The price of a ticket for this year’s Alumni Night at the Shakespeare Festival at 8 p.m. on July 14 will do more than admit alumni to the play, Much Ado About Nothing, and the buffet dinner at 5:30 p.m. hosted by President Al Bowman. A ticket will also allow for a sneak peek of the ongoing work to establish the six-acre Genevieve Green Gardens at Ewing Cultural Center.  Click on Alumni Night to sign up for the play and sneak peek .

New walkways, fences and underground utilities for lighting and irrigation for the thousands of plant materials are being installed this summer by the same general contractor, Felmley Dickerson Company, who built the Theatre at Ewing. The construction will not impact the Shakespeare Festival performances or the pre-Festival activities, such as picnicking on the grounds and the Green shows.  Construction work generally is completed by early afternoon, and the Festival activities don’t start until early evening.

Illinois State University Facilities Planning Director Richard Runner said having the Felmley Dickerson Company as the general contractor has been a distinct advantage as they have a familiarity with the site and the sensitivity to work around ongoing events at Ewing, such as the Shakespeare Festival.  Runner said minimizing problems for events was actually a key part of the planning phase for the Green Gardens, adding that Felmley Dickerson has responded well to requests to keep the construction site clean prior to events.

The Green Gardens, established by a gift from Bloomington native Bruce V. Green in memory of his wife, Genevieve, will feature a formal garden, woodland wildflower garden, white garden, Japanese garden, shade garden, compass garden and rock garden when completed.

An artist’s rendering of the completed Genevieve Gardens is prominently displayed in the Ewing Box Office.  A new brick-surface with a less steep walkway will allow patrons easy access to the Shakespeare Festival performances this summer, and bistro seating has been added to the courtyard for the green shows. Seventeen semi-loads of brick were hand-laid in a pattern for those pathways. The north lawn construction and pathways likely will be completed prior to the start of the Shakespeare Festival on June 27.

The Green Gardens drew inspiration from the work of landscape architect Jens Jenson (1860-1951), who was contracted by Hazle Ewing to do landscape designs for the grounds in the early 1920s. Rebecca Landau, executive director of the Ewing properties, said she was able to locate Jensen’s original renderings for the Ewing grounds, and those plans have been used as a source for the project.  Landau said Shakespeare Festival patrons will get a good idea of how lush the Green Gardens will be next year when they return for the 2008 Festival.