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Festival 56 Launches Its 2016 Summer Season with The Fantasticks

Posted June 7th, 2016

Festival 56 Launches Its 2016 Summer Season with The FantasticksFestival 56 will launch its 13th summer season June 17 with the musical "The Fantasticks," a beloved classic that enjoyed an off-Broadway run of 42 years.

What's the recipe for the enduring success of "The Fantasticks"? Try a surprisingly perfect mix of unlike ingredients. Combine the following: a pair of fathers trying to trick their children into falling in love, a wall between neighboring houses, a fake melodramatic abduction of the heroine, a narrator addressing the audience and joining the action (think: "The Glass Menagerie" and "Our Town"), a few strong, symbolic props on a nearly bare stage (audience must imagine settings), classic songs ("Try to Remember"), and of course, the story-love, disillusionment, and reconciliation.

Add the influence of traveling theatrical troupes (16th century commedia dell'arte), the original play by Edmond Rostand of "Cyrano de Bergerac" fame, and unabashed borrowings from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Romeo and Juliet." Mix it all together on a college theater stage in 1959. Move it to a Greenwich Village theater the next year. Then watch it achieve immortality through more than 17,000 performances.

In the play, two neighboring families want their children to fall in love and marry. Acting on the assumption that young people will do the opposite of what we want them to do, the families pretend to feud. The young couple, Matt and Luisa, tumble into the trap and fall in love. The fathers then hire El Gallo, the narrator, to "abduct" Luisa so Matt can rescue her.

The following sunrise, however, brings disillusionment. Matt and Luisa and their fathers begin squabbling, and the lovers go their separate ways. Matt's troubles are portrayed in vignettes on stage, while Luisa flirts with El Gallo, who eventually deserts her. Matt and Luisa rediscover their love for each other, this time informed and strengthened by reality and disappointment rather than fantasy.

See it again or for the first time. And try to remember...Follow, follow, follow!

"The Fantasticks" opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 17, at the Grace Performing Arts Center, 316 S. Main St., Princeton. Additional performances are at 7:30 p.m. June 18, 22, 23, 24, and 25, and 2 p.m. June 18, 19, and 22.

The Grace Performing Arts Center is completely accessible with ample parking nearby. To purchase tickets, visit, call 815-879-5656, email, or stop by the theater. Box office hours are noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and one hour before performances. Tickets are $29, $26 (seniors 65+), and $14 for students. Ticket packages and gift certificates are also available.

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

Shannon Hill, Associate Producer, Festival 56The 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.

A Letter from the Artistic Director

Posted October 25th, 2015

Dear Citizens of Princeton,

First of all, let me say thank you for the warm welcome I have received in your town the past two summers as an actor and director. As I have begun my term as Artistic Director of Festival 56, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I cannot express my gratitude enough.

This time in our world is full of change:
For Festival 56, there is change in artistic leadership.
For Princeton, there is change in the local government, and in the ever-evolving Main Street.
For the country, there is change in the law and very soon, there will be change in presidents.

As someone who believes that art imitates life, it seemed fitting that when I began my new position, I would use this transformative time as inspiration for the artistic direction of the Festival. So, I did. All of the productions in the Festival 56 Summer 2016 season revolve around the concept of change. Do people ever change? Is change good? Is it bad? What happens when people change? What happens when people resist change? Find out this summer with fun musicals, a touching comedy, and a Shakespeare like you've never seen. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, Festival 56's 2016 Summer Season:

Purchase Tickets Online Here! The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks

Book by Tom Jones, Music by Harvey Schmidt, Lyrics by Tom Jones

Directed by Jim Brigman

June 17th through June 25th, 2016
Grace Performing Arts Center

Festival 56 Launches Its 2016 Summer Season with The FantasticksOff-Broadway's longest running musical comes to Princeton, directed by Festival favorite, Jim Brigman! A funny, heartwarming, and classic love story about a boy and a girl who fall in love, grow apart, and eventually find their way back together after learning the true meaning of the phrase, "Without a hurt, the heart is hollow". Featuring classic songs like "Try to Remember"!

What Director Jim Brigman has to say about the show:
"I've been working with Festival since its inaugural season and have always thought that this was a perfect show for the Princeton community. It's funny and heartwarming. I absolutely love the simplicity and honesty of the show. I know that it's a story that everyone can relate to. Honestly, the simplicity of this show is what really speaks to me and I believe will speak to the audience. There's a lot of stage "magic" that will happen, and I'm excited for the audience to really be able to invest in the characters and the story line."

Individual Show Times & Dates
  • 7:30pm, Friday, June 17th
  • 2:00pm, Saturday, June 18th
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, June 18th
  • 2:00pm, Sunday, June 19th
  • 2:00pm, Wednesday, June 22nd
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, June 22nd
  • 7:30pm, Thursday, June 23rd
  • 7:30pm, Friday, June 24th
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, June 25th
The Winter

The Winter's Tale

by William Shakespeare

Directed by Shannon Hill

June 26th through July 24th, 2016
Soldiers & Sailors Park, Free Admission

Shakespeare's romance comes to life as 8 actors play 20+ characters in this touching story of love, loss, and forgiveness. King Leontes is convinced his pregnant wife, Hermione, is adulterous. His pain results in consequences that haunt him for years. In time, his sins are forgiven, and he is reunited with those he loves. Follow a multitude of characters through the stark castle of Sicilia, the warm fields of Bohemia, and find out who has to "Exit, pursued by a bear.

What Director Shannon Hill has to say about the show:
"This is my favorite Shakespeare. I'm excited to share my love for this show with the audience, and bring a Shakespeare to the park that hasn't yet been seen on the Festival stage. The unique twist in this production is the fact that I am only using 8 actors to play 20+ characters. One character even has to have a scene with himself! As Jim mentioned, the "magic" of theatre will be a huge part of what makes this production work. It will be touching, heart-warming, funny, and most of all, human."

Individual Show Times & Dates
  • 2:00pm, Sunday, June 26th
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, June 29th
  • 7:30pm, Sunday, July 3rd
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, July 6th
  • 7:30pm, Sunday, July 10th
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, July 13th
  • 7:30pm, Sunday, July 17th
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, July 20th
  • 7:30pm, Sunday, July 24th
Purchase Tickets Online Here! Violet, the Musical

Violet, the Musical

Book by Brian Crawley, Music by Jeanine Tesori, Lyrics by Brian Crawley

Directed by Tim Seib

June 30th through July 9th, 2016
Grace Performing Arts Center

In a small southern town in 1964, a young woman embarks on a cross country journey in search of physical healing, where she meets a Vietnam soldier who shows her that true beauty is more than skin deep. With music by the Tony Award Winning Composer of "Fun Home", Jeanine Tesori!

A seat is waiting for you aboard the bus that will take Violet Karl away from her painful past and towards the TV preacher who is the one person that can give her the physical change she so desperately seeks. Hop on board this soaring bluegrass musical journey down the Southern highways of the 1960's and see what makes this musical a favorite among both Broadway audiences and small town theatre goers across the country.

What Director and Festival 56 alum Tim Seib has to say about the production:
"I'm thrilled to finally bring this favorite of [mine] to the Princeton community. The country/bluegrass style of music and the creative storytelling is unlike anything we have ever produced at the Festival and engages the audience in an imaginative way that speaks to the true roots of our company."

Individual Show Times & Dates
  • 7:30pm, Thursday, June 30th
  • 7:30pm, Friday, July 1st
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, July 2nd
  • 2:00pm, Wednesday, July 6th
  • 7:30pm, Thursday, July 7th
  • 7:30pm, Friday, July 8th
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, July 9th
Purchase Tickets Online Here! Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls

Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser

Directed by Jennifer Hopkins

July 15th through July 23rd, 2016
Grace Performing Arts Center

This lauded musical comedy follows gambler Nathan Detroit as he tries to set up the largest crap game in town and avoid the authorities at all costs. Meanwhile, his fiancé of 14 years, Adelaide, laments his inability to make a commitment. Nathan turns to high roller Sky Masterson to help fund the crap game, but instead of helping, Sky gambles his heart away on missionary Sarah Brown. Follow these lovable characters and more through the streets of New York City and Havana, Cuba, and watch how they end up right where they are supposed to be. Featuring songs like "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" and "A Bushel and a Peck"!

Here is what director Jennifer Hopkins has to say about the show:
"Guys and Dolls is a wonderful, rousing musical that will no doubt ignite the community if Princeton. The incredible talent that the Festival annually attracts will bring these boisterous characters to life. In our production we will play homage to the classic musical, incorporating our Sinatra swagger, while adding an element of the modern as we imagine Sky, Nathan, Adelaide, and Sarah in a more contemporary context. Full of fun, antics, and love, I couldn't be more excited to bring this musical to life on the Festival 56 stage. Get ready to make a bet on these beloved musical theater characters!"

Individual Show Times & Dates
  • 7:30pm, Friday, July 15th
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, July 16th
  • 2:00pm, Sunday, July 17th
  • 7:30pm, Tuesday, July 19th
  • 2:00pm, Wednesday, July 20th
  • 7:30pm, Thursday, July 21st
  • 7:30pm, Friday, July 22nd
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, July 23rd
Purchase Tickets Online Here! Brighton Beach Memoirs

Brighton Beach Memoirs

By Neil Simon

Directed by Derek Bertelsen

July 27th through July 31st, 2016
Grace Performing Arts Center

Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical comedy follows Depression-era teenager Eugene Jerome as he pursues his dreams of becoming a successful writer, while dealing with the pangs of growing up. Brighton Beach Memoirs is a captivating play filled with memorable dialogue from one of the forefathers of comedic playwriting.

What Director Derek Bertelsen has to say about the production:
"I'm very excited to work with actors on this material and to bring this show to life. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, sentiment, and dysfunctional families and this show has them all. This is a show that audiences will definitely want to check out. Although it takes place during the bygone era of the Great Depression, it deals with many issues that today's modern families face. In the end, Brighton Beach Memoirs reminds us all of the importance of family in changing times."

Individual Show Times & Dates
  • 7:30pm, Wednesday, July 27th
  • 7:30pm, Thursday, July 28th
  • 7:30pm, Friday, July 29th
  • 2:00pm, Saturday, July 30th
  • 7:30pm, Saturday, July 30th
  • 2:00pm, Sunday, July 31st

Season tickets and gift certificates are available NOW! They are a great Holiday gift! You won't want to miss a single show.

I hope you'll join me in this "Season of Change".
Shannon Hill

2 Geeks Web Design,
Princeton, IL
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