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From the Oscar-winning blockbuster film to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival stage comes the greatest love story almost never told

Anthony Martinez and Katherine Fried in

Anthony Martinez and Katherine Fried in Shakespeare in Love. Photo by Steve Smedley

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) presents Shakespeare in Love, July 19 through August 11. Based on the award-winning film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love provides ISF audiences with a possible answer as to how the “Greatest Love Story of all time” was almost NOT told.

Renowned playwright Sir Tom Stoppard is considered by most to be England’s finest playwright in over a generation. Stoppard’s works include plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, among others. Stoppard is an Academy Award and Tony Award winner. This popular stage adaptation is penned by Lee Hall.

In Shakespeare in Love, we find young Will Shakespeare attempting to write a new comedy in 1593 London for demanding and competitive producers. Will is struggling with writer’s block until he meets the beautiful and wealthy Viola de Lesseps, who craves a forbidden career on the stage. She becomes Will’s muse and inspiration by disguising herself as the actor Thomas Kent. Their newfound passion is thwarted by Viola’s father, who has promised her hand to Lord Wessex, a nobleman in need of a wealthy wife. Despite the obstacles, Will and Viola’s love blossoms and the words that we still love 400 years later spill from Shakespeare’s quill. From balcony wooing to stolen backstage kisses, Viola becomes Will’s muse of a lifetime. And we all get to experience the very first production of Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, with none other than Queen Elizabeth in attendance.

Anthony Martinez stars as Will Shakespeare opposite Katherine Fried as Viola de Lesseps. Martinez holds credits with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Oxford Shakespeare, and Shakespeare Theatre Company/ACA, among other regional theatres. He studied classical acting at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University. Fried recently performed at Minnesota’s renowned Guthrie Theatre in A Christmas Carol in addition to productions at the Kansas Repertory Theatre. Fried recently graduated from the University of Minnesota-Guthrie Theatre B.F.A. Actor Training Program. This season is their first with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Returning Festival actors include Jordan Coughtry as Kit Marlowe, Robert Gerard Anderson as Henslow, Steven Young as Burbage, Thomas Anthony Quinn as Tilney/Sir Robert de Lesseps, Quetta Carpenter as the Nurse, and Drew Vidal as Wessex. Also making their ISF debuts are Kevin McKillip as Fennyman, Dee Batteast as Queen Elizabeth, and Kelsey Fisher-Waits as Mistress Quickly.

Marti Lyons directs this production of Shakespeare in Love. She is one of Chicago’s most in-demand young directors. Her credits include Botticelli in the Fire (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), The Wolves (Studio Theater), Native Gardens (Victory Gardens), Twelfth Night (Montana Shakespeare in the Schools), The Mystery of Love and Sex (Writers Theatre), Short Shakes! Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Court Theater), Wit (Hypocrites), and The City of Conversation (Northlight Theatre Company). She has also directed for Actors Theatre of Louisville, Lookingglass Theatre, and she received the 2015 Maggio directing fellowship at The Goodman Theatre.

Other creative team members include ISF Artistic Director John C. Stark, who is producing his 33rd scenic design for the Festival, Christina Leinicke (costume design), Dan Ozminkowski (lighting design), M. Anthony Reimer (sound design), John Tovar (fight director), and Greg Merriman (choreographer). Jayson T. Waddell serves as stage manager and Kathy Logelin coaches dialects and text.

Shakespeare in Love is the third mainstage production of the 2018 Festival and will be performed in the air-conditioned comfort of the Center for the Performing Arts Theatre on the campus of Illinois State University. All performances of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor will take place at the Ewing Theatre, located at the corner of Emerson Street and Towanda Avenue.  Pre-show entertainment will take place on the grounds of the Ewing Cultural Center and on the Illinois State University Quad before several performances.

Tickets are available at Illinois State University’s Center for the 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 IllinoisShakes.com. Single ticket prices range from $20–$54. Season tickets include all three plays and are only $40–$109.

For more information about the Festival, visit IllinoisShakes.com.

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