Each year, the Tony Awards give special recognition to only one local theater in the U.S. Court Theater has just become the sixth theater in Chicago to win the Tony Award for Best Regional Theater.
Marc Vitali: We met members of Court Theatre on the set of their latest show, “Two Trains Running.”
Charles Newell, Artistic Director: To have this kind of national spotlight and attention put on our community – for Court Theatre, for all the previous Tony Award-winning theaters, and all the other theaters in Chicago who in the future will win Tonys – it was such a joy to have this event happen, couldn’t happen at a better time.
Ron OJ Parson, Resident Artist: Tony Awards like Academy Awards, any awards, Jeff Awards here – that’s not why we do what we do, but when it happens and you get awarded you reflect on it and it’s a great achievement to be accepted by your peers like that, to recognize what you’re doing and the accomplishment that you have in this theater world that we exist in.
Vitali: For 67 years, Court Theatre has re-examined classic theater.
That could include “Porgy and Bess” or “Oedipus Rex.”
Parson: We’re known as a classic theater, but ‘classic theater’ is an entire realm of theater from all over the world.
So we can redefine what a classic is, and I think we’ve done that.
Vitali: The theater’s first production was Moliere’s “The Affected Young Ladies” back in 1955.
Angel Ysaguirre, Executive Director: We started as an amateur outdoor theater in a courtyard on campus, thus the name ‘Court Theater,’ doing classic work and then Nick Rudall came to Court. He was on faculty at the University of Chicago. He was both an actor and an academic, and as an academic he did translations of classic Greek plays, and he turned the company into a professional company.
So to have the expertise of faculty at the University of Chicago, a great research university, informing the way in which we make work is just phenomenal.
Vitali: Currently on stage is August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” directed by Ron OJ Parson.
We asked how they reacted when they found out they’d won the Tony Award.
Newell: I got the news, I hung up and was stunned into silence. I walked into the living room with my wife and my son and they were like ‘Are you okay, is everything all right?’ and I shared the news with them and burst into tears.
Ysaguirre: He then called me. I was with my husband, and I screamed and said ‘Hey, we’re getting the regional Tony!’ And Charlie said “Oh we’re supposed to keep it quiet for a week.”
Vitali: The Tony for Best Regional Theater is given for “sustained artistic achievement.”
Parson: When you look at the history of Court Theater and how long it’s been here, everybody has contributed to that.
Ysaguirre: It’s just great to be recognized for a history of hard work, and I think smart work.
Newell: As I’ve been celebrating this achievement, all I can say is we’ve been so blessed with the most extraordinary audience that completes the mission by being here to make the theater happen and have the emotional transformative experience that our work aspires to, but most especially to acknowledge the staff and artists. This is their award. Thank you very much, Tony Awards.
The other five Chicago theaters who’ve won the Tony Award for Best Regional Theater are Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens and Chicago Shakespeare. The Tony Awards will be broadcast on June 12, which is also closing night of “Two Trains Running” at Court Theatre.