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Sun Foundation Continues Support for Festival 56

Posted March 8th, 2017

The Princeton Theatre Group is pleased to announce that the Sun Foundation has recently authorized 2017 grants to both Festival 56 and Camp 56.

Festival 56 will receive support for its free production of The Comedy of Errors, to be performed in Princeton's Soldiers and Sailors Park on Wednesday and Sunday evenings in July. The second grant will provide support to Camp 56, a two-week theatre summer day camp, offered by Learning Stage, the education committee of Princeton Theatre Group.

The Sun Foundation's "Community Arts Access Regranting Program" has made these grants possible. The regranting program is funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. A matching 25% of the 2017 grant money was given by local donors: Kinji Akagawa, Mary Child, Eureka Savings Bank, Hallmark Metamora Fixtures, First National Bank of Lacon, Keith Kostelecky, Marc Decker, Rome Industries, and Jim and Sue Weber. The 2017 grants were dispersed through Marshall, Stark, Bureau, and Woodford counties.

"Because of the generosity of our foundation, corporate, and individual supporters, Festival 56 will be able to offer our 14th season of free Shakespeare in Soldiers and Sailors Park," said Shannon Hill, the Festival's artistic director. Amber Harper, Princeton Theatre Group board member and Learning Stage committee member, added her thanks to the Sun Foundation: "We are grateful the foundation has continued to support Camp 56. The camp program gives area youth ages 8-18 the opportunity to have a firsthand experience in the theater arts-whether it's learning about costuming, makeup, and set design, conferring with Festival 56 cast and crew, or appearing on stage in a full Festival 56 production."

PHS and BVHS Students Intern with Festival 56 through Youth Employment in the Arts

Posted August 10th, 2016

PHS and BVHS Students Intern with Festival 56 through Youth Employment in the Arts

Four area high school students were awarded competitive intern positions through Youth Employment in the Arts, a program supported by federal funds and sponsored through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Interns for Festival 56's 2016 summer season were Terry Bivins and Jace Rediger from Bureau Valley High School and Emily Boes and Payton Erricson from Princeton High School. Jasmine Mellor secured a fifth position through local funds. All five interns were assigned to the Festival 56 professional production team where they developed new skills while their mentors learned to articulate, model, and inspire their young associates.

Lighting Designer/Master Electrician Jacob Hofer praised quick learner Jasmine Mellor. The lighting requirements for three large musicals in a row were demanding, Hofer said, adding that Mellor "was a vast help in making sure each show went up smoothly and quickly. She picked up programming on the lighting board faster than anyone I've seen, and started to develop her eye as a designer." While Mellor had some high school experience in lighting, Payton Erricson came in cold to costume design. Costume Designers Amanda Casterline and Anna Riddick taught Erricson to hem, fix buttons, design, and build a purse from a pattern. Casterline praised Erricson"s "passion for theatre and a willingness to learn. It makes me proud to have seen how far she has gotten this summer while interning with us."

"This season's been an overall great experience and I hope to come back next year," said Jace Rediger, who worked in the areas of Scenic Painting and Props. Mentor Michael Lewis (Scenic Designer/Painter) said, "I am a very visual person, so it was definitely a learning experience for me to have to verbalize my process to another person." Properties Designer Kenny Church impressed intern Emily Boes with the level of detail that goes into each individual prop. Boes discovered that "time period is key, because if a prop looks out of place in the setting of the play, it can completely kill the illusion that was aimed for. Another more important lesson I learned is the need to be ready for anything and everything a director will throw at you, no matter what stage of the game you find yourself in." Terry Bivins, who interned with Sound Designer Ryan Chapman, said, "I think the internship program here at Festival 56 has made a great impact on my knowledge of the workings of theatre in general, and I"m grateful to have had the chance to work with a lot of wonderful people on a daily basis."

Mentoring was a new experience for most members of the production team, who either recently graduated from universities in their field of study or will be returning for their final year. The age between intern and mentor spanned a few short years, but the skill and knowledge the interns gained was immense. High school programs will be enhanced by the skills the interns bring back with them this fall, while those moving on to college will have transportable skills.

Festival 56 Announces New Works Festival Playwriting Competition Winners

Posted June 1st, 2016

Thank you to all playwrights who shared your scripts with the PTG Playwriting Competition. We received more than 550 plays, and every one of them received multiple readings by our judges. The decisions were difficult, and with so many high quality entries we have decided to name not only winners but also honorable mentions.

Congratulations to the following playwrights, whose winning scripts will be given staged readings at the Grace Theatre in Princeton IL on the weekend of 23-24 July 2016.

Winners, Ten-Minute Plays

(in alphabetical order)
Lawrence DuKore, New York, NY: "The Day that Brando Died"
Joyce Fontana, Durango, CO: "Exhibitions at a Picture"
Kathy Hooke, Portland, ME: "The Sign"
Gwendolyn Rice, Middleton, WI: "Lost and Found"
Jack Rushen, Stratford CT: "Testimonial"
Stacy Post, Danville, IN: "A Carving for Rose"
Bill Teitelbaum, Lincolnwood, IL: "The Marriage"


(in alphabetical order)
Paul Buchanan, Mission Viejo, CA: "The Blessed Room"
George Loukides, Sarasota, FL: "Keep Calm"
Dwayne Yancey, Fincastle, VA: "A Zombie Christmas"

Congratulations to the following playwrights whose excellent scripts merit special mention.


(in alphabetical order)
Rhea MacCallum, Downey, CA: "Through Chaos as It Swirls"
Tony Pelham, Orlando, FL: "Enough for the Both of Us"
Jordan Rawlins , Culver City, CA: "The King of Earth"
Tamar Shai, Lake Oswego, OR: "Going in Blind"


(in alphabetical order)
Stephen Dierkes, Pasadena CA: "Apocrypha"
Ron Frankel, Boynton Beach, FL: "How Jesus Saved the Chosen People"
Michael A. Harding, St. George, Utah: "Immortal Nemesis"
Erin Lerch, Allston, MA: "World Line"
Fred Roberts, New Orleans, LA: "Split Decision"

Festival 56 Salutes Its AmeriCorps Volunteers

Posted May 27th, 2016

Festival 56 Salutes Its AmeriCorps VolunteersThree ABC AmeriCorps volunteers have joined Festival 56 for the 2016 season. The AmeriCorps Benefits the Community Program, better known as ABC AmeriCorps, is a National Service Program sponsored by Sauk Valley Community College. Its mission is to work with children, youth, and families in education and community-based programs to increase academic and life skills. The Learning Stage/AmeriCorps partnership is entering its sixth year and plays an integral leadership role in Camp 56, a two-week theatre day camp for young people ages 8-18.

AmeriCorps volunteer Madison Bishop is currently working toward her B.F.A. in acting at Northern Illinois University. Her favorite role at NIU was Abhorson in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. This summer she looks forward to broadening her horizons as a volunteer at Festival 56. Her future holds other exciting opportunities as she prepares to spend her fall semester in Russia studying at the Moscow Art Theatre School.

Returning AmeriCorps volunteer Nicki Butler is a senior at Eastern Illinois University, where she is studying Elementary Education and Theatre Arts with a focus on stage management. This is her third year as Camp 56 co-director. Nicki believes that young people can "dive into the depths" and discover more about themselves through theatre performance and education. She is excited to take part in another summer of bringing theatre to our community's next generation.

AmeriCorps volunteer Taylor Tieman is a sophomore majoring in Forensic Investigation at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She has participated in productions with the Prairie Arts Council, River Valley Players, Princeton High School, and Festival 56. At college Taylor is a member of Pioneer Players, the campus theatre association. Most recently, she stage managed Eurydice and the One Act Festival, assistant stage managed Marat/Sade, and worked backstage crew for The Drowsy Chaperone. Taylor has been in and around Festival 56 since its second season and is looking forward to being a part of ABC AmeriCorps this summer.

Meet all three volunteers at "Hot Shakespeare" during lunchtime on June 4 at Art in the Park at Soldiers and Sailors Park in Princeton. Share jalapeños, hot Shakespearean sonnets, and ice-cold Sisler's ice cream.

Princeton Theatre Group Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Posted May 27th, 2016

The Princeton Theatre Group has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support actor salaries and associated activities for Festival 56's 2016 season.

In granting the award, NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, "The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to nurturing artists and the arts in communities across the country. Supporting projects from organizations like Princeton Theatre Group represents a wise investment in both Princeton and the creative vitality of the nation."

Artistic Director Shannon Hill thanks the NEA for its generous support, adding, "I fell in love with Festival 56 and Princeton when I worked here as an actor and director in 2014 and 2015. I'm so excited to introduce my first season as artistic director and look forward to a transformative year as we forge a new path for this beloved company."

"We are extremely grateful for NEA's support and recognition," said Maureen Droessler, President of the Princeton Theatre Group Board of Directors. "With the decline in state funding for the arts, it's very heartening to receive support directly from NEA. With it, and the generous support of our patrons and donors, we are excited that Festival 56 can bring our region another wonderful season of professional theatre."

The NEA is the federal agency that supports and funds the arts to give all Americans the opportunity to experience creativity and participate in the arts. NEA programs and funding support thousands of activities in communities large and small across the country. To learn more about the National Endowment for the Arts, please visit Follow the conversation about this and other NEA-funded projects on Twitter at @NEAarts.

The Princeton Theatre Group is a volunteer-driven, non-profit arts organization dedicated since 2003 to developing Princeton and the surrounding regions as a home for professional theatre and theatre arts education. The box office and main theatre are located at the Grace Center for the Performing Arts, 316 South Main Street, Princeton, Illinois. For additional information email, or call 815-879-5656.

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