A Shakespeare festival is a theatre organization that stages the works of William Shakespeare on an ongoing basis.
The word "Shakespeare festival" may have originated from the professional company operating out of Stratford-upon-Avon in the late 19th century. From 1886 to 1919, Frank Benson directed 28 spring and six summer "Shakespeare festivals" at the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford.
In 1935 the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or OSF, was founded in Ashland, Oregon, USA. Originally named the "Oregon Shakespearean Festival"; the name was changed in 1988. Angus L. Bowmer, founder of OSF, wrote in 1954 that Shakespeare Festivals have in common the following attributes: 1) established firmly in one place; 2) repertoire (staging a variety of Shakespeare plays) and 3) a physical stage similar to that used in Shakespeare's lifetime. According to Bowmer, the inspiration for Elizabethan staging of contemporary Shakespeare productions came from William Poel, an English director who organized the Elizabethan Stage Society in London in the early 20th century. His concepts of Elizabethan staging were brought to North America by Ben Iden Payne.
Other early Shakespeare festivals in North America staged on replicas of the Globe Theatre include the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (1937) and the Hofstra Shakespeare Festival, launched at Hofstra University in 1950. The American Shakespeare Theatre operated on a festival stage in Stratford, Connecticut, United States from 1955 to the 1980s.
Arthur Lithgow, father of actor John Lithgow, founded the "Antioch Shakespeare Festival" (also known as Shakespeare Under the Stars") at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1952. In its five years of existence, the Festival performed the entire Shakespeare canon. In 1953, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival was founded in the Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario, with Tyrone Guthrie as the festival's first Artistic Director. The New York Shakespeare Festival in New York City (now known as The Public Theater) has produced Free Shakespeare shows since 1955.
- "Shakespeare For All Time", by Stanley Wells, 2002; pg. 321
- Oregon Shakespearean Association Fourteenth Season program, 1954, pg 3-4
- "History". The Old Globe. 1937-12-02. Archived from the original on 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "The Hofstra Shakespeare Festival - Drama and Dance - Hofstra University". Hofstra.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "Cleveland Centennial: Antioch Shakespeare Festival". Clevelandcentennial.blogspot.com. 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "Yellow Springs News Online". Ysnews.com. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- "Public Theater". Public Theater. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, based in Conway, Arkansas