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Eliza Morris and Friends Cabaret at Festival 56

Posted October 18th, 2016

Eliza Morris and Friends Cabaret at Festival 56Join the Princeton Theatre Group at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, as Festival 56 favorite Eliza Morris and friends Anslee Burns and Casi Maggio present Little Black Book. This musical review takes a cabaret-style look at the ups and downs of dating through comedy, Broadway standards, chart-topping hits, and a splash of contemporary favorites.

Eliza Morris and Friends "Little Black Book" offers a fun night out for anyone who is part of a couple, just friends, thinking about dating, or remembering what it was like to date. The stories unfold through songs performed in an updated Andrews Sisters style as Eliza, Anslee, and Casi share the memories and pages of their "Little Black Books" - a glimpse into the good, the bad, and the hilarious of dating woes.

Eliza's last appearance at Festival 56 was in City of Angels. Since then, she has graduated from Illinois State University with degrees in Classical Acting and Music Theory. She moved to New York for three months to complete a post-graduate vocal study under Scott Flaherty, one of New York's foremost voice teachers. Since returning to Chicago, Eliza has worked with Emerald City Theatre and Broadway in Chicago, as well as writing, producing, and performing cabarets. She currently studies classical voice with Saundra DeAthos, a faculty member of Illinois Wesleyan nationally known for her operatic performances, and jazz vocal performance with Elaine Dame, one of Chicago's favorite jazz singers whom Time Out Chicago calls "a gem in the city's vocal jazz scene."

Eliza is donating all the proceeds of this show to Festival 56. "Without the mentorship of Laura and Dexter Brigham," she says, "there is no doubt that I would not have pursued this career, which continues to bring me joy every day. Festival 56 has done and continues to do so much for Princeton, and I'm so proud and happy that I get to say I was a part of it."

Tickets to this special benefit performance are $25. All seating is reserved. Advance tickets may be purchased at 815-879-5656, Ext. 11, Online Here, or via email at The theater is located at 316 South Main Street in Princeton and seats approximately 150 people. The venue is completely accessible with ample parking nearby. Beer, wine, and soft drinks will be available for sale at the lobby bar. The box office opens at 6:30, and doors to the theater open at 7:00 p.m. For further information, please call the box office at 815-879-5656.

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

Posted August 10th, 2016

Festival 56 InternsFour 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.

For more information about Festival 56, including upcoming events and potential employment opportunities, visit

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 Volunteers, Madison Bishop, Taylor Tieman, and Nicki ButlerThree 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 April 1st, 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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