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The Merry Wives find a home in Normal this summer

Image of Quetta Carpenter, Steven Young, and Dee Dee Batteast as their characters in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Quetta Carpenter, Steven Young, and Dee Dee Batteast star in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Illinois Shakespeare Festival’s (ISF) opening play offers a concept that could be called “The Housewives of Normal” circa 1978. Shenanigans will ensue from Falstaff poolside at the Windsor “Suite” Hotel as he pursues two married women.

Adapted by Kevin Crawford and Paul Prescott and directed by Deana Jent, The Merry Wives of Windsor Normal opens on July 5 and is performed in rotation with Henry V through August 9 at the Ewing Theatre on the Ewing Cultural Center grounds.

Actor Steven Young returns to ISF for his seventh season where he will reprise the familiar role of Falstaff. Young portrayed Falstaff most recently at the Shakespeare Dallas Company. Young is no stranger to the Festival, having portrayed Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2 as well as the title roles in Hamlet, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet. Young is a member of the Shakespeare Dallas Company and has directed at Cambridge Shakespeare Festival UK and New American Theatre.

Dee Dee Batteast portrays Alice Ford while ISF veteran Quetta Carpenter (ABC’s American Crime, NBC’s Revolution, HBO’s The Leftovers) portrays Meg Page. Batteast is a regional theatre veteran with credits at Indiana Repertory Theatre and PlayMakers Repertory Theatre. This is Batteast’s first season with ISF while Carpenter returns for her second season this summer. Festival audiences previously saw Carpenter during the 2015 season in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard III, and Love’s Labour’s Won. A Shakespeare veteran, Carpenter has also performed at the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, the Southwest Shakespeare Company, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and Sedona Shakespeare Festival.

The cast includes Katherine Fried as Anne Page, Kelsey Fisher-Waits as Mistress Quickly, Xavier Roe as Fenton, Kevin McKillip as Frank Ford, Robert Gerard Anderson as George Page, and Drew Vidal as Professor Caius. Fried, Fisher-Waits, Roe, and McKillip make their ISF debuts this summer while both Anderson and Vidal return as ISF veterans. Two children’s roles have been added to the cast of this production, William Page and his friend Julia, portrayed by Michael Williams and Lillian Lyons.

Director Deanna Jent 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 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. Falling won the Kevin Kline award for Best New Play of 2011. Jent is the Artistic Director and founder of Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis and a professor of theatre at Fontbonne University, where she has taught and directed shows since the fall of 1995.

Other creative team members include Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), Lauren M. Lowell (costume design), and Dan Ozminkowski (lighting design). M. Anthony Reimer composed the 1970s-inspired original music that blends into the overall sound design for the show. Colt Luedtke serves as stage manager and Kathy Logelin coaches dialects and text.

Shakespeare in Love, performed at the Center for Performing Arts Theatre on the campus of Illinois State University is the third mainstage production of the 2018 Festival. 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 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.

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 Theatre on the campus of Illinois State University.

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

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