5 for 40: Though our complete preview coverage of this year's 40th annual Illinois Shakespeare Festival will run later this week in Thursday's GO! section, here are five things we thought you ought to know, pre-Thursday GO!:
1. Though the GO! preview is landing on the festival's official opening weekend, the story will miss, by one day, the preview of one of the trio, which is on Wednesday June 28. That's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," at 7:30 p.m., with special pricing, from $7 to $23 (as opposed to the regular $18 to $49 post-preview range). For the record, the other reduced-price previews are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for "Shakespeare's Amazing Cymbeline," and 2 p.m. (yes, 2 p.m.) July 8 for "I Heart Juliet" ... but not at Ewing (see No. 2).
2. The Illinois Shakespeare Festival show without a Theatre at Ewing berth is "I Heart Juliet," the Q Brothers Collective's take on "Romeo and Juliet," in its world premiere. For the first time in the fest's 40-year history, one of the three main stage plays is being entirely staged off-site and inside, via ISU's Westhoff Theater, with a mix of matinees and evening shows (over the years, Westhoff has been used for rain dates and matinees only; it was also the site of 2015's "Love's Labour's Won," that fest's first-ever "fourth show," tied to the Ewing main stage's "Love's Labour's Lost").
3. Though the Q Brothers are back in town as part of their Q Brothers Collective, JQ and GQ will not be on stage doing it all themselves as they did two seasons ago in "Q Gents." Instead, "I Heart Juliet," directed by ISF artistic director Kevin Rich in his farewell season, features a cast of 10 non-Q actors performing the Q's hip-hop verse and more.
4. Speaking of encores, a popular debut offering during the 39th season is back: $12 Silver Sundays, in which all Silver Section seating was a flat $12 for everybody.
5. As part of the 40th anniversary hoopla, the festival has partnered with Normal's White Oak Brewery to create its own brew: ShakesBeer, concocted specifically for the fest and described as "a bold English ale, modeled after the traditional English Mild Ale." Or, all's well that hoists well.
A very good year: Speaking of fine libations, here's a round of applause for the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard and Winery near Mackinaw, which participated in the recent Illinois State Fair Wine Competition.
The mid-June event, held on the Lincoln Land Community College campus in Springfield, saw the winery awarded a silver medal for its Cayuga White and bronze medals for its Alexander's Conquest and Nicole's Blush Wine.
"We are proud of the job that Eric Hahn is doing as our winemaker, following in his father's footsteps to produce great Illinois wines," said owner Diane Hahn of her son.
Eric has taken over the role filled by his father and winery founder Paul Hahn, who passed away last December after a battle with cancer.
The winery remains a go-to entertainment destination through the summer, with an array of festivals and weekly offerings, including the Saturday night Concerts in the Vineyard (this coming Saturday it's 7 West) and a special concert by country-rockers Brushville at 8 p.m. Friday.
Born on the Fourth of July: We can't guarantee it's a cure for what ails this politically riven land, but we can vouch for it as our favorite movie show biz biography of all time ... "Yankee Doodle Dandy," screening just in time for us embattled Independence lovers, regardless of which side of the ideological fence you're on, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Normal Theater.
Not only is this endlessly entertaining 1942 Oscar-winner our favorite show-biz bio-pic ever, it also features our favorite performance in a show-biz bio-pic: courtesy that human dynamo of the Silver Screen, James Cagney, copping his only Best Actor award as patriotic Broadway showman George M. Cohan.
Under the direction of Hollywood's most prolific maker of classics that don't date, Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca," "Adventures of Robin Hood," "Mildred Pierce," "White Christmas"), the prevailing flag-waving in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" is both heartfelt and administered with the lightest and deftest of touches.
It arrived in theaters on the heels of Pearl Harbor, it features FDR in a cameo ... and it works like a nonpartisan charm to this day, all to the beat of Cohan's ageless melodies and Cagney's endlessly brilliant hoofing.
Craft is Pantagraph arts and entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-820-3259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.