In the fall of 1967 a group of Rock Valley College students wanted to bring their community to the corner of Spring Brook and Mulford Roads. They hoped to encourage the public to appreciate the beauty of their college’s farm setting. With the permission of Reuben Johnson, acting Dean of Community Services, the students decided that the best way to accomplish this goal was to perform a musical nestled beside the beautiful farm pond. They chose the production Finian’s Rainbow, which explores the overcoming of racial barriers through hard work and a little bit of magic. Opening night of Finian’s Rainbow was a greater success than anyone had ever imagined. People from the community came out with their lawn chairs and watched the amazing production. It is the cast, crew and countless volunteers that truly make Starlight Theatre what it is today.
Starlight Theatre’s first performance was Finian’s Rainbow in 1967.
One of the biggest moments in Starlight's history occurred on June 10, 2003, when the college held a roof-opening gala for the newly remodeled Bengt Sjostrom Theatre (Starlight Theatre). The 135,000 square foot architectural wonder was designed by world-renowned architect, and Belvidere native, Jeanne Gang and her firm Studio Gang Architects. The design’s most unique feature is its 200-foot, retractable star-shaped roof, which opens like the petals of a flower, allowing audiences to enjoy the night sky while still being protected from inclement weather. The project was three years in the making. The gala featured a hors d'oeuvres table highlighted by an ice sculpture of the Starlight Theatre, a cast of 500 people performing numbers from shows Starlight has put on over the years, a performance by Lakota Sioux Great Native American Dancers, fireworks, flaming desserts, and music by Moonlight Jazz Orchestra. The 2003 Starlight season, the first in its new home, featured the musicals Big River, Just So, and Children of Eden.
During the past 49 summers Starlight theatre has brought over 140 productions to the stage – that’s a whole lot of magic. A cast and crew totaling nearly 25,000 people have all given of themselves for our community’s enrichment, and in the process have shared their joy of performing for over one million audience members!