In any real artistic pursuit, there comes a time when you simply have to invest in what you believe in. After all, as the old saying goes, you have to put up or shut up. And Court Theatre, who’s collaborated generously with a host of emerging and talented Chicago-based artists, directors and playwrights, has done just that in their recent appointment of Gabrielle Randle-Bent as associate artistic director. Bringing a uniquely powerful combination of academic excellence, artistic acumen and collaborative experience with Court Theatre’s artistic team, Randle-Bent finds herself uniquely qualified to fill the post for which Court has been searching since early this year.
She’s already collaborated with Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell when she co-directed Court’s productions of Shakespearean classics The Tragedy of Othello and The Moor of Venice in 2021. That experience, and the trust it developed, will likely come in handy in her new role as she’ll work closely with Newell and other members of the Court Theatre artistic team, advising in season planning, managing the development of new work and – as a part of Court Theatre’s new engagement division – helping to set and articulate strategies for engagement with the many communities Court serves.
But the depth and breadth of her artistic insight and experience go well beyond her work with Newell. Randle-Bent has cut her teeth directing for local theater companies like Steppenwolf, (Eve and L Ewing’s 1919 – Steppenwolf for Young Adults) and Remy Bumppo (The Year of Magical Thinking).
She served as dramaturg for Court’s productions of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, and Oedipus Rex.
As co-founder of the Civic Actor’s Studio, a leadership program of the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, she is well positioned to develop innovative new strategies for engagement with the theater’s community-at-large.
But for Court, one of the most exciting elements of this new relationship is the clear and focused artistic vision Randle-Bent will bring to the table. Said Newell, “Gabby…is an immensely talented artist and fabulous fellow collaborator. Her singular clarity of vision sets her apart and makes her an asset in any given room. She will bring a refined artistic eye, academic excellence, and a level of expertise that will usher us into an exciting and bright future. I am overjoyed that she will be a part of Court’s artistic leadership.”
Angel Ysaguirre, Court Theatre’s executive director added, “Gabby was our inaugural Research Fellow, has served as a dramaturg and a director at Court Theatre, and has taught courses in Theater and Performance Studies at UChicago. Her approach to engagement has been instrumental in the programming the theater does, but also in the foundational ways in which we think of ourselves as a classic theater company. We are incredibly lucky that she’s joining us as a full-time member of our team, and we are overjoyed. This is a very exciting moment for the theater, and we can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together.”
For Randle-Bent, this new era in her work with Court Theatre and the University of Chicago brings everything full circle with boundless opportunities looming on the horizon. “It is a privilege to be able to invest in a place that has invested so much in me, and it’s an honor to be in this position,” she explained. “The opportunity to learn from Charlie, the incredible artists and staff at Court, and the faculty collaborators at the university, is a real gift. More than anything, my love affair with Court has led to a love affair with the South Side of Chicago, and I would love for this theater to truly, and fully – whatever that means, because I’m not the one who gets to define it – be a reflection of the communities that make this one of the most spectacularly alive places that I’ve ever been. That’s what I’m most looking forward to, as associate artistic director.”
With this investment in one of Court’s most intimate collaborators, the theater company also makes an important and impactful investment in its own future, in the community it serves and in its overarching commitment to a meaningful and thoughtful contribution to classic American Theater, inspiring audiences with artistically distinguished productions and supporting diversity and inclusivity in artistic leadership for one of Chicago’s most important and historic theater creatives.