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Meet the directors of the 2018 Illinois Shakespeare Festival

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) welcomes three incredible talents to the Ewing and Center for the Performing Arts theatres. The three directors of this season hold years of experience, whether it be in powerful theatre, Shakespeare, or the ISF stage itself, and they are sure to make this summer’s season fantastic.

Karen Kessler

Karen Kessler

For Karen Kessler, the director of Henry V, this will be her seventh production with ISF. Her previous Festival credits include The Three Musketeers (’10), Scapin (’09), Macbeth (’05), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (’02), The Taming of the Shrew (’00), and All’s Well that Ends Well (’97). Most recently, Kessler directed the world premiere of Alias Grace at Rivendell Theatre in Chicago. Other directing credits include Glengarry Glen Ross at the Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle, England, and the Off-Broadway production of The Opponent. Her regional credits include Hank Williams: The Lost Highway at the Clarence Brown Theatre.

Ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago, Kessler has been directing work unseen in Chicago for a large part of her career, highlights including the play, Mr. Kolpert by German playwright David Gieselmann, and Gagarin’s Way by Scottish playwright Gregory Burke. She is the former artistic director of Famous Door Theatre and a co-founder of the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

Deanna Jent

Deanna Jent

Deanna Jent, director of Merry Wives of Windsor, has been nominated five times for the Kevin Kline “Best Director” award in St. Louis, and won the Kline award for Best Production of 2007 for Standing on My Knees. Jent has directed at professional theatres throughout St. Louis, including the New Jewish Theatre, ACT Inc., and St. Louis Shakespeare. She is a former Riverfront Times theatre critic, former editor of Christianity and Theatre magazine, and founder of the Mustard Seed Theatre. Jent is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and a professor of theatre at Fontbonne University, where she has taught and directed shows since the fall of 1995.

Jent is the playwright of the Drama Desk Award nominated play, Falling, first produced in St. Louis and subsequently produced Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre. ISF veteran and Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance professor Lori Adams directed the play for both productions with current ISF Artistic Director and ISU Professor John Stark as the scenic designer.

Marti Lyons

Marti Lyons

Named by American Theatre as one of the “6 Theatre Workers You Should Know,” Marti Lyons, director of Shakespeare in Love, is a Chicago resident director with experience in theatre throughout the country. Lyons most recently directed The Mystery of Love and Sex by Bathsheba Doran for Writers Theatre, Short Shakes! Romeo And Juliet for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Wit for The Hypocrites, Give It All Back by Calamity West for Sideshow Theatre, and The City of Conversation by Anthony Giardina for Northlight Theatre Company.

Lyons is known and acclaimed for her direction of Will Eno’s Title and Deed at the Lookingglass Theatre Company. Her work, with her process described as “blessed with grace, simplicity, and attentiveness,” earned her the Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship several years ago, and has served to only bolster an already powerful list of accomplishments.

These three women, each of them a theatrical powerhouse, will assuredly make this a season you will not want to miss.

Tickets are available at Illinois State University’s Center for Performing Arts box office Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. or by calling 309-438-2535 during box office hours. Tickets can also be purchased online by visiting Single ticket prices range from $12-$49. All performances of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor will take place at the Theatre at Ewing, located at the corner of Emerson Street and Towanda Avenue. Shakespeare in Love will be performed at the Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Illinois State University.

Season tickets are still available and include all three plays of the 2018 season. For more information about the Festival, visit


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