Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
Kentucky Shakespeare offers a world of opportunity for actors, educators and showgoers to experience the imaginative world of the theatre. We strive to convey the excitement and ingenuity that lived in the mind of the brilliant playwright with inspired performances, unique learning opportunities and enchanting shows that allow our patrons to take a creative voyage through the ages.
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 first play presented by the class was Cry Havoc. The next year, The Carriage House Players relocated to 1011 South Fifth St., continuing their classes and play production. In 1952, the Carriage House Players were incorporated. The focus of Ramey’s work with the players was classical theatre. The Carriage House Players became known for their “theatre-in-the-round” and were the first repertory theatre in Louisville. They performed in various locations—even a season at a South End restaurant—becoming one of the first dinner theatres in the country. 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 first production 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. 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.
Then in 1966, city funding was greatly reduced. There was talk of whether or not Shakespeare in Central Park would survive. Thanks to the Governor and a benefit by Mitch Ryan, the summer season continued, but the quality was not there. Ramey was trying to produce theatre without a staff to support him. The next few years would be a long struggle for Ramey and the Committee for Shakespeare in Central Park. In 1975, Ramey directed his last play, Macbeth. From this point on guest directors would be needed each season, as Ramey’s health was declining.
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. In 1977, a bronze plaque was erected in honor of the man responsible for its creation. Thanks to the city and county, funding increased. Shakespeare in Central Park remained, but still faced many setbacks. One event was devastating: rain washed out the hillside terrain when an architect slanted the area in the wrong direction. On October 24, 1979, C. Douglas Ramey died. The man who gave his life and health to Shakespeare now lies in a small family cemetery in East Point.
The following year, Bekki Jo Schneider took over as Producing Director. Shakespeare in Central Park grew, slowly. 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. Once again, the Kentucky Shakespeare was nearly bankrupt, but Kentucky Shakespeare decided to continue with one of Ramey’s dreams: bringing Shakespeare to Kentucky schools. 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 the 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 Shakespeare Youth Academy (AKA 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 Behind Bars, a documentary by Philomath Films based on Kentucky Shakespeare’s program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, was selected for its world premiere at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
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.
In 2010, Brantley M. Dunaway was announced as the Producing Artistic Director. In January 2011, he launched an international collaboration with Canada’s National Voice Intensive, ushering in the inaugural year of the National Performance & Voice Institute. The program not only caters to the working actor and director (stage and screen), but also has a primary goal of “teaching teachers to teach the arts.” Dunaway began planning the first paid production for Kentucky Shakespeare since 1960 and is expanding the productions to year-round programming.
Since the inception of our current education programs, we have served nearly a million students in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties, as well as in Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Educational Programming 
Since 1990, Kentucky Shakespeare has made the works of Shakespeare accessible for more than half a million kindergarten through twelfth grade students in all 120 counties of Kentucky as well as parts of Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Kentucky Shakespeare believes, 'Exposing students to the arts opens a world of appreciation and understanding that ultimately leads to better learning. Kentucky Shakespeare is the largest in-school arts education organization in the Commonwealth, visiting more than 75,000 students each year. It is through our performances, programs, residencies and teacher engagement opportunities that we are helping bring a new educational approach to the leaders of tomorrow.'
Camp Shakespeare 
Programs consist of high quality theatre instruction combined with competitions, games, and activities designed to excite our campers. Summers often include field trips and will culminate in an invited performance, or ‘Share Day,’ for family and friends showcasing what the campers have been working on during their session.
Philosophy: To engage our campers in the arts, nurturing creativity, and building self-confidence in all aspects of their lives. Our hope is to instill a love of the arts in our campers, influencing future endeavors into any avenue of the arts.
Production History 
See also 
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