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Kentucky Shakespeare Festival

In the summer, the nighttime is the right time for family fun. And one long-standing seasonal tradition for thespians and theater lovers alike is the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival.

The 2007 season marked KSF’s 47th year in Louisville’s Central Park. The troupe got its start as a community theater group called the Carriage House Players, founded in 1949 by C. Douglas Ramey. Known for their “theater in the round” performances, the Players produced their first Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew, on the playwright’s birthday on April 23, 1952.

The Carriage House Players went on to become the first repertory theater in Louisville. The summer Shakespeare in Central Park festival began in 1960 and was named the official state Shakespeare festival by the Kentucky legislature in 1984.

In addition to park performances, the KSF offers many outreach and education programs, including the award-winning Will on Wheels and Shakespeare Alive!, which brings the works of Shakespeare into classrooms for interactive workshops and has served more than half a million students in Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The newest addition is the Shakespeare Youth Academy, a summer educational program for young people ages 8 to 18.

Kentucky Shakespeare Festival performances are held under the stars at the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheatre in Central Park, and admission is free. Some shows are shadow sign interpreted for the hearing-impaired.

More interesting facts about the festival and Shakespeare locally:

  • The outdoor theater at Central Park was named for Carriage House Players founder C. Douglas Ramey in 1976. Ramey died on October 24, 1979 and now lies in an unmarked grave in East Point, KY.
  • Shakespeare Behind Bars, an education program conducted by the KSF at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, offers participants the opportunity for “safe” encounters with complex issues. Inmates stage one Shakespeare play a year, and the process of examining the characters and themes of the chosen work encourage the development of interpersonal life skills that will contribute to their successful reintegration into society.
  • Shakespeare Behind Bars is also the only North American Shakespeare company contained within the walls of a medium-security adult male prison. A documentary on the program premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
Program 126
Making Louisville more bicycle-friendly; Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky; Yew Dell Gardens; the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival; and an interview with Heather Weston Bell, executive director of the Governor’s School for the Arts. (#126)