Southern Shakespeare Festival
The Southern Shakespeare Festival occurs annually in Tallahassee, Florida. The festival's first incarnation existed from 1995–2000. In 2012 a group of scholars saw an opportunity to revive the free outdoor festival at the award winning Cascades Park.
The Southern Shakespeare Festival was founded by American entrepreneur Michael J Trout in November 1994 as the Florida Theater Project. In the summer of 1995, Michael Trout organized a touring company, led by David Klein. Words...Words...Words: An Evening of Shakespeare toured local theaters, regional high schools, and community arts centers. Trout then approached Florida State University Dean Emeritus Richard G. Fallon for his help to establish a free Shakespeare in the park festival, which Trout modeled after Joseph Papp's New York free Shakespeare-in-the-park. The Tallahassee festival and Renaissance fair ran from 1996–2000 as an open-air, free festival and Renaissance fair located in the downtown area behind Tallahassee's City Hall in Kleman Plaza.
The inaugural Shakespeare-in-the-park production in 1996, A Midsummer's Nights Dream, directed by Russian director Irina Brown, drew over 30,000 spectators according to the local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. It is recognized as one of the most successful free-theater festivals in Tallahassee with over 80,000 spectators and over 20,000 students benefitting from its educational programming during its 1996–2000 existence.
In 2012, the Southern Shakespeare Festival was revived thanks to Dr. Kevin Carr, Dr. Brent Griffin, and a dedicated group of Tallahassee theater artisans, most notably Laura W. Johnson, Catherine Leonard, and Lanny Thomas. The Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park is the new home of the revitalized festival and appropriately, its first production, which ran April 17–19, 2015, was A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Lanny Thomas, and starring special guest AEA artist Jef Canter as Nick Bottom.
- 1995 Southern Shakespeare Festival Touring Company. Words... Words... Words...: An Evening of Shakespeare, written and directed by David Klein
- 1996 A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Irina Brown and starring UK actor Jack Klaff, Wil Johnson, and US actress Jennifer Harper.
- 1997 The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Ian Wooldridge, starring Wil Johnson and Brigid Zengeni
- 1998 As You Like It
- 1999 Merry Wives of Windsor
- 2000 The Tempest (last production of the original festival)
- 2015 A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring Jef Canter and Laura W. Johnson
- 2016 A Comedy of Errors, directed by Lanny Thomas and starring Melanie Mays
- 2017 As You Like It, directed by Lanny Thomas and starring Terry Wells, Devon Glover (the Sonnet Man), and Laura W. Johnson
- 2018 Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Richey and starring Renée O'Connor, Miles Muir, Melanie Applegate, and Terry Wells
Media Articles Include
- Rise of Southern Shakespeare Festival—Montgomery Advertiser, Sunday Nov. 22, 1998
- Relationship Advice from Ol`Will—Break Magazine, May 7–13, 1997
- Southern Shakespeare Festival to Return in 2015—Tallahassee Democrat, Friday, June 6, 2014
- A Look at the Music of Shakespeare—WFSU, January 30, 2015
- Tallahassee’s Shakespeare Revival—Tallahassee Magazine, March–April 2015
- Laura Johnson helps re-set the stage for Shakespeare—Tallahassee Democrat, Wednesday, March 18, 2015
- Southern Shakespeare Festival Presents A Midsummer Night's Dream—Tallahassee Downtown
Local Government Support
The Southern Shakespeare Festival is greatly supported by local and state government organizations including the City of Tallahassee, Leon County Tourist Development Council, Council of Cultural Arts (COCA), State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, with strong partnerships with Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College.
Founding Board Members
Richard G. Fallon, Dean Minardi, June Strauss, Michael J. Trout, Tina Campbell, Janet Hinkle, and Sue Dick.