Festival 56 was founded in 2003

Festival 56 started as a partnership between Princeton Theatre Group and The November Ten, a New York-based theatre company. In its first season, the festival offered five productions in four weeks during July and all 28 visiting artists stayed with host families in the Princeton community. The festival attracted about 2000 patrons the first year, proving that professional theatre could flourish in rural Illinois.

Building on the strength and success of the first few seasons, the Princeton Theatre Group acquired the old Bureau County Republican newspaper building and, in 2007, renovated it into a 150-seat studio theatre located in the heart of Princeton’s historic downtown shopping district. The Grace Performing Arts Center is home to Festival 56, which operates year round with an artistic director and a committed board of volunteers.

Since its inception, Festival 56 has presented over 100 plays. We now welcome over 4000 patrons and 40 visiting artists to Princeton throughout the year and, in a testament to the warm hospitality of the community, all of the visiting artists still live with host families during their Festival 56 stay.

Perhaps the greatest feather in the festival’s cap is Shakespeare in the Park. Each summer since the very beginning, the festival has presented a fully staged production of one of Shakespeare’s plays in the town square. This production is a gift to the community and is presented free of charge all summer long with performances every Sunday and Wednesday.

Recent News

Welcome to the Renaissance!

Welcome to the Renaissance!

The theme for our 2023 summer season is Welcome to The Renaissance! Just as the Renaissance was a historical period of transition to not only revitalize but even surpass the achievements of the past, this season is designed to usher in a new era of creativity and...

Calitri and Seib named new Artistic Directors of Festival 56

Calitri and Seib named new Artistic Directors of Festival 56

Festival 56 and its Board of Directors have announced that Jimmy Calitri and Tim Seib will become the company’s co-artistic directors effective immediately. They will succeed Tommy Iafrate who last June announced his July 2022 departure after five years in the role....


Box Office Hours
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For tickets, please leave a message at the Box Office phone 815-879-5656.

The Box Office opens one hour before performances


Festival 56
316 S. Main Street
Princeton, Illinois 61356