shakespeareances.comCaricature of Shakespeare



Illinois Shakespeare Festival

A Two-Time Queen Set to Play Danish Prince

Illinois Shakespeare Festival logoPairing William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Twelfth Night and supplementing the repertoire with the Broadway hit Peter and the Starcatcher, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) is bringing in an array of talents for its 2016 season, July 8–August 13.

A highlight will be the return of Deborah Staples, who played Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth in the 2014 season's pairing of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra with Timothy Findley's Elizabeth Rex, who has been cast to play Hamlet. Directed by Milwaukee Repertory Theater's Leda Hoffmann, this production will be what Hoffmann calls “vaguely Elizabethan” and opens Saturday, July 9. This is the fifth production of Hamlet in ISF's 39 years, but its first with a woman in the title role. Staples, a veteran of American Players' Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

The season opens on Friday, July 8 with Twelfth Night, directed by Rick Barbour, a founding member of the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in Winona, Minnesota. The production will be set in the early 20th century, include live music from that time period, and feature GRSF veteran and Milwaukee favorite Jonathan Gillard Daly in the role of Malvolio.

Peter and the Starcatcher, Rick Elise's adaptation of the best-selling children's novel, opens on Sunday, July 10. A, origin story of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and a young starcatcher named Molly, this garnered five Tony awards on Broadway. Chicago director Andy Park will direct a cast that includes newcomer Christopher Peltier as the young Peter and several faces familiar to ISF audiences, such as Chris Amos as Black Stache, Eva Balistrieri as Molly Aster, and ISF Artistic Director Kevin Rich in the role of Smee.

This season, patrons can once again see the Improvised Shakespeare Company perform an entirely improvised, hour-long Shakespearean production at 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, as well as a free Theatre for Young Audiences production, Rodeo, written by Philip Dawkins and directed by Kevin Rich, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival began in 1978. The nationally recognized Shakespeare festival performs every night but Monday during the summer in the outdoor theatre at Ewing Cultural Center in Bloomington. Patrons commonly picnic on the grounds prior to performances, enjoying family-friendly, free green shows, and live music. Food, beer, and wine are available for purchase.

Tickets range in price from $10 to $47 and group discounts are available. New this season is an affordable Silver Section, with family-friendly prices. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 866-IL-SHAKE or visit the newly-revamped website

May 16, 2016

If you have Shakespearean news to share, e-mail