Arts and Culture

The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival will kick off its 60th anniversary season with a play written not by William Shakespeare, but one written about The Bard. 

The season will begin in May with “Shakespeare in Love,” a stage adaptation of the 1999 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture. The plot certainly sounds like it could be a Shakespeare play: a young Will Shakespeare is dealing with writer’s block as he works on his new play. He finds his muse in a young woman who poses as a man in order to act in one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Kentucky Shakespeare Producing Artistic Director Matt Wallace said this is not the first time Kentucky Shakespeare has featured a mainstage production written by someone other than Shakespeare. 

“We did ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ in 2002,” Wallace said. “My wife and I played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so I remember that one.” 

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” was written by playwright Tom Stoppard. Stoppard also co-wrote the screenplay for “Shakespeare in Love” with Marc Norman. It was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. 

Wallace said opening the 60th anniversary season of the festival with “Shakespeare in Love” is a fitting “love letter to Shakespeare.” He said the presenting sponsor, Churchill Downs, is making it possible to extend the run of the production, so when it’s said and done, “Shakespeare in Love” will have the longest run in the festival’s history. 

Also on stage this season will be the fourth and final installment of Kentucky Shakespeare’s Game of Kings series with “Henry V.” Like the previous productions in the series, “Henry V” will feature original music by Scott Carney from Wax Fang. If you missed any of the previous plays or need a refresher on the plot, Wallace said there’s no need to worry. 

“Shakespeare has it all for you right at the top of the play with one of the greatest speeches, ‘O for a muse of fire,’ where the prologue is going to explain everything you need to know,” he said. 

Rounding out the mainstage productions for the upcoming season will be the comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” which was last performed by Kentucky Shakespeare 29 years ago. Wallace said Shakespeare wrote this play as a spinoff for the character of Sir John Falstaff because the character was so popular in the “Henry” plays. 

“As our audiences have gotten to know Falstaff over the past few years, we thought this would be fun to do this total farce,” Wallace said. “It’s not like the history plays, it’s an Elizabethan farce, and it follows these two women outsmarting Falstaff.”

More festival offerings

  • Kentucky Shakespeare’s Globe Players High School Troupe will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” July 29-August 1
  • The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will bring its touring production of “Macbeth” to the Central Park stage August 2 and 4
  • Louisville Improvisors will improvise Shakespeare in “Late Night Shakes” on June 6 and 20, July 11 and 25
  • For fifth time with the festival, Louisville Ballet will present “Shakespeare in Dance” August 5-9

The 60th anniversary season of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival runs May 27-August 9, in Old Louisville’s Central Park. More information is available here

Jonese Franklin is the WFPL Program Director and host of WFPL's All Things Considered.