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GLT Datebook: A Little Romance And Dirty Politics On Tap For 2019 Illinois Shakespeare Festival

John Stark
Laura Kennedy
Illinois Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director John Stark says don't look for togas in "Ceasar," but expect lots of romance from the rest of the ISF 2019 season.

A fresh look at classic stories will drive the 2019 Illinois Shakespeare Festival season.

Love and complications abound in “As You Like It” and “Pride and Prejudice,” and politics lead to tragedy in “Caesar.”

In his second season as the Illinois Shakespeare Festival artistic director, John Stark is determined to match the success of his first year, which saw strong season ticket sales. Mixing two Shakespeare plays with a non-Shakespeare plays is part of his plan for continued audience acclaim.

“We’re doing that this coming year by adding in 'Pride and Prejudice,' which has never been done at the festival,” Stark said. “It’s a popular classic story and there are a lot of festivals that have done it. I think 'Pride and Prejudice' fits the bill for us.”

While he’s still in the midst of casting the actors, Stark has settled on the directors of the shows, which include Associate Artistic Director Robert Quinlan, who is directing his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

Deanna Jent returns to the ISF after last season’s rollicking comedy, “The Merry Wives of Winsor.” She will helm her own adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Rounding out the director staff is Quetta Carpenter, who directs her own adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Redubbed “Caesar,” the play will be set in the 21st century for a media-saturated exploration of the classic tragedy, complete with political warfare, assassins, a 24-hour news cycle and ever-present cell phones and social media.

“It’s really an examination of what people will do in the name of protecting their country,” Stark explained. “A group of people think they are protecting their country through noble means. But what are they really doing? They’re creating anarchy.”

Due to the use of special lighting effects and projections, Stark said that “Caesar” will be staged at the ISU Center for the Performing Arts only. “As You Like It” and “Pride and Prejudice” will both be played at the Shakespeare theater at Ewing Manor in Bloomington. The season opens June 27 and runs through Aug. 10.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.