Inspired by the egalitarian nature of the New York Shakespeare Festival, Robert “Bob” Glenn started The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas in 1971 as a free summer Shakespeare Festival. The company serves the community as one of North Texas’ most treasured cultural institutions and the area’s only producer of an education program focused on teaching Shakespeare.
In 2005, the company revamped its operations and branded the organization “Shakespeare Dallas” to illustrate the company’s new direction of year-round, affordable and accessible programming. Operating under a five-year strategic plan entitled “Stability and Strength”, Shakespeare Dallas aspires to use the works of William Shakespeare as a catalyst for creating unparalleled artistic and educational programs that are meaningful and enriching for the community it serves throughout North Texas. Shakespeare Dallas accomplishes its mission through the following programs: Shakespeare in the Park outdoor productions, Shakespeare on the Go! education programs for grades 3 – 12 and Shakespeare Unplugged programs for individuals 18 and over.
The core of the company’s programs, Shakespeare in the Park, started in 1971 with a one-man version of Hamlet. Over the years this summer tradition continued to grow in popularity and the company added a second production in its third year. From 1973 until 2004, the company produced two Shakespeare productions each summer in Dallas. In 2001, the company started its eventual transformation into a year-round producing organization when the Town of Addison, nationally recognized for its stellar outdoor events, invited Shakespeare Dallas to perform in their popular Addison Circle Park. By 2005, the company expanded its Shakespeare in the Park season to include a third title and a fall season in both Dallas and Addison.
Shakespeare on the Go!, the in-school learning component of Shakespeare Dallas’ programs, began in 1984. Since its inception, the program has served over 500,000 students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. At first, Shakespeare on the Go! was a one-size fits all arts-in-education tour that took Shakespeare in the school system for grades 3 – 12. Today, the program boasts 2 age-specific tours, master classes and residencies.
The company’s adult outreach program, Shakespeare Unplugged, completes the company’s mission to serve a diverse community of adults and artists through all of its programs. Formally added to the company in 2006, this initiative brings Shakespeare’s works into clearer focus through staged readings, pre-performance lectures and artist training.
From one free performance of Hamlet in 1971 to three Shakespeare in the Park productions, two producing seasons, an age-specific learning program with three components and a newly developed outreach program, Shakespeare Dallas solidified its reputation as one of North Texas’ most valued and vital cultural treasures.