Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shake Up Your Summer With Shakespeare and Sheridan at the ISF

Although it has been feeling like summer lately, the midsummer tradition that is the Illinois Shakespeare Festival still seems far away. Yeah, well, it's not. In fact, four weeks from tonight, on June 28, the ISF summer season will open with a backstage tour, some jazz in the courtyard and the official opening night of "As You Like It."

That means you are well-advised to make reservations now if you want those cool Platinum Plus seats, which come with a free (non-alcoholic) beverage, premium parking, and the ability to exchange your tickets if you feel like it.

This summer's line-up, which they're billing as "a season of LOVE, LIES, DECEIT, AND SECRET IDENTITIES," goes with 2 Shakespeare and 1 Other, with "As You Like It" opening on the 28th, "Othello" on the 29th, and the third choice, the delightful comedy "The Rivals," written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and first performed in 1775, bowing July 19th. This year's Theatre for Young Audiences choice, "The Comedy of Errors," begins on Wednesday, June 11th, with a 10 am performance.

The poster art for "As You Like It" would seem to indicate that they're emphasizing the Forest of Arden/Leafy Green aspect of the show, and Rosalind, the heroine who dresses as a boy when she goes on the lam in that very forest, looks like she's dressed in 20th century garb. The 30s, maybe? Of course, the poster may be a complete misdirect, even though the people in the picture have been identified as Gracyn Mix and Dylan Paul, and he is definitely playing Orlando. Paul was Romeo last year at the Festival, in case you saw that and remember his good looks and athletic performance.

"Othello" looks more Elizabethan as represented here. And a lot scarier, as it should. The actors in this banner are Daver Morrison and Amanda Catania, who will be presumably playing Othello and his ill-fated bride Desdemona for Shakes Fest this summer. One other fun fact about the production: Former Artistic Director John Sipes will be returning to the Festival to direct it.

And "The Rivals" looks properly late-18th century, what with the powdered wig and the frock coats, not to mention the weaponry. I remember a production of "The Rivals" at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival years ago, and it was one of the funniest and best things I've seen there. It offers excellent roles for both men and women, with pretty Lydia Languish and handsome Jack Absolute as the lovers thwarted by her guardian, Mrs. Malaprop, and his rivals for her affections, Bob Acres, a country squire, and Lucius O'Trigger, a hot-headed Irishman. This time, the actors in the poster are Alexander Pawlowski and Dylan Paul. Paul is almost certainly Jack Absolute, with Pawlowski as Bob Acres, perhaps.

In addition to the Theatre for Young Audience shows, the Festival also offers pre-shows, jazz music, different backstage tours, catered box suppers, ice cream socials and post-show discussions. As well as, of course, a stroll around the lovely grounds of Ewing Manor.

Although not much info regarding the casts or crews of the shows has been released as of yet, you can keep an eye on the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Facebook page for updates.

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