Houston Shakespeare Festival History
Since it's inception in 1975, the Houston Shakespeare Festival has grown into one of the major events on Houston 's summer entertainment calendar, attracting more than 450,000 people in its recent history. Festival audiences are quite a mix of people. They are able to experience, perhaps for the first time, the excitement of live theatre in an era when entertainment costs are often prohibitive to many.
Prior to the establishment of the Festival, the fully equipped, city-supported Miller Outdoor Theatre boasted an impressive list of classical and jazz concerts, ballets, and operas in its schedule of free entertainment.
Spoken drama was conspicuously missing.
In 1975, Sidney Berger, then Director of the School of Theatre at the University of Houston , met with university administrators and the Miller Theatre Advisory Council to enlist support for a two-production season of Shakespeare's works to be played in repertory on Miller Theatre's bill.
The trial season was greeted with enthusiasm. Audience sizes exceeded expectations, and letters of appreciation from private citizens and city officials were sent to the University's administration. In this unique collaboration between a city and a university, the works of the greatest playwright in our civilization's history could be produced on a sustained and professional basis.
Funding sources and audiences have grown in successive seasons. In addition to a budget appropriation, the University of Houston provides rehearsal space, offices, scenery and costume shops, as well as personnel in the areas of administration and development. There is now a Festivals Company Board of Directors whose interests also include the Children's Theatre Festival.
For many seasons, HSF engaged a number of Actors' Equity Association Guest Artists. In 1989, the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts awarded a special grant so that HSF could enter into a seasonal agreement with AEA.
Associations with other related organizations continue. Sidney Berger is co-founder and a past president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, an organization uniting all Shakespearean theatres in North America. Its mission is to act as a forum for the exchange of ideas and resources relating to the production of Shakespeare's plays. Also active is HSF's affiliation with Shakespeare Globe. One of this organization's goals was to reconstruct the Globe Theatre as close to its original site as possible in London, an objective that is now realized. HSF also sponsors Shakespeare Outreach, which presents programs and residencies free to schools and other institutions throughout the city.