Midwest Living Review
We love Shakespeare under the stars, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better venue than Illinois State University's Ewing Manor, which hosts the annual Illinois Shakespeare Festival each summer. The English-style manor, once the home of Hazle Buck Ewing, anchors the impeccable park of rolling fields of grass surrounded by leafy trees and seas of flowers. If you want the full experience, bring a picnic dinner to eat before seeing a play. The university-sponsored festival features professional actors from around the country as well as aspiring thespians and theater students from ISU. Among the well-known actors who once graced their stage are William Peterson, Gary Cole and Tom Irwin. Every summer, the school chooses two Shakespeare plays and one play tied to the Shakespearean Era or theme, such as the 2011 production of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare -- Abridged" or "The Three Musketeers" in 2010. Check the schedule, and you may also be able to pair a special event with your theater excursion, including tours behind stage, live music, and Punch and Judy shows. The festival marked its 33rd year in 2011, and its comfortable, intimate theater for 430 was built in 2000. Admission charged; tickets from $23. Parking is free.