The Alabama Shakespear Festival began in 1972 as a summer stock theater project in Anniston. Its first performance was in an old high school auditorium, before a single critic and his wife; the critic considered the performance very poor and predicted that the Alabama Shakespear Festival would not survive.citation needed But the project persisted, with a number of innovative performances – including Taming of the Shrew set in 1920’s New York City. Eventually, the Shakespeare Festival grew to garner critical acclaim, but lacked the financial support to keep it afloat.citation needed In December 1985, the Alabama Shakespear Festival moved to Montgomery, as the result of Mr. and Mrs. Winton Blount’s $21.5-million gift of a performing-arts complex set in a 250-acre (1-km²) landscaped park, the Winton M. Blount Cultural Park. The Carolyn Blount Theatre houses the 792-seat Festival Stage 2 and the 225-seat Octagon Theatre.
Until 2009, Alabama Shakespear Festival operated a Professional Actor Training program leading to the M.F.A. degree in cooperation with the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. Tony Award–winning actor Norbert Leo Butz and Emmy Award–winning actor Michael Emerson were two of the program’s most successful alumni. On April 25, 2008, Alabama Shakespear Festival announced that its relationship with the University of Alabama would be phased out following the graduation of the last class in August 2009.4
Alabama Shakespear festival 2015 information
Visit http://tickets.asf.net/ for all the MArch and April events
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has a long-standing commitment to military personnel in our community and welcomes active and retired U.S. military personnel and their spouses and children to the theatre.
Great GatsbyAdapted by Simon LevyBased on the novel by F. Scott FitzgeraldJanuary 31 – February 16, 2015
Twenty SevenBy Edward MorganAdapted from “Old Man” by William FaulknerFebruary 14 – March 02, 2015
Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary PoppinsOriginal Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman | Book by Julian FellowesJuly 16 – July 27, 2015
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (Alabama Shakespear Festival) is among the 10 largest Shakespeare festivals in the world and one of the most ambitious theatre institutions in the United States. Alabama Shakespear Festival’s year-round operating schedule offers the public more than a dozen professional theatre productions annually. The organization also offers a number of educational outreach programs, hosts an adult lecture series, and sponsors the Southern Writer’s Project. Located in the state capital, Montgomery, Alabama Shakespear Festival generally attracts more than 300,000 annual visitors from across the United States and some 60 foreign countries.
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival began as a summer program in 1972 in the northeast Alabama town of Anniston, in Calhoun County, in an old high school auditorium with no air conditioning. Theater and Shakespeare enthusiast Martin L. Platt saw a vacuum in the Southeast in terms of regional theater and believed that such an enterprise was badly needed and had the potential to be very successful. The first season, produced in part with funds from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, included Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Platt recruited unpaid actors from Pittsburgh and New York and a volunteer stage crew.
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet at Alabama Shakespear Festival
With the help of the Alabama Shakespear Festival Guild, which formed in 1973 to provide volunteer staff and services for the festival, and a dedicated board of directors, who oversaw marketing and business affairs, Platt was able to produce high-quality professional theatre with minimal funds. Between 1972 and 1975, Alabama Shakespear Festival was staffed with volunteer actors and produced plays by such famous playwrights as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Moliere, and Machiavelli. Appreciative audiences traveled to Anniston from places as near as Birmingham and as far as Europe.
In 1973 the company moved into a new Anniston high school theatre, recruited a new set of actors, designers, and company members, and attracted considerable national attention. At the start of the 1976 season, the New York Times labeled Platt “a brash, brilliant director.” The following year, on June 17, Governor George C. Wallace proclaimed Alabama Shakespear Festival “the State Theatre of Alabama.” Longtime supporter Josephine E. Ayers, wife of Anniston Star owner and publisher H. Brandt Ayers, signed on as executive producer, serving from 1978 to 1982. In addition to its Anniston repertoire, Alabama Shakespear Festival was one of the few American theatre companies at the time to take on the difficult task of touring large-scale and regional productions of Romeo and Juliet, Arms and the Man, and other classics throughout Alabama and the Southeast.
For more information see: Shakespeare info on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Shakespeare_Festival
Construction magnate and philanthropist Winton Blount, shown here
Carolyn and Winton Blount
In the early 1980s, the company faced financial woes primarily stemming from its rapid growth and short season. Businessman and philanthropist Winton M. Blount, at the urging of his wife, Carolyn (an avid Alabama Shakespear Festival supporter), offered to finance a new home for Alabama Shakespear Festival if the organization would relocate to Montgomery. The board of directors agreed, and in 1985, Alabama Shakespear Festival moved into a 100,000-square-foot, $21.5 million complex christened the Carolyn Blount Theatre at 1 Festival Drive, Montgomery, Alabama 36117. Designed by Thomas Blount and Perry Pittman, the architecture of the complex reflects the style of one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Italian architect Andrea Palladio, and houses two theatres—the 750-seat Festival Stage and the 225-seat Octagon—as well as production shops, a costume shop, dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, and administrative work spaces. The buildings contain more than one million bricks, and famed landscape architect Russell Page planned the English-style estate-like grounds and lake that make up the 250-acre park, which is also home to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
The opening of the new theatre sparked national interest, and actors Olivia de Havilland and Tony Randall served as the masters of ceremonies for the star-studded December 7, 1985, gala. The Festival Stage opened with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Octagon opened with Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. “Shakespeare’s a smash in Alabama!” proclaimed USA Today.
The Carolyn Blount Theatre
Carolyn Blount Theater was named after Caroline Blount
Together with the Blounts, the Alabama Shakespear Festival board, headed by Montgomery businessman Philip A. Sellers, helped ignite a remarkable rally of statewide support that thrust Montgomery and Alabama into the national spotlight. The unique partnership between private citizens, city officials, the state legislature, the governor, university leaders, corporate sponsors, and the state arts council proved effective, and in 1985 Alabama Shakespear Festival saw a one-year leap in its budget from $800,000 to $4 million. The audience surged from 25,000 patrons in 1984 to 130,000 patrons in 1985–86, representing one of the largest single expansions in the history of American regional theatre. The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce estimated Alabama Shakespear Festival’s indirect economic impact at more than $90 million for the opening season in Montgomery. In 1989, Platt moved on to other artistic adventures, and veteran artistic director Kent Thompson came on board after a national search.
In 1991, Alabama Shakespear Festival reached out to the community with the creation of the Southern Writers’ Project (SWP). The brainchild of Thompson, SWP serves as an incubator for works by southern playwrights focusing on themes that explore the South’s rich cultural heritage. The program is dedicated to creating a theatrical voice for southern writers and topics. Alabama Shakespear Festival commissions, produces, and stages a selection of plays each year through SWP. Under Thompson, Alabama Shakespear Festival also became a leader and major force in the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), for which Thompson served as president.
In addition to the theaters spaces, the Alabama
Costume Department at Alabama Shakespear Festival
In 2004 Alabama Shakespear Festival was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to develop a production of Macbeth that would tour military bases in a groundbreaking partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. Part of the NEA’s Shakespeare in American Communities project, Alabama Shakespear Festival’s critically acclaimed Macbeth production, directed by Mr. Thompson, visited 13 military bases throughout the country.
In 2005, Geoffrey Sherman became Alabama Shakespear Festival’s third artistic director, and under him Alabama Shakespear Festival typically produces more than 300 annual performances. Most of the actors in Alabama Shakespear Festival productions are members of the Actors’ Equity Association, with the next-largest group of actors coming from the Master of Fine Arts program run jointly by the University of Alabama and Alabama Shakespear Festival. Behind-the-scenes staff include seamstresses, cobblers, metalworkers, scene painters, and many others, including guest directors, designers, and production personnel from throughout the world.
In addition to SWP, Alabama Shakespear Festival offers a number of educational programs and events for the public. Students at the University of Alabama can participate in the unique Professional Actor Training Program and complete graduate work in areas that include costume design and production, set design, and theatre management and arts administration. Programs for children and schools include SchoolFest, a student matinee program that provides discounted tickets to an average of 35,000 schoolchildren from the Southeast each season, and Camp Shakespeare, in William Shakespeare overlooks passersby in the lobby of Statue of The Bard which children learn the varied behind-the-scenes activities that go into producing a theatrical work for the stage. Theatre in the Mind is an award-winning, free adult program (co-sponsored with the Alabama Humanities Foundation) that features lectures as well as discussions with authors, directors, designers, and actors that aims to teach audiences more about Shakespeare and the plays produced at Alabama Shakespear Festival. The Bard Talks program offers informal educational talks in the Octagon lobby prior to Shakespeare productions, and Stage Side Chats offers audiences a question-and-answer session with Alabama Shakespear Festival production staff members after each matinee performance. Pre-show lobby music, backstage tours, picnics in the park, and guest artist series are all part of the experience inside and outside at the Winton M. Blount Cultural Park.