About Festival 56

Current Productions

Shows subject to change.
Curtain times: 2:00pm & 7:30pm.

Summer Season

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About Festival 56

Festival 56 is a professional theatre festival located at the Grace Performing Arts Center in Princeton, IL. Each season, we offer 7 productions in the summer, including Shakespeare in the Park and 3 additional productions in the fall and winter. Performances at Festival 56 feature a cast and crew of professional theatre artists assembled from across the country who live and work in Princeton during the season. Festival 56 is a non-profit theatre and gratefully accepts support and donations year round.

Our Mission

The mission of Festival 56 is to present a wide selection of the most memorable plays and musicals throughout history, from the plays of William Shakespeare to the new generation of Broadway composers.

Our History

Festival 56 was founded in 2004 as a partnership between Princeton Theatre Group and The November Ten, a New York-based theatre company. In its first season, the festival offered 5 productions in 4 weeks during July and all 28 visiting artists stayed with host families in the Princeton community. The festival attracted about 2000 patrons the first year, proving that professional theatre could flourish in rural Illinois.

Building on the strength and success of the first few seasons, the Princeton Theatre Group acquired the old Bureau County Republican newspaper building and, in 2007, renovated it into a 150-seat studio theatre located in the heart of Princeton's historic downtown shopping district. The newly-minted Grace Performing Arts Center is now home to 7 of the festival's 10 annual offerings.

Festival 56 operates year round with a full time staff of two and a committed board of volunteers, presenting performances from June through August and late October through Christmas.

Shakespeare in the ParkWe now welcome over 9000 patrons and 50 visiting artists to Princeton throughout the year and, in a testament to the warm hospitality of the community, all of the visiting artists still live with host families during their Festival 56 stay.

Perhaps the greatest feather in the festival's cap is Shakespeare in the park. Each summer since the very beginning, the festival has presented a fully staged production of one of Shakespeare's plays in the town square. This production is a gift to the community and is presented free of charge all summer long with performances every Sunday and Wednesday.

Theatre Arts Education

The Princeton Theater Group (PTG) promotes theatre arts education and enrichment for children and adults through Learning Stage, the education committee of PTG. Learning Stage sponsors Camp 56, a two week summer theatre camp for children and offers classes and special events for participants of all ages. Please visit our Education Page for more information.

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