You may love Derby or IdeaFestival or even Forecastle Festival and consider that time “your time of year.” But for fans of the Bard of Avon, Kentucky Shakespeare’s summer season is once again the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Last year, artistic director Matt Wallace brought the festival back from the brink after a long period of the company’s mismanagement. Not only did the festival return, it came back in a blaze of artistic glory with more performances, community partners and ambitious fundraising.
More than 27,000 people visited the festival last year. This year is the 55th summer season of free Shakespeare in Central Park and features seven productions throughout 10 weeks totaling 59 performances.
The season kicks off on Thursday, June 4, with “The Tempest,” directed by Wallace. That play will run for two weeks and is followed by “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by Amy Attaway, starting June 19. Two weeks after that is “MacBeth,” directed by Wallace, starting July 3.
The three productions will run again in rotating repertory from July 14-26, with all three being performed in a single night on July 25.
Kentucky Shakespeare also will present “The Comedy of Errors” by their Globe Players high school theater conservatory, directed by Kyle Ware (director of education), which opens on July 29 and runs through Aug. 2.
Also in June, Kentucky Shakespeare will preview the Greek comedy “The Birds” by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Greg Maupin, as a 7 p.m. pre-show on June 10-11 in Central Park; it then will be performed at the Greek Fest on June 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. and June 14 at 4 p.m. Note that this year, the Greek Fest has moved to a new location — Festival Plaza next to Joe’s Crab Shack.
“Late Night Shakes,” an improvised Shakespeare play performed by the Louisville Improvisors, will follow the regular productions on June 27, July 11 and 18 at 10:30 p.m.
The season concludes with Community Partners Week Aug. 4-9, which showcases two local theater companies performing Shakespeare-inspired works by local playwrights. The Bard’s Town Theatre presents “Chasing Ophelia” by Doug Schutte, and Theatre  presents the world premiere of “The Two Lobbyists of Verona” by Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds.
“We’ve worked hard this year to further improve the audience experience,” says Wallace. “Following last season’s sound system upgrade, this season we’ve completed major projects, such as a new lighting truss and installing 135 new, permanent in-ground benches, thanks to many generous donors. If you’ve never been, we invite you to experience the festival. If you’re returning, you’re going to experience it like never before.”
When Insider emailed Kentucky Shakespeare’s director of operations and marketing this morning, Rob Silverthorn III (that’s a name Ol’ Will would have been proud of), he told us the “first bench went into the ground 30 minutes ago.”
Every night the park will host food trucks from the Louisville Food Truck Association. Will’s Tavern and Will’s Gift Shop open at 7 p.m. nightly. There are no performances on Monday. Read up on the impressive cast here. Check out the calendar below or online.