The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) 2018 Season opens with critically acclaimed actor Philip Earl Johnson’s MooNiE the Magnif’Cent for two performances only on Saturday, June 30. There is a 2 p.m. matinee for families and an 8 p.m. show for adults. General seating tickets are now available online at or by calling (309) 438-2535.

Artistic Director John C. Stark selected The MooNiE Show to open this season, because of its appeal to audiences of all ages. “And this time, he is not just clowning around,” said Stark.

The MooNiE character was born at the festival in 1992 when Johnson, who has been an actor in the company since the 1980s, exhibited his athletic and comedian skills. He has delighted audiences ever since at venues across the country.

The MooNiE Show is a one-man circus featuring juggling, rope-walking, comedic bits, and audience participation. This general audience performance in one act (approximately 45 minutes) will be performed at the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts Theatre at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $15.

The 8 p.m. evening show will be the premiere of his autobiographical play To Flop or Not to Flop. Crafted especially for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Johnson’s MooNiE speaks for the first time! In words and comedic acrobatics, he reveals true-life experiences as a clown, intertwining them with Shakespeare’s legendary, often poignant, clowns and fools. To Flop or Not to Flop will be a genuinely unique experience.

Recently featured in the Goodman Theatre’s production of Enemy of the People, Johnson is an established actor of exception range and depth. His credits include Chicago productions at the Steppenwolf Theatre, the Royal George Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Court Theatre, and the national tour of Angels in America: Parts I and II. His television and film credits include Chicago MedChicago FireMind GamesEarly EditionThe Untouchables, and The Out of Towners. Last December he was seen in television commercials as the “helpful hardware man.”

As part of last season’s 40th Anniversary celebration, Johnson was included in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival’s honor roll of 40 outstanding actors over the first 40 years.