Shakespeare Festival Shopping for Theater Space

by Erin Keane on April 9, 2012

The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is shopping for a new indoor performance space. Festival leadership has expressed interest in purchasing a Theater Square building that currently houses the Roxbury Nightclub and Lounge.

The board of directors recently approved a new strategic plan that calls for expanded programming. Producing artistic director Brantley Dunaway hopes more plays and a longer production season will transform the festival from a free summer program into a robust tourism destination.

The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is the oldest free outdoor Shakespeare festival in the United States, and it typically stages two to three free Shakespeare productions in Central Park every summer.

Dunway says the festival needs to become more financially self-reliant, and ticket sales from productions other than the free outdoor performances will help.

“We will keep a signature production in the park, as the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the U.S., but we’ll start selling tickets,” says Dunaway. “And we have to do that. We spend approximately a half million dollars, both in direct and indirect costs, doing Shakespeare in Central Park, but our donations and economic support to support that just isn’t there.”

Dunaway says he wasn’t yet actively looking for an indoor venue, but when he heard the Theater Square building was for sale, he saw the potential for a year-round venue for the festival and its educational and community partners.

“It’s the right size for us to begin getting into ticket sales. We’ll probably be able to push it into a 300- or 350-seat theater,” says Dunaway.

The plan calls for a longer season, from May to October, and an expanded repertoire that will include other classic plays in addition to Shakespeare. There are no plans to stage new work.

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