Best Directors In The Local Theater Scene In Chicago

March 25, 2013 7:00 AM

By Megan Horst-Hatch

You don’t need to head to Broadway to catch a great play. If you’re in the mood to see a play, then Chicago is the right place to be to catch a performance. Whether it’s a performance of a Shakespeare play or comedy on stage at Second City, Chicago offers numerous ways to to find and watch productions by award-winning directors. The following directors are worth seeing and currently have plays in production in the Chicagoland area.



Ryan Bernier

“We’re All in This Room Together”
The Second City e.t.c.
1616 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-3992

Date: Open run

In “We’re All in This Room Together,” Ryan Bernier’s job is to make you laugh. The show, which is performed at The Second City’s theatre in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, is Second City e.t.c.’s 36th revue. Bernier, a graduate of Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, has a foundation in improvisation after being part of the school’s improv comedy troupe. As proof, the award-winning play, written by Aidy Bryant, saw Bernier scooping up a Joseph Jefferson award for “Best Director-Revue” last year. The Jeff awards celebrate and honor excellence in theater in the Chicagoland area. Bernier has previously directed performances of the Second City Touring Company and also teaches at the Second City Training Center. According to Second City, it is the largest school of improvisation and sketch comedy in the world.

Charles Newell

Court Theatre
5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 753-4472

Dates: Through April 7

If you’re looking for a performance on Chicago’s South Side, consider seeing a play directed by Charles Newell. As the artistic director of Court Theatre, the professional theatre on the University of Chicago’s campus in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Newell has directed more than 30 productions in his career with the theatre. His first was in 1993 with “The Triumph of Love.” According to the Court Theatre website, Newell has won numerous awards for his directorial works, including the Jeff for Best Director-Musical. He has also directed operas at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.



Chuck Smith

“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark”
Goodman Theatre
170 N. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 443-3800

Dates: April 27-June 2

Chuck Smith, resident director of Chicago’s famed Goodman Theatre, will direct Lynn Nottage’s “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” next month, a play the New York Times called a “fitful comedy.” Smith is a notable fixture of the Chicago theater scene, having directed productions at Black Ensemble Theater and Pegasus Players, both in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, as well as Northlight Theater in Skokie. A seasoned veteran of the stage, he has also been honored with nominations for Jeff awards for best direction four times, receiving his first nomination for “Eden” in 1979. According to Goodman Theatre’s website, he has also received a Chicago Emmy and was inducted into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame. Smith also received the League of Chicago Theaters Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Smith is a board member of the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago, which strives to support and promote the arts.



Barbara Gaines

“Henry VIII”
Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
800 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-5600

Dates: April 30-June 16

The founder and artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Barbara Gaines has grown to call Chicago home. The New York native graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston and later founded CST in 1986. She also has extensive experience when it comes to staging William Shakespeare’s plays, having directed more than 30 of his works. In her tenure at CST, the company has received numerous awards, including three Laurence Olivier awards. According to CST’s website, it has also implemented its program Team Shakespeare, which makes “The Bard” accessible to students. In recognition of her work, Gaines has received an Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her next directorial play will be “Henry VIII.”

Related: Best Chicago Neighborhood Theatres

Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at

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