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Shakespeare Fest’s Quinn is first Stevens Memorial Equity Actor

Tom Quinn and Tanera Marshall in "Two Gentlemen of Verona"

Veteran Illinois Shakespeare Festival actor and Illinois State alumnus Tom Quinn has his summer cut out for him, but he’s starting his fifth festival season with a unique honor.

Quinn, who is from Lincoln, Ill., is the first John Stevens Memorial Equity Actor.  Stevens, a Bloomington attorney, died in 2000 but not before becoming, with his wife, Nancy, one of the festival’s early and enthusiastic supporters.  The John Stevens Memorial Golf Outing, established in 2001, has raised funds in support of the festival, and this year the decision was made to use those proceeds to fund one of the festival’s Equity actors, that being Quinn.

A bachelor’s and master’s degree graduate of Illinois State, Quinn has had smaller roles as well as leading roles in past Shakespeare seasons, but this year will have one and then the other.  When actor Steve Pickering leaves Aug. 1, Quinn will step into his roles as Julius Caesar in the play of the same name, Egeon in “The Comedy of Errors” and as narrator John Gower in “Pericles.”  Until then, the versatile Quinn will be playing two small roles in “Pericles” and four roles in “Julius Caesar.”

Quinn studied acting for a few years at DePaul University in the early 1980s and spent nearly 15 years as a professional actor at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre, and at the Arena State in Washington, D.C., before finishing his bachelor’s degree at Illinois State.  He did not break his educational stride, also completing his master of fine arts degree in 2004.  This fall, Quinn will begin his second year on the Illinois Wesleyan Theatre faculty.

“When you are chosen for the Shakespeare festival company, you’re thrown together with a group of strangers from around the country, and after a few weeks you realize you have become a community,” Quinn said.  “Then you come back another year, with more new people, and you think ‘it’s not going to be the same,’ but after a few weeks, again the group of actors become a kind of close community.  It’s one of the wonderful things about being part of the festival.”

“Here’s an example of another thing that’s so lovely about performing at Ewing Manor,” he said.  “One year I had a line talking about the moon.  We rehearsed the play for several weeks, and once we got out to the Theatre at Ewing to do the play, I looked up, delivered the line, and there was the moon.”

“The Comedy of Errors,” a story about two sets of twin brothers separated during a shipwreck and their adventures discovering each other’s existence, will open the Illinois Shakespeare Festival on June 30.  It will be directed by Chuck Ney, the former artistic director of Idaho Repertory and currently a faculty member at Texas State University.

“Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” is an ancient account of the Prince of Tyre’s search for love, his loss and his eventual salvation.  The magical tale of a father’s desire for a second chance with his lost family will open July 1 and be directed by Henry Woronicz, former artistic director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Opening on July 14 will be “Julius Caesar,” one of Shakespeare’s most well-known stories following the rise and fall of Rome’s first dictator and telling a story of betrayal, politics and moral penalty.  Illinois State University Theatre Professor Debbie Alley will direct.