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Illinois Shakes 2023 includes ‘Comedy of Errors,’ ‘Tempest’ and Gunderson’s ‘Book of Will’

A group of people are seated watching two people speaking at a high-top table in a earth-toned wine bar
Lauren Warnecke
Illinois Shakespeare Festival artistic director John Stark, right, and dramaturg Kee-Yoon Nahm speak to a group of gathered supporters at Stave wine bar in Uptown Normal.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival announced its 2023 season Thursday during a live-streamed event from Stave in Uptown Normal.

The festival begins next June with “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Tempest,” and Lauren Gunderson’s 2017 play, “The Book of Will” running in rotation through August. It also will include the annual John Stevens Memorial Golf Outing on June 19 and the Bard Bash fundraiser on Aug. 6.

A small group of staff, board members and ISF supporters gathered to hear the season announcement at Stave; hundreds viewed the event on Facebook Live.

Artistic director John Stark began the event by reflecting on the 2022 season, the first to return to full operations after pandemic cancellations and a scaled-back season in 2021.

“We celebrated our 45th season of the Shakespeare Festival,” he said. “We also performed our 1,500th performance.”

Stark took over leadership of the storied festival in 2017, but has been involved in some capacity since 1993. He teaches scenic design at Illinois State University and played a role in developing the theater at the Ewing Cultural Center built in 1999.

“The Comedy of Errors” was last performed at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in 2013; Shakespeare’s “Tempest” has not been seen since 2010. As is tradition, the third production is Shakespeare-adjacent — in this case the ISF premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “Book of Will.”

Festival dramaturg Kee-Yoon Nahm said the season spans William Shakespeare’s career, with one of his first plays in “Comedy of Errors,” and one of his last with “The Tempest.”

Gunderson is a highly sought, prolific living playwright. In addition to “The Book of Will,” Twin City theater goers can see Gunderson’s “The Revolutionists,” written the same year and on view at Heartland Theatre Company Nov. 3-19.

“’The Book of Will’ is a play about the publication of the First Folio — the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays and the many adventures that Shakespeare’s friends went through in order to get this book published,” Nahm said.

An overarching theme of the trio of works is “this promise that what was once lost will be found,” added Nahm. “That’s the kind of reassuring message all three of these plays can offer.”

The 2023 Illinois Shakespeare Festival will run from June through August at Ewing Cultural Center in Bloomington. Learn more at www.illinoisshakes.com.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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