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As one of the largest cultural events in the East Texas region, the Texas Shakespeare Festival recognizes and welcomes the responsibility of being a cultural leader in its commitment to the inclusion of diverse people both on and off our stages. This commitment begins with the core staff and expands through the board, the contracted artists, and most importantly, the audience we serve.


We acknowledge with compassion that there is a history of prejudice in the East Texas region. TSF commits to partnering with civic leaders and organizations, as well as with national organizations that focus on equality, to overcome our inherent biases as an institution by making them conscious, acknowledged, and addressed.


We believe our commitment must speak most loudly through our work and through our efforts to have the artists producing that work, and the audiences coming to see it, represent the society of the current time.

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Serving as the intersection where theatre patrons, artists, and students meet; the mission of the Texas Shakespeare Festival is to give everyone who crosses our threshold a high-caliber theatrical experience; one that is rare for rural East Texas. We are motivated by the community we serve; theirs are the shoulders on which we stand and they continue to support us year after year. We are kept current by a desire to remain relevant in a world that is ever-changing by working to build future audience members; introducing them to the power of Shakespeare’s plays and the magic of live theatre, so that the Texas Shakespeare Festival can go on for many generations to come. 


The idea for the Texas Shakespeare Festival at Kilgore College was developed in the early 1980's by Founder Raymond Caldwell. The goal was to establish a professional summer theatre for East Texas based in Kilgore that would be housed in the Van Cliburn Auditorium; to create a company with a name that would have broad appeal to professional theatre artists, employing high caliber actors, designers and directors from throughout the nation; to offer professional actors and theatre students the luxury of working on plays from the world’s storehouse of dramatic literary masterpieces; and to create a regional play about the East Texas oilfield discovery to be produced as a cultural historical memento of our unique and colorful heritage.

In June of 1986, the Texas Shakespeare Festival opened its inaugural season as Kilgore College’s contribution to the Texas Sesquicentennial celebration with performances of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Daisy Bradford 3 by Gifford Wingate. Each of the fifteen performances played to capacity houses, and the college assured the community that there would be a second season.

The 1987 Festival again performed to sold out houses. In 1988, the Festival added a fourth production and changed to a revolving repertory performance format making it more convenient for patrons to see all of the productions. The 1989 season followed the same repertory format and included three performances of Charlotte’s Web for children, and just as in all three previous years, the attendance grew. In 1993, to answer the need for more performances, the Festival season expanded its performance schedule from three to four weeks.


Now in its 37th season, the Texas Shakespeare Festival has produced more than 28 plays of Shakespeare’s canon: A Midsummer Night’s Dream ('86, '95, '05, '15), Much Ado About Nothing ('87, '95, '07, '17), Romeo and Juliet ('87, '96, '09, '21), Twelfth Night ('86, '97, '08, '15), Hamlet ('89, '01, '11), As You Like It ('89, '01, '10, '19), The Taming of the Shrew ('88, '96, '11, '22), The Two Gentlemen of Verona ('92, '99, '10), Macbeth ('88, '95, '05, '14), King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost ('94, '09, '18), The Tempest ('93, '04, '22), The Comedy of Errors ('91, '03, '13), The Merchant of Venice ('90, '04, '16), Othello ('90, '07, '19), Julius Caesar ('91, '08), Measure for Measure ('93, '12), The Merry Wives of Windsor ('98, '12, '21),  Richard II,  Henry V ('97, '16), Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale ('00, '13), All’s Well That End’s Well, Cymbeline, Henry IV, Pt. 1, Coriolanus, King John and Pericles. We have also produced such classics as The Importance of Being Earnest ('88, '98), Tartuffe ('89, '09, '18), Cyrano de Bergerac ('90, '05, '17), The Misanthrope, She Stoops to Conquer, The Learned Ladies ('93, '10), The Bourgeois Gentleman, The Miser, The School for Scandal, The Hypochondriac, Arms and the Man, The Glass Menagerie, The Miracle Worker, Harvey, The School for Husbands,The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Amadeus, The Beaux’ Stratagem, The Liar, Noises Off, The Nerd, The Foreigner, Blithe Spirit, Born Yesterday, The Book of Will, Nell Gwynn and the musicals Man of La Mancha ('94, '07, '15), Camelot ('95, '13), 1776 ('96, '08), My Fair Lady ('97, '14), Guys and Dolls, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof , Once Upon A Mattress, Forever Plaid ('01, '02), Chaps!, Ernest in Love, Blood Brothers,  Carousel, The Marvelous Wonderettes, 110 in the Shade, Into the Woods, The Bridges of Madison County, The Music Man and the world première musical Revoco. Our children’s theatre productions include Robin Goodfellow, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Androcles and the Lion, Rumpelstiltskin ('91, '02, '09), Little Red and the Hood, Ugly and the Beast, and original productions of Armadillo Al and the Kilgore Kid, The Firebird, Hansel and Gretel, The Snow Queen, The Emperor’s New Clothes,The Monkey King, The Magic Lotus Lantern, The Little Blue Horse, The Tortoise and the Hare, Aesop’s Fables, Quest for the Lost Chalice, The Enchanted Forest, The Lost Prince, The Princess and the Players, Spirit of the Sea, The Witch of Pickle Patch, The Lovely Step-Sister, The Girl Who Cried Throgmonster, The Gnomes of Gnot-a-Hill, and The Hog Princess.


Kilgore College, in addition to paying the salaries for the Artistic Director and the Managing Director, generously supports the Festival by providing rehearsal facilities, office spaces, the Van Cliburn Auditorium, dormitory housing, printing, publicity and public relations. No theatre effort has ever had more encouraging, enthusiastic and consistent support.


Since 1986, the festival has been awarded grants from the Rosa May Griffin Foundation of Kilgore, the Texas Shakespeare Festival Foundation, the Texas Shakespeare Festival Guild, the City of Kilgore, the Meadows Foundation, the Cargill Foundation of Longview, Phillips Petroleum Company, GTE Southwest, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the T.J. and Laverne Plunkett Foundation, the John R. and Susan Landon Alford Foundation, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and a number of generous East Texas patrons whose philanthropy provides encouragement and high hopes for the future of the Texas Shakespeare Festival as a strong and vital cultural asset for all of East Texas.

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