If those summer movies with minimal plots just don’t do it for you, a significant alternative is available for lovers of the performing arts: the live stage.
From some nearby to some 17 hours away, summer theater festivals offer classics, new material and actors in three dimensions.
Ewing Manor in Bloomington will host the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. From June 23 to Aug. 7, Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale and the hilarious salute to the Bard in short form, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), will be performed in repertory. For further information, contact them at www.thefestival.org or 309-438-8974.
In Spring Green, Wisc., west of Madison, the American Players Theatre will host several performances in its indoor and outdoor theaters in the woods June 4 to Oct. 16. This year’s program features Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest, Sheridan’s The Critic, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.
Modern adaptations of classics will also be showcased with productions of Seamus Heaney’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, which he labeled The Cure at Troy, as well as a performance of the adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment by Curt Columbus and Marilyn Campbell. For further information, contact www.americanplayers.org, or call 608-588-2361.
Going across the border, in Stratford, Ontario, is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. With the Bard as its anchor, it is offering Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus, Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
There will also be contemporary works such as Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming and Frank Galati’s adaptation of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Frank Galati is a Chicago actor, writer and director who is a Steppenwolf Ensemble member. He will also direct Stratford’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
If plays don’t do it for you, Stratford will have musicals, including Camelot and Jesus Christ Superstar and Brian Bedford’s adaptation of Moliere’s The Misanthrope. Stratford’s Studio always offers some interesting small stage events worth investigating.
For information on its season, which is in progress and adds productions as the summer progresses, check out www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 800-567-1600.
Just north of Niagara Falls is Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, home of the Shaw Festival. This is the world’s only theater festival dedicated to the works of George Bernard Shaw. Two Shaw classics will open early in the season, Candida and Heartbreak House.
Heartbreak House is directed by former Shaw Artistic Director and U of I graduate Christopher Newton whose extraordinary vision has done much for the Shaw Festival for over two decades.
Later in the season the festival will perform On the Rocks, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lennox Robinson’s Drama at Inish — A Comedy, J. M. Barrie’s (of Peter Pan fame) The Admirable Crichton, and small stage productions at the Studio Theatre that offer unusual and often edgy works. If musicals are a good mix with Shaw, what could be better than My Fair Lady? That will be offered along with a new musical Maria Severa.
The Shaw season is currently on, with many additions as the season progresses. Some productions run until the end of October. Check out www.Shawfest.com or call 800-511-7429. Please remember all visitors to Canada 16 and over must have passports.

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Jeff Nelson

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