Illinois State’s School of Theatre and Dance and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival offer experiences beyond the classroom to educate the next generation of theatre professionals.

Thanks to support from the Dr. Alvin (Al) Goldfarb Student Theatre Fund, theatre students are able to experience high-quality live theatre performances and productions at professional theatres. Goldfarb established the fund in 2017 to offset the cost of theatre tickets and travel expenses related to these opportunities.

A well-known theatre educator and administrator, Goldfarb served at ISU as chair of theatre, dean of the college, and provost before becoming president of Western Illinois University. He retired in 2011.

Goldfarb’s endowment has been put to good use. In March 2020, students traveled to the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, where they experienced a production of Ntozake Shange’s Spell #7. It was the last in-person event offered to theatre students for more than a year because of the pandemic. In May 2021, the Glencoe Writers Theatre offered students a virtual performance of The Last Match. Former Redbird Ryan Hallahan performed in the production and spoke with students after the show.

Experiences of this nature broaden students’ perspectives, enabling them to see what their careers can produce. “It’s important that students are able to see theatre in various cities and to know that being a working actor or theatre professional is possible across the country,” Goldfarb said.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival also benefits from the support of endowed funds, including the Paul and Sandra Harmon Shakespeare Endowment and Sue Edmondson Fund in Support of Wonsook Kim CFA Shakespeare Society. Private support enabled the festival to replace the decades-old HVAC system in the theatre’s green rooms. This was a necessity for actors and production staff working in Midwest summer temperatures. The festival’s endowments are also the reason it can so quickly bounce back after the pandemic.

“Endowed funds have made it possible for us to produce on the heels of the pandemic,” said Ann Haugo, director for the School of Theatre and Dance and producer of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. “Because we have those resources available and support from the University, we’re in a much better position than some other theatres at this time.”

Haugo is appreciative of each donor who contributes to the School of Theatre and Dance.

“To be able to employ artists at this time is amazing,” Haugo said in referencing support for the festival. “We have a very grateful group of actors, designers, directors, and production staff who are excited to be back in the theatre space.”