Kentucky Shakespeare’s annual Festival in Central Park offers opportunities for people of all ages to enjoy the works of Shakespeare in the beautiful outdoor setting of Old Louisville’s Central Park.

Experience the 55th Season in 2015!  June 3-August 9, 2015

- 10 weeks/7 productions/59 performances

- Food Trucks and Will’s Tavern 

- Nightly Pre-Show Entertainment 

 

Now Playing
About Us
Kentucky Shakespeare is the largest in-school arts education organization in the Commonwealth, visiting more than 75,000 students each year.

Our History

Born in Johnson County, KY, in 1908, C. Douglas Ramey was instrumental in the development of classical theatre and theatre education in the Louisville area and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Ramey worked in Chicago during the Depression and studied at the Goodman School of Drama (now DePaul University). He returned to Kentucky as a drama specialist for the Works Progress Administration, and worked with many other Louisville theatres and their founders, including Jon Jory, the Belknap Theatre and Clarksville Little Theatre.

In 1949, Ramey founded The Carriage House Players, appropriately named for the building at 310 W. Kentucky St. in Louisville. They began as a theatre workshop, teaching students acting, voice, diction and playwriting, as well as the history of theatre. The Carriage House Players became known for their “theatre-in-the-round” and were the first repertory theatre in Louisville.

On April 23, 1953, they produced their first Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew, and Ramey’s love of Shakespeare soon prompted the beginnings of Shakespeare in Central Park.

During the Carriage House’s summer festival of 1960, Othello and Much Ado About Nothing were presented in rotating repertory. Later that summer, they were asked to perform in Central Park at an art fair. They chose a cutting from Much Ado About Nothing—hence the beginnings of Shakespeare in Central Park.

Volunteers soon formed the Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park and under the direction of C. Douglas Ramey, Shakespeare in Central Park thrived premiering the first full season of Shakespeare in the Park in 1961. In 1962, The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park was incorporated. Ramey also began a program called “Students for Shakespeare,” bringing theatre and the works of Shakespeare to area schools. Working with the Kentucky Education Department and the Association of Principals, the program evolved into the first statewide Shakespeare education tour to schools

In 1975, Ramey directed his last play, Macbeth, and In 1976, Harvey I. Sloane, Louisville’s mayor, appeared on opening night to name the outdoor theatre in Central Park the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater.  On October 24, 1979, C. Douglas Ramey died and was laid to rest in a small family cemetery in East Point.

The following year, Bekki Jo Schneider took over as Producing Director. Shakespeare in Central Park grew, funding increased, as well as staff support. In 1984, Shakespeare in Central Park was designated as the “Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth” by the Kentucky Legislature.

In 1985, C. Hal Park became the new Producing Director. In 1988, the amphitheater was redesigned, re-sloping it for drainage and creating 750 additional seats.

In 1989, Curt L. Tofteland became the fourth producer of Shakespeare in Central Park.  Shakespeare Alive! was created in 1990, bringing KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act)-based workshops to schools in the Kentucky and Southern Indiana area.

From the Page to the Stage was developed in 1991 in conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and was modeled on the Library’s highly acclaimed teacher training program. In 1993, both the Folger Library and the Kentucky Humanities Council recognized it as an exemplary program. With both education and summer season programming, Shakespeare in Central Park’s growth continued and, in 1992, a permanent stage house was built.

In 1995, Kentucky Shakespeare founded Shakespeare Behind Bars at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange. The program was designed as a drama-in-education program, encouraging the development of the interpersonal life skills that contribute to the inmates’ successful reintegration into society.  In 1997, Kentucky Shakespeare introduced a workshop entitled “Teaching Tolerance and Conflict Resolution” to address the clear need in schools for more accessible, more direct, hands-on, conflict resolution skill-building for our young people. The need for more exposure in the classroom to the arts and conflict resolution resulted in the creation of an artist-in-residency program, which assists teachers by incorporating performance-based teaching techniques into the core curriculum and daily classroom activities.

Adding to school tours, artist-in-residence programs and professional development, Kentucky Shakespeare would now engage youth in the Shakespeare Youth Academy (Camp Shakespeare) summer camps running concurrently with Shakespeare in Central Park.

In 2003, the Shakespeare in Central Park Festival was a recipient in the Governor’s Awards in the Arts for an Arts Education Organization.

Shakespeare Youth Academy soon expanded with multiple camps throughout the summer, reaching youth ages 5-18. In 2007 and 2008, Shakespeare Youth Academy was recognized as a finalist for the Excellence in Summer Learning Award at Johns Hopkins University.

Curt Tofteland retired in 2008.

From 2008-2009, Anthony Patton served as Producing Artistic Director and in 2010 Brantley Dunaway was appointed Producing Artistic Director.  On April 23, 2013, Kentucky Shakespeare reached its one millionth student at Fern Creek High School.  Dunaway served through the summer of 2013.

In August of 2013 the Board of Directors hired former Artistic Associate, 9-year veteran with the company, and Shakespeare Behind Bars Artistic Director Matt Wallace as Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare.

After his hiring, Matt Wallace took on a number of projects including refurbishing and expanding the stage stage floor at the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater, premiering Shakespeare in the Parks touring to 9 area Louisville Metro parks, and developing Shakespeare in Central Park to a summer-long festival.

The expanded summer season included producing 3 professional productions, 1 Globe Players high school theatre troupe production and presenting 4 Community Partners productions over 10 weeks and 56 total performances.  Shakespeare In Central Park was further expanded to include a partnership with the Louisville Food Truck Association and nightly pre-show entertainment presented by the community.  The 2014 season garnered recorded numbers with over 27,000 audience members.

The Education Department also set new records for number of schools visited, students served, workshops performed, and higher Camp Shakespeare enrollment all of which produced a boon to the overall bottom line of the company.

This allowed Wallace to expand the Education Department with the hire of a new Director of Education, Education Programs Manager, Artistic Associates, and several new Artist Educators.  These moves solidified the intention of Kentucky Shakespeare’s Education Department to reach for even higher goals in the upcoming years and solidify itself as the largest in-school arts provider in the Commonwealth.

Our History

Born in Johnson County, KY, in 1908, C. Douglas Ramey was instrumental in the development of classical theatre and theatre education in the Louisville area and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Ramey worked in Chicago during the Depression and studied at the Goodman School of Drama (now DePaul University). He returned to Kentucky as a drama specialist for the Works Progress Administration, and worked with many other Louisville theatres and their founders, including Jon Jory, the Belknap Theatre and Clarksville Little Theatre.

In 1949, Ramey founded The Carriage House Players, appropriately named for the building at 310 W. Kentucky St. in Louisville. They began as a theatre workshop, teaching students acting, voice, diction and playwriting, as well as the history of theatre. The Carriage House Players became known for their “theatre-in-the-round” and were the first repertory theatre in Louisville.

On April 23, 1953, they produced their first Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew, and Ramey’s love of Shakespeare soon prompted the beginnings of Shakespeare in Central Park.

During the Carriage House’s summer festival of 1960, Othello and Much Ado About Nothing were presented in rotating repertory. Later that summer, they were asked to perform in Central Park at an art fair. They chose a cutting from Much Ado About Nothing—hence the beginnings of Shakespeare in Central Park.

Volunteers soon formed the Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park and under the direction of C. Douglas Ramey, Shakespeare in Central Park thrived premiering the first full season of Shakespeare in the Park in 1961. In 1962, The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park was incorporated. Ramey also began a program called “Students for Shakespeare,” bringing theatre and the works of Shakespeare to area schools. Working with the Kentucky Education Department and the Association of Principals, the program evolved into the first statewide Shakespeare education tour to schools

In 1975, Ramey directed his last play, Macbeth, and In 1976, Harvey I. Sloane, Louisville’s mayor, appeared on opening night to name the outdoor theatre in Central Park the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater.  On October 24, 1979, C. Douglas Ramey died and was laid to rest in a small family cemetery in East Point.

The following year, Bekki Jo Schneider took over as Producing Director. Shakespeare in Central Park grew, funding increased, as well as staff support. In 1984, Shakespeare in Central Park was designated as the “Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth” by the Kentucky Legislature.

In 1985, C. Hal Park became the new Producing Director. In 1988, the amphitheater was redesigned, re-sloping it for drainage and creating 750 additional seats.

In 1989, Curt L. Tofteland became the fourth producer of Shakespeare in Central Park.  Shakespeare Alive! was created in 1990, bringing KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act)-based workshops to schools in the Kentucky and Southern Indiana area.

From the Page to the Stage was developed in 1991 in conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and was modeled on the Library’s highly acclaimed teacher training program. In 1993, both the Folger Library and the Kentucky Humanities Council recognized it as an exemplary program. With both education and summer season programming, Shakespeare in Central Park’s growth continued and, in 1992, a permanent stage house was built.

In 1995, Kentucky Shakespeare founded Shakespeare Behind Bars at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange. The program was designed as a drama-in-education program, encouraging the development of the interpersonal life skills that contribute to the inmates’ successful reintegration into society.  In 1997, Kentucky Shakespeare introduced a workshop entitled “Teaching Tolerance and Conflict Resolution” to address the clear need in schools for more accessible, more direct, hands-on, conflict resolution skill-building for our young people. The need for more exposure in the classroom to the arts and conflict resolution resulted in the creation of an artist-in-residency program, which assists teachers by incorporating performance-based teaching techniques into the core curriculum and daily classroom activities.

Adding to school tours, artist-in-residence programs and professional development, Kentucky Shakespeare would now engage youth in the Shakespeare Youth Academy (Camp Shakespeare) summer camps running concurrently with Shakespeare in Central Park.

In 2003, the Shakespeare in Central Park Festival was a recipient in the Governor’s Awards in the Arts for an Arts Education Organization.

Shakespeare Youth Academy soon expanded with multiple camps throughout the summer, reaching youth ages 5-18. In 2007 and 2008, Shakespeare Youth Academy was recognized as a finalist for the Excellence in Summer Learning Award at Johns Hopkins University.

Curt Tofteland retired in 2008.

From 2008-2009, Anthony Patton served as Producing Artistic Director and in 2010 Brantley Dunaway was appointed Producing Artistic Director.  On April 23, 2013, Kentucky Shakespeare reached its one millionth student at Fern Creek High School.  Dunaway served through the summer of 2013.

In August of 2013 the Board of Directors hired former Artistic Associate, 9-year veteran with the company, and Shakespeare Behind Bars Artistic Director Matt Wallace as Producing Artistic Director of Kentucky Shakespeare.

After his hiring, Matt Wallace took on a number of projects including refurbishing and expanding the stage stage floor at the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater, premiering Shakespeare in the Parks touring to 9 area Louisville Metro parks, and developing Shakespeare in Central Park to a summer-long festival.

The expanded summer season included producing 3 professional productions, 1 Globe Players high school theatre troupe production and presenting 4 Community Partners productions over 10 weeks and 56 total performances.  Shakespeare In Central Park was further expanded to include a partnership with the Louisville Food Truck Association and nightly pre-show entertainment presented by the community.  The 2014 season garnered recorded numbers with over 27,000 audience members.

The Education Department also set new records for number of schools visited, students served, workshops performed, and higher Camp Shakespeare enrollment all of which produced a boon to the overall bottom line of the company.

This allowed Wallace to expand the Education Department with the hire of a new Director of Education, Education Programs Manager, Artistic Associates, and several new Artist Educators.  These moves solidified the intention of Kentucky Shakespeare’s Education Department to reach for even higher goals in the upcoming years and solidify itself as the largest in-school arts provider in the Commonwealth.