Festival in financial trouble - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Festival in financial trouble

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Kentucky's Shakespeare Festival's "Much Ado About Nothing" is really something.

It is the very first play the company ever performed and you may never see Shakespeare done as a spaghetti western again.

Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, Kentuckiana may never see Kentucky's Shakespeare Festival again.

The festival is 53 years old, making it the oldest free Shakespeare Festival in the United States.

Producing Artistic Director Brantley Dunaway said, "It's a kind of magic that doesn't exist anymore, except here in Kentuckiana."

Dunaway was excited about his new position with the festival. He loved the group, the Louisville culture and the community.  Like a scene out of a Broadway love story it was perfect. 

Then, at one of his first events, a woman who worked with the festival gave him a closer look at the festival's budget.  Her exact words, "We literally didn't know if we were going to make payroll until we finished our t-shirt sales."

They began to sell t-shirts because they could not pay the bills. After speaking to five or six of the past festival presidents, he found this had been the norm for awhile. Looking over the books he questioned why nothing in the budget had changed in 17 years.

Dunaway said they had to ask themselves if they thought the festival was something Louisville wanted.

He and the actors believed the answer was yes. The company and staff believe this so fervently they will forgo getting paid this week, giving their paychecks back to the company to keep it running for another week. 

It is almost impossible for the festival to struggle anymore than it is in this economy. The festivals had deep cuts in government funding. Dunaway explained, "It's gone from $100,000. Last year we got $5,000."

In the beginning, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival was fully funded by the neighborhood associations who founded it. Dunaway said, "From the local neighborhood associations this year we received $1,100."

Most of the actors travel great distances to be a part of the festival, at no charge it is accessible and open to all, but Dunaway said, "We literally go day by day and week by week just to be here."

Dunaway knows why they're in trouble.  Now he just needs to know who will help them write a happy ending.

The board of directors has given the festival notice that it will not continue unless it is fully funded.

The festivals will run through July 29.

To help or not to help?  Hopefully you don't have to ask this question. To learn more try this site:kyshakespeare.com.

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