Friday, July 1, 2011

July Heats Up on Stages and Screens

As the summer heats up, so do area stages and screens. Some things continue in summer rep, while others open, offering all kinds of choices, no matter what your taste.

So, first, the hold-overs…

Heartland Theatre's 10th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival finishes up its run this week, playing its last show tomorrow. You have two last chances to catch these Back Porch plays, which have been very popular so far.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival has already launched “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” and those shows will continue in July, along with jazz, art, backstage tours and all manner of optional add-ons. Plus the ISF’s third offering, “The Winter’s Tale,” the one about kings and queens, jealousy, love, a scary bear and a statue that comes to life, opens July 14th. Need tickets? Call 309-438-2535 during daytime hours or click here for more information.

Urbana’s Station Theatre continues its hit production of “Hairspray” through July 9. You should be aware that all performances are currently sold out, but director Dallas Street is willing to put you on a waiting list if you are willing to come out and give it a try. See details here. The Station opens its next summer show, the four-man roller coaster known as “The 39 Steps,” on July 21, if you’d like to try for that instead of “Hairspray.” This "39 Steps" is a comic adaptation of the 1925 John Buchan novel and the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, with four actors playing all 100+ roles, changing costumes and personae faster than you can say, well, "39 Steps."

If you want to see “The Tree of Life,” the Terrence Malick film that just took the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, you won’t find it anywhere except on screen at Champaign’s Art Theater, continuing through at least July 7. And if you’re wondering what all the "Tree of Life" hullabaloo is about, Roger Ebert wrote a lovely blog about what the film meant to him.

New in July is Community Players’ take on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the stage version of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book about a boy, a golden ticket, a strange candy factory, some Oompa Loompas, and a girl who turns into a giant blueberry. Want to see how all that works on stage? “Charlie” plays at Community Players July 8 through 17.

And completely and totally new is "The Affray: Lincoln’s Last Murder Case,” a play about Abraham Lincoln and a tricky Springfield murder case where he was counsel for the defense, written by Jared Brown and Bob Bray. “The Affray,” which is sponsored by the McLean County Museum of History in conjunction with Illinois Voices Theatre, will be performed at the Museum on July 15, 16 and 17. The July 15th opening night performance is a special fundraiser for the Museum, with tickets at $25 per person. That $25 includes a special, limited-edition Abraham Lincoln poster. Tickets on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, are priced at $10 for Museum members and $12 for everyone else. For reservations or more information, you may call the Museum at 309-827-0428 or email

Although two of its shows are done, U of I’s Summer Studio Theatre brings on its third show, Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” opening July 7th.

And at the tail-end of the month, Prairie Fire Theater returns with “HMS Pinafore,” opening July 29th in the Normal Community High School Auditorium. Read all about it here.

Plus, of course, there are all kinds of July 4th celebrations, picnics, fireworks and parades. Independence! Theater! Movies! There's plenty to do in every direction.

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