Viroqua Shakespeare Festival


Thoreau College is the home of the Viroqua Shakespeare Festival, an emerging community and cultural initiative here in Viroqua.

The 2nd Annual Viroqua Shakespeare Festival will take place during the month of June, when a group of professional actors from the Jones Classical Theater Company (Chicago, IL)  will be in residence at the Thoreau College campus.

Under the direction of Willie E. Jones III, the troupe of guest actors from around the United States will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside a cast of Viroqua-area locals including theater educators and actor-artists of all stripes.

The company rehearses the play for 2 weeks in an Elizabethan-inspired process, meaning; an expedited rehearsal period with the highest emphasis placed on Shakespeare’s language. No high frills spectacle or set design. The sun as the lighting designer. The actors diaphragms are their only microphones, and the Shakespearean poetry the main vehicle for storytelling.

The weekend festival will take place from Friday, June 23rd through Sunday, June 25th, and is part of Thoreau College’s ongoing efforts to enliven educational opportunities, and create spaces for intellectual growth, for people of all ages. In the weeks leading up to the Festival, Thoreau will begin another round of the Community Seminar, with Jacob Hundt leading leading group discussions of the Midsummer script as well as fairy lore and the English folk-tales that provide the play’s allegorical foundations.

Pre-show festivities also include music from area musicians. Guests can expect a fiddle or a flute or a brave voice to fill the air, while the campus grounds will open for picnicking and socializing under the summer sun.

And at the close of each evening… rude mechanicals, Dukes and Duchesses, haughty princes, pompous princesses, mischievous fairies and their ethereal overlords will take over the hillside at the Thoreau Campus for a tall-tale-telling at the height of summer.

Admission for the weekend festival is free of charge! Bring your own blanket or lawn chair. Costumes will be tolerated.

A fundraising banquet catered by Chef Frank Wildingway will take place prior to the show on Friday, June 23rd. To support our spring fundraising campaign, and reserve a plate at the donor banquet, follow the link here:

The mission of the Viroqua Shakespeare Festival is to support the American theater at the grassroots level by creating a context for collaboration between non-union professional actors, early career theatre-artists, theater educators, and actor-artists from local communities. The Viroqua Shakespeare Festival was founded in 2022, the result of a collaboration between Thoreau College and our friends at the Jones Classical Theater Company!

Read more about Thoreau’s ongoing partnership with the Jones Theater here.