Christopher Prentice is an actor and director, based in Chicago, whose work fuses the precision and intellectual rigor of a classical musician with the passion and no-nonsense approach that makes Chicago-style theater famous.
Known alternately for performances marked by
a deft command of classical rhetoric (Windy City Times) and being
brilliantly funny (The Globe and Mail), his acting work ranges from leading roles in Shakespeare to world-premiere contemporary plays and musicals.
A native Texan, Prentice took a B.F.A. in acting from Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Following graduation, he interned for a season at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, understudying and playing smaller roles in several productions, including covering the lead role of Frank Lloyd Wright in the world premiere of Eric Simonson and Jeffrey Hatcher’s Work Song, as well as productions with directors J.R. Sullivan, Joseph Hanreddy, and Edward Morgan. He completed his internship in Wisconsin with a season at American Players Theatre, an outdoor classical repertory company in Spring Green.
Prentice then set up his base in Chicago where he co-founded Signal Ensemble Theatre (which recently closed after thirteen seasons) with Ronan Marra and Joseph Stearns. For five years he served the company as producing artistic director and appeared as the title role in Hamlet, Estragon in Waiting for Godot, Jerry in The Zoo Story (Windy City Times Outstanding Actors list, 2006), Marlow in She Stoops to Conquer, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, and the leading role of Chris in the world premiere of Marra’s Landslide, among others. As a director, he helmed critically acclaimed and award-nominated stagings of Conor McPherson’s The Weir and Jon Marans’s Old Wicked Songs for the company.
Other Chicago credits include Mercutio in a school-tour production of Romeo and Juliet for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the title role in a Shakespeare-influenced Robin Hood for the Oak Park Festival, and Picasso in Steve Martin’s comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile. No stranger to musicals, he created the lead role of William Burke in Practical Anatomy, Elizabeth Bagby‘s musical telling the story of the world’s first serial killers, and played another killer, John Wilkes Booth, in Sondheim’s Assassins.
In 2008, Prentice made his film debut, starring with Kirsty McKellar in Chris Olsen’s indie Butterfly, which featured Prentice’s monologue paired with McKellar’s dancing. The film premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival.
After the film, he toured Montana and other parts of Big Sky country in the title role of Macbeth for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.
Following the tour, he joined the company of Canada’s Stratford Festival, the largest repertory theater company in the world, first training in the Festival’s conservatory and then performing in thirteen plays over five seasons, including Claudio in Martha Henry’s staging of Measure for Measure, Slender in Frank Galati’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor; Nim in Des McAnuff’s staging of Henry V; The Misanthrope and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both directed by David Grindley); Winwife in the “New World” premiere of Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, The Grapes of Wrath, and Mary Stuart (all directed by Antoni Cimolino). During his Stratford time, Prentice also appeared in two short films for Bravo: a “Seven Ages of Man”-based As You Like It and a music video version of Bartholomew Fair, featuring songs by former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page.
Since returning to Chicago, Chris spent a season in leading roles at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, playing Beatrice in an all-male, “original practices” Much Ado About Nothing and Ned (the actor in Shakespeare’s company who plays Beatrice) in Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex. He has also been featured in theatrical readings by the Shakespeare Project of Chicago, in such roles as Touchstone, Berowne, Philip the Bastard (King John), Leontes, Mark Antony and Vindici (The Revenger’s Tragedy).
Also a classically trained musician, he is an accomplished French horn player and a veteran of the world-champion Santa Clara Vanguard drum and bugle corps. As a composer, his works for wind band and brass ensemble have been performed throughout the United States and are published by TRN Music.