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Increased Capacity, New Schedule For Illinois Shakespeare Festival

As You Like It pic.jpg
This is a scene from the 2019 Illinois Shakespeare Festival production of "As You Like It."

Improved COVID-19 numbers mean a bigger audience at Ewing Theater than previously allowed for this summer's Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Under the Bridge Phase of the state’s reopening plan implemented May 14, performing arts venues can now seat 60% capacity — up from 25% under Phase 4.

"So what that means is we were at 109 seats total, and now we’re up to 262, which is a very respectable audience that holds 434,” said John Stark, the festival's artistic director. “So we’re very excited to be able to go to this higher capacity.”

The festival is still offering just a $25-ticket option, and requires audience members to wear masks and keep an empty seat between parties.

The expanded capacity also means more chances to snag a ticket.

“There shouldn’t be a shortage of tickets on most nights,” said Stark, noting it also helps that the festival is offering Sunday night performances this year, too.

Stark said the new guidelines won’t change anything for the actors, however: they’ll still be unmasked when distanced, and masked when not.

“We do employ Actors’ Equity performers, and they have their own set of guidelines that we’re that still has a very strict set of protocols in terms of masks, etc,” said Stark.

There’s been a slight change in schedule as well.

The season will now open with "Measure for Measure" on July 3, with a preview performance on July 2, rather than "The Winter’s Tale" as originally planned.

“We just simply flip-flopped the shows,” explained Stark. “The way that the scenery and costumes were evolving in the design phase, and for budgeting reasons, we found that it was going to be much better for our budget to switch the titles.”

"The Winter’s Tale" premieres July 9.

With Phase 5 of Restore Illinois on the horizon, Stark recognizes guidelines are likely to change again, but plans to maintain 60% audience capacity for the entire season.

“We want to fill out the nights as much as we can, and we will address that later if it comes to that,” he said.

View the season schedule and ticketing information for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival on the festival website.

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