Grounded in the works of Shakespeare, we enrich communities through accessible, inclusive, professional theatre experiences that educate, inspire, and entertain diverse audiences.


To use Shakespeare’s truths and the power of the arts to transform lives.
Shakespeare belongs to everyone.

About Us

Kentucky Shakespeare serves communities through the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, education programs for schools, public performances, and community outreach programs. Entering its 64th season, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Central Park is the longest-running free, non-ticketed Shakespeare festival in the United States. As the most comprehensive in-school arts education provider in the Commonwealth, Kentucky Shakespeare serves schools throughout the region with interactive educational programming directly tied to academic standards, helping impact student achievement. Our many community programs explore conflict resolution, empathy building, and communication, in a range of settings from preschools to senior centers.

Check out this Arts Impact Award video for a quick overview:


What we do:

  • PERFORMANCES: Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, Shakespeare in the Parks tour, Shakespeare in the Libraries tour, Indoor productions during the year
  • EDUCATION PERFORMANCE AND WORKSHOP TOUR 23-24:  Two-Actor Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare Alive!, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Spring Tour, Voice of Social Change: Ira Aldridge, Living History: We the People, Living History: Kentucky History, Bard Buddies, Fairy Tales from Around the World, Hip-Hop Shakespeare, Conflict Resolution and Anti-Bullying, Acting Fundamentals, Stage Combat, Staging Shakespeare, Renaissance Dance, Discovering Shakespeare, Mathematics of Shakespearean Design, and Voices of Young Women 
  • CAMPS AND CLASSES: Camp Shakespeare, Shakespeare Off the Page, Stage Combat, Improv
  • COMMUNITY PROGRAMS: Shakespeare with Veterans, Juvenile Justice Arts Program, Shakespeare with Immigrants and Refugees, Survivorship Shakespeare with those impacted by cancer, Community Creates: Brave Spirits program for LGBTQ+ teens, Community Creates: Down Syndrome of Louisville, and other community residencies

Kentucky Shakespeare has been recognized by the Folger Library and the Kentucky Humanities Council for exemplary programming, is a multiyear recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Shakespeare in American Communities program, and is a past recipient of the Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts. Kentucky Shakespeare has been awarded multiple LEO Weekly Reader’s Choice Awards, Broadway World Louisville Regional Awards, the 2015 Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Art of Vision Pyramid Award, the 2017 Louisville Awards in the Arts Bobby Petrino Family Foundation Arts Impact Award, and the 2019 Arts for All Kentucky Community Partner Award for arts inclusion work with people with disabilities.

Land Acknowledgement

Kentucky Shakespeare acknowledges we are situated on the traditional land of the Adena, Hopewell, Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and ᎠᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East) people. We respect their enduring presence and historical stewardship of these lands.

Anti-Racism Statement

As artists and educators, we are committed to holding the “mirror up to nature,” while creating a safe and welcoming space at our performances, in the community, and in the classroom.

We recognize racism and inequality in our community and the country, and we commit ourselves to anti-racism. We believe that Black lives matter.

We commit to outreach and inclusion of people of all abilities, races, creeds, religions, genders, and sexual identities.

We acknowledge that we are a non-profit arts organization grounded in the works of Shakespeare and commit to exploring Shakespeare’s truths while never losing sight of the fact that not all experiences emanate from a white European vantage point.

We commit to deeply listening to our BIPOC community members, within and outside of our organization. We commit to learning, never being satisfied, and creating positive change – proactively committing our efforts and resources to building anti-racist, inclusive, equitable, and empathetic spaces and experiences for all.

Cultural Equity Statement


Company History

  • 1949 – C. Douglas Ramey founds The Carriage House Players, named for the building at 310 W. Kentucky. They begin as a theatre workshop, teaching students acting, voice, diction and playwriting, as well as the history of theatre. The first play presented by the class was Cry Havoc.
  • 1950 – The Carriage House Players relocate to 1011 South Fifth Street, continuing classes and theatrical production.
  • 1952 – The Carriage House Players incorporates.
  • 1953 – The Carriage House Players produce their first Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew on April 23.
  • 1961 – The company performs some scenes from Much Ado About Nothing at art show in Central Park.
  • 1961 – The company presents the first Shakespeare Festival, with productions of Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Othello.
  • 1962 – The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park incorporates.
  • 1962 – C. Douglas Ramey creates Students for Shakespeare, the first statewide Shakespeare education tour to schools and presents four-production season in Central Park with Othello, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, and Macbeth.
  • 1975 – C. Douglas Ramey directs his last play, Macbeth.
  • 1976 – Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane appears on opening night to proclaim the outdoor theater in Central Park the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater.
  • 1977 – The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park honors C. Douglas Ramey with a bronze plaque in Central Park.
  • 1980 – Bekki Jo Schneider is hired as Producing Director following the passing of C. Douglas Ramey.
  • 1984 – The Kentucky Legislature designates Shakespeare in Central Park the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth.
  • 1985 – Hal Park is hired as Producing Director.
  • 1988 – The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park  redesigns the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater, re-sloping it for drainage and creating 750 additional seats.
  • 1989 – Curt L. Tofteland is hired as Producing Artistic Director.
  • 1990 –The Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park changes its name to Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Inc.
  • 1990 – Kentucky Shakespeare Festival creates Shakespeare Alive!, bringing KERA (Kentucky Educational Reform Act)-based workshops to schools in the Kentucky and Southern Indiana area.
  • 1991– Kentucky Shakespeare Festival develops From the Page to the Stage in conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and is modeled in the Library’s highly acclaimed teacher training program.
  • 1992 – The C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater receives a permanent stage house, designed by Paul Owen.
  • 1993 – The Folger Shakespeare Library and the Kentucky Humanities Council recognize From the Page to the Stage as an exemplary program.
  • 1995 – Curt Tofteland creates Shakespeare Behind Bars with Dr. Julie Barto as a program of Kentucky Shakespeare Festival within the Psychology Department at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky. The program encourages the development of the interpersonal life skills that contribute to the inmates’ successful reintegration into society.
  • 1997 – Kentucky Shakespeare Festival introduces 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.
  • 1997 – Adding to school tours, artists-in-residence programs and professional development, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival engages youth in Camp Shakespeare, summer camps running concurrent with Shakespeare in Central Park.
  • 2003 – Kentucky Shakespeare Festival receives the Governor’s Award in the Arts for an Arts Education Organization.
  • 2003 – Shakespeare Behind Bars, a documentary by Philomath Films based on the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, is selected for its world premiere at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
  • 2007 – Shakespeare Youth Academy (Camp Shakespeare) expands with multiple camps throughout the summer for ages 5-18. The program is recognized for two years as a finalist from the Excellence in Summer Learning Award at John’s Hopkins University.
  • 2008 – The National Endowment for the Arts selects Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s Juvenile Justice Program to receive a three-year grant.
  • 2008 – Curt Tofteland retires. Anthony Patton is hired as Producing Artistic Director. Curt Tofteland appoints Matt Wallace as the Artistic Director/Facilitator of the Shakespeare Behind Bars program at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex.
  • 2010 – Brantley Dunaway is hired as Producing Artistic Director.
  • 2010 – To incorporate the breadth of the diverse work of the company, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Inc. rebrands and files for assumed not-for-profit corporation name of Kentucky Shakespeare.
  • 2010 – Kentucky Shakespeare Board of Directors gives permission for Shakespeare Behind Bars to branch out as separate not-for-profit. Curt Tofteland, Matt Wallace, and Holly Stone partner to form a new not-for-profit Shakespeare Behind Bars, Inc. (Shakespeare Behind Bars continues to facilitate multiple programs for the incarcerated in Kentucky and Michigan.)
  • 2013 – Kentucky Shakespeare’s education program serves its one-millionth child at Fern Creek Traditional High School on April 23.
  • 2013 – Matt Wallace is hired as Kentucky Shakespeare’s seventh Producing Artistic Director.
  • 2014 – Kentucky Shakespeare expands summer festival to 10-week, 8-production, 54-performance season in Central Park serving a record 27,000+ audience members.
  • 2014 – New Shakespeare in the Parks program debuts, touring to multiple area parks outside Central Park and Shakespeare in the Libraries, touring to all 18 Louisville Free Public Library branches.
  • 2015 – Capital campaign funds the design, creation and installation of new lighting truss and installation of 135 permanent, in-ground benches installed in C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater.  Kentucky Shakespeare receives Center for Nonprofit Excellence Pyramid Award of Excellence Art of Vision Award.
  • 2016 – Kentucky Shakespeare produces first indoor winter production, Twelfth Night in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Bomhard Theatre and first indoor fall production, Titus Andronicus in Butchertown. After 24 years, the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater stage house is taken down due to safety and structural concerns. Designer Paul Owen creates new stage design incorporating natural beauty of Central Park.
  • 2019 – 59th season dedicated in memory of former Producing Director Bekki Jo Schneider. Intern program formally named The Bekki Jo Schneider Intern Company.
  • 2021 – Kentucky Shakespeare moves into new headquarters at 616 Myrtle Street in Old Louisville, renovating and repurposing an 8,000 square foot building near Central Park. The new home houses Kentucky Shakespeare’s offices, costume shop, and rehearsal hall/community space, with a storage warehouse next door.

2022-2023 Season in Review

Kentucky Shakespeare GuideStar

Contact us for audited financial statements