Evanston commemorates 400 years since Shakespeare’s death with design exhibit


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

An exhibit displaying Shakespearean design elements will start at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center on April 10. The collection was organized to celebrate 400 years since the playwright’s death.

Rachel Yang, Assistant A&E Editor


When William Shakespeare’s works were first performed four centuries ago, electricity hadn’t yet been invented.

However, to commemorate 400 years since the famed playwright’s death, the “Shakespeare by Design” exhibit at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., will showcase lighting, costume, set and other designs that have been used to create modern Shakespearean productions.

Running April 10 through May 9, the exhibit will feature designs from theaters around Chicago, including the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Mudlark Theater, said Angela Allyn, the event’s curator and Evanston’s cultural arts program coordinator.

Allyn said the exhibit was inspired by the larger Shakespeare 400 Chicago series taking place this year to celebrate the life and works of the iconic playwright. With more than 800 events taking place in Chicago, it will be the largest celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy in the world, festival producer Doreen Sayegh said.

Allyn said although there are many different types of events planned in Chicago to honor Shakespeare, there aren’t many solely dedicated to design.

“It’s really important if you’re looking at Shakespeare, you also look at all the people who do all the work around the acting and the text and the directing,” Allyn said. “What about all these designers and creative people who have to think about the text and bring it to life?”

Allyn said the exhibit was also created with Evanston’s Cradle to Career initiative in mind, which is a collective of businesses, schools and parents aiming to better prepare children for the future through activities such as reading programs and community discussions. She said she hopes the exhibit exposes young people to different paths in the theater world.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh I want to be in theater,’ so they think that there’s only acting,” Allyn said. “We employ a lot of creative, innovative people in the arts, and there are so many different careers — you don’t just have to be a performer.”

At the exhibit’s reception Sunday, there will be a Shakespeare Open Mic and a performance by the Upstart Crows, a Shakespeare club at Evanston Township High School.

There will also be a raffle in which The Viola Project, a nonprofit organization that provides a space for girls to analyze and perform Shakespeare’s work, will donate a free week of its summer camp. Allyn also said guests are encouraged to attend in Shakespearean garb to enliven the opening.

Viola Project communications director Rebecca Dumain (Communication ‘13) said even after four centuries, Shakespeare’s works are still relevant for young people today, especially girls.
She said some of Shakespeare’s characters, such as Viola from “Twelfth Night,” are examples that can help girls find their voices and know how to advocate for themselves. In the play, Viola drives the story as an active protagonist, which is a quality the project seeks to promote in its participants, Dumain said.

Allyn she said she wants people who never thought about design before to walk away from the exhibit with a new appreciation for its importance in Shakespeare’s plays.

“I hope (people) think about the design process the next time they go to a Shakespeare show, because the costume designer, the lighting designer — we don’t see them,” Allyn said. “They don’t take a bow … but they create the lens through which we view each production.”

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