The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) is excited to announce a new endowed scholarship for incoming freshmen. The Sutter Family Shakespeare Scholarship is made possible by the generous support of longtime ISF patron Craig Sutter.

Sutter created this scholarship in memory of his parents, H. Everett and G. Jean Sutter, who he credits with cultivating his deep appreciation of the arts from a very young age. A former educator himself, Sutter wanted to support the festival in a way that opened doors for students to take full advantage of having a nationally recognized Shakespeare festival so closely associated with Illinois State University’s School of Theatre and Dance.

“This scholarship will help many students get their first professional opportunity with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for years to come.” —Kevin Rich

With the arrival of artistic director Kevin Rich in 2012, students have seen a considerable increase in the number of ways they can become involved with ISF. The M.F.A. acting program was redesigned to include a focus on civic engagement; students formed the ISF Touring Company and traveled across Illinois, performing abridgments of Shakespeare’s plays in schools, prisons, and other community centers. Over 5,000 audience members have been reached since the troupe was formed in 2013. As of this year, undergraduate students now have the opportunity to audition for the Touring Company as well.

As the festival continues to explore a year-round presence in the community, Rich has created other events in which ISU students can participate including ShakesFEAR, a haunted tour of the grounds at Ewing Manor around Halloween. Students have also created original theatrical pieces with community partners such as the Hope Monologues at the Cancer Community Center and a musical performance about local alternative school YouthBuild.

Internship program

In the summer, students can audition for a highly competitive acting internship with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. This internship provides the opportunity to work side-by-side with leading professionals from around the country. Each acting intern performs in the popular Theatre for Young Audiences production, performed at no charge on the Ewing Manor lawn Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Interns also understudy the professional actors, play ensemble roles in the mainstage productions, give backstage tours, and take master classes from professional theatre artists.

The Sutter Family Shakespeare Scholarship guarantees one of these internships to an incoming student each year and provides monetary support ($1,000) for each of the student’s four years of undergraduate education. The first students to be awarded the Sutter Family Scholarship are current sophomore Thomas Russell, who will complete his internship this summer (2016), and freshman Nicole Magerko, who will complete her internship next summer, during the 40th anniversary season of the festival (2017).

Russell hails from Chicago, where he attended Lane Tech College Prep and first began acting. In his senior year, he played Macduff in Macbeth, an experience which led him to want to pursue a career as a classical actor.

Magerko attended the Chicago Academy for the Arts in Lake in the Hills; her interest in classical theatre sprang from her performance in Moliere’s The Learned Ladies in high school.

Auditions for the Sutter Family Scholarship will take place each fall for incoming students. The next Sutter Scholar will be awarded in fall 2016. Contact for more information.

“This scholarship will help many students have their first professional opportunity with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival and for years to come,” said Rich. “We can’t be more grateful to Craig Sutter for his support.”

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