Award-Winning Court Theatre Exemplifies the Classics and Defines the Future of Theatre in Chicagoland

Court Theatre is having a moment. 

Court’s Resident Artist, Ron OJ Parson, was recognized by the Chicago Tribune as the 2022 Chicagoan of the Year for Theater, an acknowledgement that came just on the heels of him receiving the SDCF Zelda Fichandler Award. Court’s new Associate Artistic Director, Gabrielle Randle-Bent, was listed as one of NewCity Stage’s Players Who Really Perform for Chicago Right Now in Theater. And, to top it off, Court won the 2022 Regional Theatre Tony award this past June. To say it’s been a busy, wonderful time would be an understatement. 

“Court Theatre’s had a really amazing year,” shares Associate Artistic Director Gabrielle Randle-Bent. “We’ve received unprecedented recognition, which is always excellent, but what makes me excited to be here, in this moment, are the discussions around our future. We’re digging into our mission and taking a careful, considered look at what it means to be a classic and why. That, to me, is the most exciting thing.”

The Gospel at Colonus | Photo by Joe Mazza

As stated by Randle-Bent, the theatre’s work orbits around the classics. From this well of inspiration have come some of Court’s most successful projects, including the staging of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, a collection of ten plays that spans decades and documents the 20th century African American experience. 

Court has produced nine of the 10 plays thus far, and all have been directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson. When speaking about the project, Parson said, “August Wilson is a joy; the music, the rhythm of his language, the way he understands people. All of it. His characters are so well-developed that you can really dig into them. Working on any Wilson play — it’s just a joy.”

Two Trains Running | Photo by Michael Brosilow

Court’s investigation of the theatrical canon does not begin and end with Wilson, however. Other projects include new work commissioned from classic novels, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner David Auburn’s The Adventures of Augie March; the staging of the Oedipus Trilogy, comprised of 2019’s Oedipus Rex and the upcoming productions of The Gospel at Colonus and Antigone; and other artistically distinguished productions. 

The Gospel at Colonus, the final production in Court’s 2022/23 season, is an exuberant reimagining of the Oedipus myth through the lens of the African American Pentecostal Church. Running from May 12 to June 11, this production will blend the classic and the modern; as a result, this soaring musical celebration will offer a singular fresh perspective while shedding new light on each of its component parts.

The Adventures of Augie March | Photo by Michael Brosilow

That intersection is where Court does its best work, and where Court strives to be in all seasons. “I look ahead with hope and a sense of ecstatic possibility,” said Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell.” We’re growing as an organization, and we continue to take creative and programmatic risks. It’s been a source of great joy to be a part of this organization’s illustrious history; the only joy that can compare, is that which I feel when I think of what our future holds.”

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