night of Celebration

Guests dance on a dance floor; there are disco balls hanging from the ceiling above them and there's a projection that says "Court Theatre" on the far wall.
Guests at the 2023 Court gala; photo by John Zich.

The evening of June 10th came alive with music and dancing. Court Theatre’s gala – held at Venue West (221 N. Paulina) – was in full swing, with guests celebrating and grooving late into the night. The event served as the culmination of what has undoubtedly been a banner year for the theatre. 

A woman in a red dress stands next to a man in a blue suit. They're smiling and holding a Tony Award.
Audrey Petty and guest by John Zich.
A woman in a red and orange patterned coat stands next to a woman in black formalwear. They're both smiling and holding a Tony Award.
Barbara Franke and Lorna Ferguson by John Zich.

The theme of this year’s gala – Play, In Three Acts – reflected the sense of joyful community, gathering supporters together to celebrate Court’s 2022 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The gala also recognized Barbara Franke and Lorna Ferguson, both long-standing Court trustees, and Audrey Petty, director of the Sojourner Scholars program at Illinois Humanities.

All of the honorees were in attendance, in addition to members of the theatre’s Board of Trustees, University of Chicago faculty and administrators, artists, and theatre enthusiasts. Dana Levinson, Chief Program Officer for the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, and Andrea Sáenz, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, chaired the event. Notable guests included Lieutenant Governor of Illinois Juliana Stratton, Field Foundation of Illinois President Daniel O. Ash, and Executive Director of the American Library Association Tracie D. Hall. The event was generously sponsored by The Chicago Community Trust and the Field Foundation of Illinois

Two women deliver remarks at a podium. One is in a colorful patterned outfit - she is grinning and holding her arm out behind the other woman. This woman is wearing a white dress and speaking at a podium. Both look happy.
Dana Levinson and Andrea Sáenz by John Zich.

The proverbial first act, Cocktails With Antoinette, gave attendees the opportunity to take photos of themselves holding the award upon their arrival at the event. Most guests jumped at the chance to hold “Antoinette,” as Court staff refer to the Tony statuette. Guests mingled, sampled hors d’oeuvres and signature drinks, and viewed a number of vignettes comprised of props and costumes from past Court shows. These exquisite stage pieces, curated by Properties Manager Lara Musard, provided guests with a glimpse into the company’s storied production history. Attendees also bid on Silent Auction items that offered a variety of items and experiences, ranging from a Nick Cave print to a stay at an Italian villa.

A man stands at a clear podium onstage and raises a glass in a toast.
Ron OJ Parson by John Zich.

As the event transitioned into its second act, guests were then treated to a multi-course meal and remarks from Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre. The contributions of honorees Barbara Franke, Lorna Ferguson, and Audrey Petty were then acknowledged from the stage.

Ron OJ Parson, Resident Artist and the Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year for Theater, concluded the second act with an emotional toast, reflecting on Court’s artistic and community impact, its accomplishments, and its future successes. 

A man sings onstage flanked by backup singers.
Miciah Lathan, Mark J.P. Hood, and Kymbriel Lowe by John Zich.

Act three, Have A Ball, kicked off with a performance from Mark J.P. Hood, a Chicago native, musician and theatrical artist who served as Director and Musical Director for Court’s production of The Gospel at Colonus. He led a rousing medley of gospel staples highlighting Chicago’s gospel history. Hood then led attendees to the dance floor, where they were greeted by tunes and remixes from DJ Tess. The dance party brought the evening to an exuberant conclusion – there was even a Soul Train line! – and many guests commented on how much they enjoyed the event as they departed.

In all, the Court gala was a rousing success, raising over $300,000 to support the theatre’s artistic initiatives and educational programming. Court Theatre would like to thank all the attendees, honorees, and sponsors who brought this year’s gala to life; thank you for your continued support and partnership, and thank you for making Play, In Three Acts a night to remember!

All proceeds from the gala support Court Theatre’s artistic initiatives and education programs. Court Theatre is the Tony Award–winning professional theatre of the University of Chicago, dedicated to innovation, inquiry, intellectual engagement, and community service. Functioning as the University’s Center for Classic Theatre, Court and its artists mount theatrical productions and audience enrichment programs in collaboration with faculty. These collaborations enable a reexamination of classic texts that pose the enduring and provocative questions that define the human experience.


Posted on June 26, 2023 in Theatre News

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