Nashville Shakespeare Festival

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The mission of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival is to educate and entertain the Mid-South community through professional Shakespearean experiences.[1]


The Nashville Shakespeare Festival started as the political theatre group Theatrevolution.[2]

Theatrevolution was started by theatre director Chambers Stevens, community organizer Ty Brown, Brenda Fowinkle. and Donald Capparella, (who is still on the board today) as a way to raise awareness of current political issues. After their first production of The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer, which dealt with the AIDS crisis, the company started to work with the State of Tennessee, dramatizing social issues for the judicial system.[3]

Anxious to get back to their theatrical roots, in 1988 Theatrevolution decided to produce a free Shakespeare play in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee.[4][5][6] Chambers Stevens, Chuck Guy, Ty Brown and Brenda Fowinkle founded and incorporated the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, whose first production was As You Like It by William Shakespeare and opened in the rain on August 5, 1988. Clara Hieronymus, the critic for the Tennessean gave the production a rave review after watching the entire show holding an umbrella.[7] That summer, more than 1,000 audience members attended the six performances, and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival was born. Each summer 10,000 to 15,000 audience members attend the Festival’s annual Shakespeare in the Park production at Centennial Park (Nashville), which is designed to be accessible to people from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Since 1988, 200,000 people have attended Shakespeare in the Park. These fully staged, professional productions are presented free of charge to the public.

In 1992, in response to the need for an arts-in-education program in the Metropolitan Nashville public schools, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival developed a series of fifty-minute versions of Shakespeare’s best-known works as “Shakespeare Samplers.” These abridged productions toured to middle and high schools throughout the state as well as regional colleges and universities. Over 150,000 students – many of whom have never experienced live theatre before – have been introduced to Shakespeare. These tours have led to partnerships with the Nashville Institute for the Arts and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Humanities Outreach in Tennessee, which assisted the Festival in producing other classics such as The Belle of Amherst, The Little Prince, and Rip Van Winkle to supplement the company’s Shakespearean offerings.

In 2006, the Festival performed Macbeth for 23,000 people through Shakespeare in the Park, TPAC’s HOT program, and in rural Tennessee with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In the 2006-2007 school year, the Festival reached an additional 3,000 students and community members through arts-in-education workshops and in-residence programs, including a professionally directed student production of Julius Caesar, performed by a diverse group of high school students from across Middle Tennessee.

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival hosted the 2007 Conference of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, which brought over one hundred professional Shakespeare producers from around the world to Nashville. In 2008, the Bill & Carole Troutt Theater at Belmont University began to house the winter productions; here it offers school matinees and public performances of its annual Winter Shakespeare production. The Festival also offers workshops for businesses and adult groups, including certified CLE workshops for lawyers. With the goal of reading every one of Shakespeare's plays out loud in a public forum, NSF partnered with the Nashville Public Library for the "Shakespeare Allowed!" program. The readings happen on the first Saturday of each month and the complete canon will have been read by November 2011. In January 2012, they will start back at the beginning and read them all again, one play a month, until February 2015.


  • Theater performances
  • Programs related to performances
  • Performances in schools
  • Other programs in schools
  • Workshops
  • Theater Classes for adults and children
  • Annual Shakespeare in the Park production
  • Winter Shakespeare at the Troutt Theater at Belmont University
  • In-school workshops Statewide production and workshop tours.[8]
  • Shakespeare Allowed![9]


Shakespeare in Centennial Park[edit]

Winter Shakespeare at Troutt Theater[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Nashville Banner, Dec 1st, 1986. Written by Julie Macpherson
  3. ^ The Sunday Tennessean, November 30, 1986 by Clara Hieronymus
  4. ^ August 1–5, Nashville Business Journal by Angela Wibking
  5. ^ Nashville Banner, August 1st, 1988 by Beth Monin
  6. ^ The Tennessean, June 25, 1988
  7. ^ The Tennessean, August 6, 1988 by Clara Hieronymus
  8. ^
  9. ^