Free theater! In Central Park, centrally located in Old Louisville! What could be better? Well, it's a great Louisville organization producing work by The Bard himself.
Where do I get tickets?
You don't need tickets to attend a performance. There are no tickets and there is no cost for admission. This is true of every production over the 10-week summer season! This is possible because Kentucky Shakespeare has received funding from sponsors and accepts donations.
Some of this sponsorship is evident. For example, Brown-Forman adult beverages are available for purchase but outside alcohol is not permitted. Brown-Forman—one of the large bourbon distillers in Kentucky—is a major sponsor for several cultural organizations in Louisville.
Has Kentucky Shakespeare been around long?
Founded in 1949, Kentucky Shakespeare is the oldest, free Shakespeare festival in the United States. It is the Official Shakespeare Company of the Commonwealth.
But, like any organization with a long history, Kentucky Shakespeare has gone through a lot. After a scandalous summer in 2013 that ended with cancelled shows, the festival popped back as one of the biggest summer draws in Louisville. Admirable, the summer attraction has always been, and remains, FREE! There is seating, but with large crowds now interested in the performances, some bring blankets and find spots to the side of the seating area as well.
Kentucky Shakespeare productions begin in late May. A late spring start means families can attend once the school year wraps up, before starting camps and going on summer vacations. Plus, families and couples attending the shows can enjoy weather that isn't as hot and the tumultuous storms of summer (which normally take place in August) can hopefully be avoided.
Lately, Kentucky Shakespeare has been such a success they have staged indoor works, too. In January, 2016, Kentucky Shakespeare produced its first indoor winter production, Twelfth Night. The production, sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, was at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Bomhard Theatre.
If you are seeking something to talk about while waiting for the show to start, here are a few fun facts from the Kentucky Shakespeare website:
- The founder of KY Shakespeare, C. Douglas Ramey, was born in Eastern Kentucky, and is buried in the small town of East Point.
- In 1962, Doug Ramey began the Students For Shakespeare program, which evolved into the first statewide Shakespeare education tour to schools, Shakespeare Comes to Kentucky Schools.
- In 1984, Shakespeare in Central Park: The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, was designated as the “Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth” by the Kentucky Legislature.
- In 2003, KY Shakespeare was the recipient of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts for an Arts Education Organization.
More About Kentucky Shakespeare
"Designated the Official Shakespeare Company of the Commonwealth, Kentucky Shakespeare serves over 107,000 annually through the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Central Park in the summer, educational outreach touring programs, and special community programming throughout the year. Other programs include Camp Shakespeare, annual Shakespeare in the Parks tour, Shakespeare in the Libraries tour serving all Louisville Free Public Libraries, and community center residencies. Kentucky Shakespeare has served over 1,000,000 students with in-school arts programs since its inception in 1990 in all 120 Kentucky counties and surrounding states.
Kentucky Shakespeare has been recognized by the Folger Library and the Kentucky Humanities Council for exemplary programming, was a finalist for the Excellence in Summer Learning Award at John Hopkins University, is a multi-year 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 also been awarded multiple LEO Weekly Reader’s Choice and Broadway World Louisville Regional Awards. Kentucky Shakespeare is the 2015 recipient of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Art of Vision Pyramid Award."