Shakespeare Festival to debut next summer

For the TCU theatre department, summer without Shakespeare just didn’t seem sweet.

“A community that is as rich in culture and fine arts as Fort Worth, it needs to have a professional Shakespeare company,” said Harry Parker, theatre department chair. “It’s really a dearth.”

Parker and associate theatre professor T. J. Walsh hope to help fill that void with the June 2009 debut of the Trinity Shakespeare Festival at TCU.

“Our goal is to do Shakespeare professionally, and do it well,” said Walsh, the project’s artistic director. “If we do that, this festival can last a long, long time.”

Allied Theatre Group at Stage West brought the Bard to local audiences every summer via the city’s Shakespeare in the Park program. However, the 25-year-old series folded before the 2002 season due to a lack of public funding, the group’s spokesman Jerry Russell wrote in an e-mail.

This latest take on the Shakespeare summer program is made possible by a grant from the university’s Vision in Action fund, which allocates money to programs that will enhance TCU’s academic profile. Walsh said the university will provide a total of $272,000 to cover production costs during the festival’s first and second year.

“The festival wouldn’t happen if we hadn’t secured the grant,” said Parker, who will act as the event’s managing director. “If we sold every ticket possible for every performance in the summer of 2009, it wouldn’t even come close to meeting our expenses.”

Parker said money from the grant will cover the price tag of hiring professional actors, directors and designers to work alongside TCU theatre students in producing two of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” The actors will perform the shows in repertory, meaning the same cast will perform in both shows on alternating nights. Saturdays will feature a matinee and an evening show, so theatergoers have the option of seeing both shows in one day. Tickets are expected to sell for about $20.

Anticipation is already building for the festival’s debut.

“People kept asking us when the Shakespeare festival was going to come back,” Walsh said. “It’s tradition. He’s considered the greatest writer in the English language and he needs to be seen.”