Executive Director - Court Theatre, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

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Court Theatre is the professional theatre of the University of Chicago, dedicated to artistic excellence, innovation, inquiry, and community engagement. Court Theatre endeavors to make a lasting contribution to classic theatre by expanding the canon of translations, adaptations, and classic texts.  As the University’s Center for Classic Theatre, Court and its artists mount theatrical productions and audience enrichment programs that are richly informed by its relationship to the University.  Court Theatre revives lost masterpieces; illuminates familiar texts; explores the African American theatrical canon; and discovers fresh, modern classics. Its dedication to large-scale, interdisciplinary theatrical experiences that fully engage the intellectual resources of the University of Chicago makes Court a theatre of distinction.

Court was founded in 1955 as an amateur outdoor summer theatre at the University of Chicago.  In 1971, Classics professor Nicholas Rudall became director and began Court’s tradition of translating and adapting classic texts for contemporary audiences.  By 1975, Court had established a relationship with Actors’ Equity Association and became a professional company.  Having established a reputation for consistent artistic excellence, Court regularly receives critical accolades and awards as one of Chicago’s leading theaters.  Competing in a highly competitive market, Court engages and inspires its audience by providing artistically distinguished productions, audience enrichment activities, and student educational experiences.

Court holds a unique position, both artistically and geographically, in the robust Chicago theater community.  As the Center for Classic Theatre at University of Chicago, Court enjoys the remarkable resources that the University offers, including active engagement with faculty across academic disciplines, from theater and literature to neuro-science and medicine.  As the largest professional theater on Chicago’s South Side, Court serves its surrounding community – predominantly African-American – in rich and meaningful ways. 

Founded in 1890, the University of Chicago is one of the world's leading research universities and a premier intellectual destination.  Today, the University thrives as both catalyst and nexus for ideas that challenge and change the world.  The arts are central to that mission.  With a strong tradition of cross-disciplinary practices, intricately mixed with intellectual curiosity and creative energy, the University is home to internationally renowned arts scholars and artists, and it contributes powerfully to a bustling arts community in Chicago and beyond.  The work of UChicago Arts is driven by a robust set of University professional arts institutions and centers.  These initiatives join arts-focused academic departments and programs including an expanding Theater and Performance Studies program that recently added a new graduate program.  It is within this deeply intellectual and culturally engaged campus context that the Court Theatre flourishes.  There is an exciting opportunity for the next Executive Director to partner with Charles Newell to build on Court’s reputation as a distinguished model among university-based professional theaters and to broaden its reach in innovative ways.


Court established the Center for Classic Theatre at the University of Chicago in 2013 in order to deeply explore what it means for a professional theatre to be in residence at a major university.  The dynamic of being the professional theater in residence at the University is, as Charlie Newell, Court’s Artistic Director since 1994, states, “…the secret sauce of Court Theatre.”  One of the very pragmatic and important benefits of this relationship is the remarkable support the University provides, including production space, facility maintenance, minimal concern with cash flow, as well as multiple support services.

Court operates on an annual budget of approximately $4.2 million with a 49/51 earned/contributed ratio.  This figure does not include the support – in excess of $1 million – provided by the University. There are 22 fulltime staff members; all are employees of the University.  Court operates as a LORT D member.

In addition to its main stage season of five productions, Court reaches into its surrounding community in numerous ways, including these:

• The Spotlight Reading series, curated by Resident Artist Ron O.J. Parson;

• The Education Initiative, featuring a robust Artists-In-Schools program, a high school matinee series, and cross-disciplinary collaborations with the other professional arts organizations at the University of Chicago;

• Community Partners Initiative (CMI), offering highly subsidized tickets to South Side community and faith-based organizations;

• University Partners Initiative (UPI), providing special performances, programming, and discounts to students, faculty, and staff.

More information can be accessed on Court’s website: www.courttheatre.org 


Charles Newell, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director 

Since 1994, Charlie Newell has been the artistic guiding force of Court and holds the leadership post of Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director.  Charlie was named “one of the city’s most significant artistic assets” by the Chicago Tribune.  Under his leadership, the Theatre has rightfully earned its artistic bona fides and is among Chicago’s most respected artistic institutions.  Both Charlie and Court have garnered multiple “Jeff Awards” – the honors bestowed on professional theaters and artists in Chicago.  Access his full bio here: https://www.courttheatre.org/people/charles-newell/ 

Board and Search Committee

There are 38 community, academic, and business leaders serving on the Court Board, which serves in a critical support role to Court (although non-fiduciary, since Court operates under the nonprofit aegis of the University).  Darren Reisberg, the University’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Deputy Provost, and Tim Bryant, Court Theatre Board Chair, are serving as Co-chairs of the Search Committee. The Search Committee is comprised of seven individuals, a cohesive mix of Board members, University administrators and faculty.  The Committee will recommend a short list of candidates to the University President and Provost, who will make the final hiring decision. 

The next Executive Director will follow Steve Albert, who assumed the post in 2010. Steve had announced in November 2017 that he intended to retire at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Sadly, he unexpectedly passed away in late December 2017.  During his tenure, Court Theatre experienced significant growth by enriching its relationship with the University and expanding its reach into the South Side, Hyde Park, and the greater Chicago community.  Court also expanded its production support facilities, securing significantly enhanced shop and rehearsal facilitates in 2015.


As one of Chicago’s premiere theaters, Court has a remarkable foundation.  Its future will most certainly include the following:

• Expanding Court’s programmatic footprint to include more commissions, new work, and productions and/or presentations that expand Court’s capacity for discovery and innovative theatrical forms, while securing new resources to achieve this expansion.

• Nurturing its deep relationship with University of Chicago, finding new and innovative ways to partner with the many academic/research resources and arts organizations within the University.

• Continuing to build its audience, with focus on both the South Side/Hyde Park community, and as Greater Chicago.  It is worth noting that Court’s African-American audience has grown from 5% to almost 40% of total attendance over the past ten seasons.

• Expanding and deepening its engagement activities with the local communities it serves, as well as the broader Chicago, national and international theater communities.

• Diversifying staff and board in line with the Theatre and University’s commitment to equity and inclusion.

With these significant opportunities, there are also challenges to address:

• Maintaining a leadership role in an increasingly complex and competitive theater environment in Chicago and nationally. 

• Determining best strategies for growth in contributed revenue.

• Enhancing and improving the patron experience at Court performances given current facility constraints including only one performance venue and a limited lobby space.

• Identifying and securing the resources for expanded artistic activity and/or alternative performance venues.


The Executive Director will serve in a co-leadership structure with Artistic Director Charlie Newell; both positions report to the University of Chicago Provost.  The Executive Director works most closely with Court’s Board, as well as other strategic partners within the University and Chicago.  The Executive Director role is envisioned as highly external, managing relationships that are key to Court’s health, while guiding the strategic planning and execution of those plans in support of the Theatre’s artistic vision.  The central roles and responsibilities of the Executive Director are these:

• To forge productive working relationships with the Artistic Director, University leadership, and the Board. 

• Maintain and create new external relationships in support of Court, including those within the University, individual / institutional donors, the Board, local/regional/state governmental and arts agencies, et al.

• In partnership with the Artistic Director, expand programming through the commissioning of new work, with new revenue and partnership strategies to support that work. 

• Oversee the effective execution of earned and contributed revenue streams in concert with the professional and lay leadership of Court.

• Oversee other administrative and operational functions of Court, creating a culture of productivity, inclusivity, diversity, creativity, and innovation.

• Serve as a spokesperson, including taking part in cultivation of major donors, as well as maintaining and creating new external relationships in support of Court. 


Ideally, the successful candidate for this role will possess these skills and experience: 

• A deep commitment to the performing arts, evidenced by prior roles in organizations of significant (if not comparable) size and/or scope. 

• A fundamental belief in the transformative power of theatre to change peoples’ lives and communities.

• An ambitious personality that is excited by the complexity of Court’s interconnected constituencies and the dynamic opportunity to create success for all.

• Although someone with a theater background is preferred, the search committee has indicated an openness to reviewing credentials of professionals from other disciplines who understand the important aspects of theater production. 

• Organizational leadership experience of at least five years, with demonstrable experience and a clear understanding of a collaborative working relationship with an artistic leader and staff management.

• Significant experience in all aspects of nonprofit management, including a proven track-record of effectively working with volunteers.  Although a background in academic environments is not a prerequisite, such experience will be viewed as highly useful.

• Exceptional communication skills – both speaking and writing – taking satisfaction in serving as an ambassador in a host of business and social settings.

• Background in fund-raising and demonstrated ability to serve as key member of contributed revenue efforts. 

• At minimum, a bachelor’s degree; graduate degree in theatre or related field, is preferred. 

The following personal attributes will also be considered important to the Committee:

• A leadership style with a collaborative spirit – a “connector.”

• Confidence in working with individuals – artists, academics, staff, and volunteers – who are highly accomplished. 

• Deeply mission driven and aligned with the values espoused at Court.

• A commitment, evidenced by previous work, to equity, diversity, and inclusion.


As an employee of the University of Chicago, the Executive Director will receive a robust benefits package.  The salary will be highly competitive with other theaters of comparable stature and size. 

For a more information about the University of Chicago staff benefits program please visit http://humanresources.uchicago.edu/benefits/index.shtml.  In addition, there will be a funding for travel to conferences (TCG, LORT, etc.) as well as other professional development opportunities. 

The Search Committee is committed to reviewing a deep and diverse slate of candidates; women and candidates of color are encouraged to apply.  The University’s leadership hope to identify the successful candidate by late spring/early summer, with the finalist onsite by late summer/early fall 2018.

Interested and qualified individuals, and recommendations of same, are encouraged to submit their credentials as soon as possible for full consideration to the consulting firm retained for the search and listed below.  Complete credentials should be submitted electronically and should include cover letter, résumé or CV, salary requirements, and a minimum of four professional references ( including name, email, phone, and work relationship).  Application materials should be sent electronically – Word or PDF only, please – with the applicant’s name included as part of each file name.

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn: David Mallette or Jonathan West

Email only: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject Line: Court Theatre ED Search


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Last modified on Tuesday, 27 March 2018 13:26