OUR THANKS AND INFORMATION ON THE FUTURE OF THE FESTIVAL
The Department of Theatre, Speech & Dance at the College of William and Mary has decided to suspend operations of the main performance season of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival for the coming three years. Our very popular education program, known as the Young Shakespeare Camps, are planned to be offered during the summer and even likely expanded to meet the demand. VSF experienced a precipitous 23% drop in attendance this past summer, and that, when combined with a consistent decline since 2009 that has seen the loss of 56% of our previous audience and the scheduled closure of Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall for renovations in May of 2018, has caused the department to take this time to re-evaluate what summer theatre it might offer. This may well be part of a larger shift in overall audience interests that has seen the closure of the main Shakespeare festivals in Georgia and North Carolina in the past 5 years.
The Virginia Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1978 by members of the department following the closure of the outdoor drama "The Common Glory" in 1975. It produced 38 seasons of live professional theatre in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall and launched the theatrical careers of many William & Mary students. During that time it presented all but 5 of Shakespeare's canon of plays as well as two original musical versions of Pericles and Twelfth Night. The department will look toward the re-opening of a renovated PBK Memorial Hall as the stimulus for launching of a new summer theatre program. We thank you, our patrons, for your many years of support of the festival's operations and its mission to bring classic professional theatre to the Tidewater area. Producing Artistic Director Christopher Owens commented that "the Department of Theatre, Speech & Dance - the governing body of the festival - took a hard look at the future and the options available to us given the realities of mounting major productions in Williamsburg at this time. I concur with their overwhelming vote to suspend main stage production of a Shakespeare-based company and will work with all of the rest of the faculty to re-evaluate what we might offer to our community in the future. I am pleased that our education program will likely remain, at least for the upcoming summer, as its popularity and impact upon the many hundreds of young people it has introduced to Shakespeare is a source of great pride."
Again, our thanks for your past patronage. We will still be seeking support and hiring for our education program, whose registration window opens February 15, 2017 for camps occurring in June and July of 2017 - much upon the same model as in past years, with an additional week now scheduled to meet that demand.