Monday marked the first official company event – the Inaugural Day Dinner – for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, as Festival Managing Director Dick Folse, Artistic Director Kevin Rich and Producer Janet Wilson and members of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Society Board of Directors hosted a dinner party to welcome the actors, artists, designers, directors and technicians who will be plying their theatrical craft this summer for the Festival.
Festival artists came by plane, train and automobile from all over the country, some arriving in Bloomington-Normal just moments before Monday night’s festivities began. A bounteous buffet arranged by the Shakespeare Festival Society began the evening, followed by a few welcoming remarks by Folse, Rich and Wilson, as well as Society president Sue Silvey. Rich noted that this summer’s 14-member professional acting company was selected from some 750 auditions held nationwide.
As part of the evening’s events, Society and community members who’d signed up for the “Adopt a Bard Buddy” program were encouraged to locate their new friends and get acquainted. The “Adopt a Bard Buddy ” project is one of the Festival’s new initiatives for 2013, matching up interested “Buddies” from the Bloomington-Normal community with members of the Festival company. For “Buddies,” the connection offers an inside look at how the Festival and its artisans work, while the artisans will gain a little support and encouragement from their new friends as their summer season progresses. This Inaugural Dinner was the first event planned in the “Adopt a Bard Buddy” program, with a picnic, Opening Night “Treatsfest” and other fun and games in the offing.
After dinner and a little meet-and-greet, guests were invited to attend a special preview performance of The Magical Mind of Billy Shakespeare, a charming introduction to Shakespeare written by Festival Artistic Director Kevin Rich and performed by the Festival’s talented company of acting interns. Magical Mind imagines a young Billy Shakespeare and some friends in Stratford as they attempt to put on a show in their own back yard. Billy directs his pals, including one Nick Bottom, to demonstrate a few of his many ideas, including a bit of comedy, a taste of tragedy and even a serving of hunchbacked history. With audience interaction, energy and good spirits, Magical Mind is a perfect addition to the Festival’s Theatre for Young Audiences tradition. Performances of The Magical Mind of Billy Shakespeare are appropriate for children of all ages and completely free. You’ll find them at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning May 29. Wednesday morning performances will take place in the courtyard at Ewing Manor, while the location of Saturday shows varies. Check out the Festival homepage at thefestival.org for details.