The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) announces the appointment of John C. Stark as artistic director. He replaces Kevin Rich who served in the position from 2013 to 2017, becoming only the seventh person to hold the position since the festival’s founding by Cal Pritner in 1978. Stark assumes his responsibilities immediately.

The official announcement was made at the 40th Season Celebration, a benefit dinner hosted by the ISF Society. “John Stark has been my colleague since 2001, and I know him to be a man of great artistry and integrity,” said Janet Wilson, ISF producer. “He has already hit the ground running to start planning next summer’s season, and we look forward to his leadership.”

Stark has worked extensively at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, where he has produced 32 designs since 1993, including 20 from the Bard’s canon. He has designed professionally for Chicago theater companies such as Victory Gardens, Drury Lane Theatre, The Next Theatre, and Famous Door Theatre, where his design of The Living won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Scenic Design in 1997. Regional credits include work at Indiana Repertory Theatre, The Garden Theatre (Winter Garden, Florida), and Pennsylvania Center Stage.

Stark’s 2012 design for the production Falling, which originated at the Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis, was produced off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre by Falling Feathers Productions, and received three Drama Desk Award nominations. His design of Way to Heaven at the New Jewish Theatre was nominated for a St. Louis Theatre Circle Award in 2013.

Stark is a member of the United Scenic Artists and heads the design/production program at Illinois State University’s School of Theatre and Dance (SOTD).

With ISF Artistic Director Calvin MacLean (1996–2006), Stark created preliminary designs for what became Ewing Theatre, a milestone in the festival’s 40-year history. Upon his introduction to the audience at the DoubleTree Hotel, Stark said: “I am truly honored to follow in the footsteps of founder Cal Pritner, Calvin MacLean, and the other talented directors before me. This room is full of people who have proven to be the most outstanding supporters one could hope for. It humbles me. Because of you, ISF can produce theater that challenges the intellect, touches the soul, and produces a chuckle on the way from the head to the heart. After all, ‘the play’s the thing wherein we’ll capture the conscience’ of us all.”

Details for the 2018 season will be announced in early November.