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‘Little Mermaid,’ ‘Othello,’ part of the eclectic mix for Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2015-2016 season

The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare will be commemorated worldwide in 2016, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater will be presenting one of the grandest and most ambitious homages as part of its 2015-2016 season.

Everything from “Twelfth Night” to “Othello” as well as the first installment of Barbara Gaines’ “Shakespeare History” cycle and a complete musical reinvention of “The Tempest” adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (of the magic duo Penn and Teller) and more will be presented as part of the upcoming season announced today.

Here’s a look at what’s in store at the theater, 800 E. Grand (on Navy Pier):

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (75-minute adaptation): July–August, 2015 ( Courtyard Theater); based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film.

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks featuring “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits”: July–August, 2015; Free performances in 18 Chicago neighborhood parks across the city. In this Chicago Shakespeare original, Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and scenes come to life, mashed-up with a score of today’s popular music.

“The Tempest”: September–November, 2015 (Courtyard Theater); adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (of the magic duo Penn and Teller), with songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan and choreography by Matt Kent. Shakespeare’s enchanted island is transformed in this inventive production that also features astonishing feats of magic by Teller. Larry Yando stars as the vengeful and mysterious Prospero, who conjures a storm shipwrecking his old enemies on an island. This classic tale of revenge is reimagined as a traveling tent show of trickery and amazement. Choreography by the pioneering dance collective Pilobolus is featured.

“Ride the Cyclone”: September–November, 2015 (Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare); The new musical is part comedy, part tragedy, revolving around the lives of six teenagers from the Uranium, Saskatchewan chamber choir cut short in a freak accident aboard a roller coaster called the Cyclone at the Wonderville Traveling Fairground. The fair’s mechanical fortune-teller Karnack invites the teens to tell their stories of lives interrupted — and offers them the chance to come to terms with their fate.

“The Heir Apparent”: December, 2015–January, 2016 (Courtyard Theater); The Chicago premiere of David Ives’ comedy (based on Jean-François Regnard‘s comic masterpiece)  tells the tale of Young Eraste who seemingly has it all — good looks, a beautiful fiancee and the prospect of a sizable inheritance from an elderly uncle. There’s just one snag: the uncle won’t die and he has bequeathed his entire fortune to someone else. Hilarious rhyming couplets and contemporary slang abound in this off-color tribute to commedia dell’arte.

“Othello”: February–April, 2016 (Courtyard Theater); With the launch of Shakespeare 400, renowned British theater artist Jonathan Munby directs actor Dion Johnstone from Canada’s Stratford Festival in the title role.

Short Shakespeare! “Twelfth Night”:  March–April, 2016 (Courtyard Theater) and  April–May, 2016 (regional schools tour); Shakespeare’s romantic comedy is designed to immerse students, young audiences and families alike in the playwright’s timeless work in this 75-minute abridged production in which a pair of shipwrecked twins set into motion a tale of mistaken identity and unlikely love.

NEW SHAKESPEARE HISTORY CYCLE:

Tug of War: Foreign Fire

“Edward III,” “Henry V” and “Henry VI” Part 1: May–June, 2016 (Courtyard Theater)

Tug of War: Civil Strife

“Henry VI,” Parts 2 and 3 and “Richard III”:September–October, 2016 (Courtyard Theater)

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines unveils her landmark six-play Shakespeare history cycle, Tug of War. This ambitious undertaking explores Shakespeare’s battle-scarred history plays from the perspectives of both kings and common men—revealing the playwright’s wisdom on war, both foreign and domestic, and its very human consequences. Each installment is approximately six hours including several intermissions and a brief meal break.

 “Madsummer” (Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater): Created and directed by GQ and JQ (the Q Brothers), the hip-hop adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” receives its world premiere. Sharply rewritten over original beats with the Q Brothers’ signature comedic touch, the crew takes on the mismatched lovers and mischievous sprites of Shakespeare’s popular comedy.

For information/tickets, visit www.chicagoshakes.com or call (312) 595-5600.