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Thursday, May 27, 2004 10:43 am

Stage brights for Memorial Day weekend

Continuing a recent spate of new, innovative theatrical offerings, Memorial Day weekend features several interesting area openings:

• Theater student Matthew Schwartz conceived and directs a show he titles Different Stages, playing for one performance at the Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Friday, May 28. The show examines relationships, and incorporates scenes and songs from several musicals, including Into the Woods, Cabaret, Gypsy, Sunset Boulevard, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Children of Eden, and Cats. Schwartz recently studied at Interlochen Performing Arts Academy in Michigan. This summer, he heads to Circle-in-the-Square Theatre in New York City. Different Stages features Georgia Dirksen, Don Schneider, Karla Joell Butcher, Steve Rotello, Katie Carnes, and Brett Schwartz. (For tickets, call 523-2787.)

• Don Russell performs in He Knew Lincoln, a 30-minute one-man play,in the indoor theater at New Salem this weekend during the day. (For specific times and information, call New Salem at 632-4000.)

• The summer musical season at New Salem's outdoor amphitheater is preceded by A Salute to America, featuring the Illinois Symphony and Chorus, at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 28-29. Karen Lynne Deal conducts. (For tickets, call 632-5440.)

• Jacksonville Theatre Guild stages A. R. Gurney's off-Broadway hit comedy Sylvia in the Studio Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 27-29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 30. Brian Anstedt directs. (For tickets, call 245-1402.)

If you're looking for a little different type of theater presentation, drive to Rushville to attend "Exit the Present, Visit the Past." The community's fifth annual cemetery walk, which features actors portraying people from Rushville's past, will be performed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 29-30. This year's walk has been expanded to three cemeteries (maps will be available). If it rains, the performances will be held at 2 p.m. in the historic Schuyler County Courthouse. (For more information, call 322-2066.)

One of the most anticipated shows of the year will be the musical Sunday in the Park with George at the Center for the Arts in September. Auditions are taking place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 5; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 6; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 12. The Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical, about the famous Georges Seurat painting, "Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte," will be directed by Leigh Steiner. (For more information, e-mail SundayInSpringfield@yahoo.com).

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