Bengt Sjostrom Starlight Theatre

Rockford, IL

Built 2003

Rock Valley College


42,000 sf


Starlight Theatre brings urban energy and new flexibility to the tradition of open–air performances at Rock Valley College. Its elegantly sculptural roof opens like the petals of a flower in fair weather, providing both shelter and drama that the former stage lacked—and allowing the company to extend its season and guarantee shows even when it rains.

Beneath the roof, the central theater space forms an unexpected vertical axis to the sky that enhances the audience’s pleasure of being outdoors. With its new building and expanded programming possibilities, Starlight has become a popular regional destination and favorite summer venue for the community.

Technologies typically employed to move roofs over massive stadiums were adapted to fit the theater’s scale and budget.

In fair weather, the roof opens to the stars for a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience.

Hydraulic model

Video by Spirit of Space

Consultant Team

ACD, rigging consultant

Area Erectors, erector

Barbizon, lighting designer

Battle McCarthy, consulting engineers

Construction Cost Systems, cost consultant

Consulting Construction Services, LLC, MEP

Dewhurst MacFarlane and Partners, structural engineer

Peter Heppel, engineering specialist

Sjostrom & Sons, general contractor

Sound Investment, sound system consultant

Uni-Systems, motion technology consultant

Sjostrom and Sons, contractor


Merit Award, United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), 2005

Distinguished Building Award, Design Excellence Awards, AIA Chicago, 2004

Scholarship Prize/Best Overall Design Award, Metal Construction Association (MCA), 2004

Gold Medal/President's Award, Association of Licensed Architects (ALA), 2003

Award of Honor, Society of American Registered Architects (SARA), 2003