Producing artistic director Brantley Dunaway confirmed today that the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival will stage a summer season. Though the organization produces the oldest free annual Shakespeare in the Park festival in the United States, the future of the festival was uncertain at the end of last season.
Last July, Festival board president Allen Harris told us that the organization’s financial troubles — an historic cash flow issue, decreased city funding and the fundraising fall-out from the Great Recession — put the festival’s iconic free Central Park summer productions in jeopardy. The board and Dunaway agreed they would raise the money to fully fund the 2013 summer season by February 1, or they wouldn’t proceed with Shakespeare in Central Park. Harris and Dunaway agreed that it was “all go or nothing” — if they didn’t raise roughly $400,000 to fund a professional summer production by February, the season was canceled.
This came at a time when the organization had also just launched an ambitious strategic plan to implement a “destination model” for the Shakespeare Festival, in which several productions would run in repertory — indoor ticketed shows in addition to the free Central Park productions — like Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival and long-running, successful Shakespeare festivals in Oregon and Utah. The idea is to bring in revenue from ticket sales that would help fund the free productions, which Dunaway says will remain in Central Park.
It’s a couple of weeks into February, and while Dunaway could not yet release fundraising totals, he did confirm that the festival would produce one free mainstage production, “Twelfth Night,” in Central Park June 20-July 14. That run is a week longer than last summer’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which suggests an optimism on the part of leadership that the coming announcements about funding will be good news.
The Globe Players, the festival’s apprentice program, will produce “Taming of the Shrew” in Central Park as well.
More details on the festival’s future are expected soon.