Shakespeare Festival back on track with new leader - News, Weather & Sports

Shakespeare Festival back on track with new leader

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Just one year ago, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival was seeing more drama off stage than on, as its former director faced serious money and legal issues. Friday night, the theatre company celebrated its 54th season of Shakespeare in Central Park.

Thanks to new leadership and support from community donors, the theatre company says it's financially stable and even breaking records.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Kentucky Shakespeare CEO resigns]

Seventeen actors impress on stage at Central Park for the opening night of Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. For a while, fans of the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the U.S. were a little worried the Kentucky festival would become one of the state's greatest tragedies.

"We just came in with this spirit of we're going to do theatre and were going to do it the way we want to do it," said summer sound intern Alex Cooper.

Interns like Cooper have enthusiasm for the new season. That's because there's no evidence of the financial and personnel problems that extended through part of 2013.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Shakespeare in the Park cancels performances]

Former Director Brantley Dunaway was accused of financial mismanagement and verbal harassment of his staff. 

He resigned in 2013 after being accused of domestic abuse by his wife, an actress with the company.

"That's why I reached out and said is there something I can do, I'd like to apply for this job," said current Producing Artistic Director Matt Wallace who replaced Dunaway in August of 2013.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Festival in financial trouble]

Wallace, a former staffer who was emotionally invested in the company, financially came to the rescue.   He told us, "I reached out to these donors and I said I'm going to be a steward of your generosity."

Wallace also began marketing the festival's education programs, booking shows at schools to help pay the $200,000 needed for the theatre salaries. Now food trucks and a gift shop are also part of every show. According to longtime sound designer Michael Boso, the hire of Wallace has made all the difference.

"He has been a person who exemplifies to lead with caring and attention to detail," Boso said.

The company is breaking audience records this summer and has unprecedented support in donations.  The fans couldn't be happier. 

"I came here as a child and I absolutely loved it as a child," said Jocelyn Kirk so the fact that they are revitalizing it makes me really excited to see."

Recently Dunaway, the controversial former director filed suit against the company claiming he's owed a bonus of $100,000.

Wallace says the company is not worried about his claims.

To find out more about the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival go to

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