Oklahoma Shakespeare in The Park - History


OSP was founded in 1985 by Kathryn McGill and Jack J. O'Meara as an outdoor summer Shakespeare festival. McGill, a native of Edmond, Oklahoma, met O'Meara—a local television promotions director—on a visit home from her Master of Fine Arts training in New York City. Their shared interest in Shakespeare and the opportunity presented by the small stage in E.C. Hafer Park, which was available for use by community groups, led to the formation of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park as an outdoor summer Shakespeare festival. McGill and O'Meara found interested local actors and generated enthusiasm for the project. In July and August 1985, with a $500 grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council and their own money, they staged their first productions: Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Each play ran for 5 weeks, for a 10 week season, drawing a total attendance of 6,000 people.

Since the project turned out to be so popular, McGill and O'Meara decided to pursue the project further and formally incorporated Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park in 1986 with O'Meara acting as managing director and McGill as artistic director. Office and storage space was rented at the Edmond Community Center, along with an all purpose room used for a winter season of performances. The winter performances ran for 3 seasons, but since the space was shared with "…dog shows, cotillions, and other rental uses … which necessitated striking the set after almost every performance" they were eventually put on hold until a more suitable space could be found.

The summer productions fared better, expanding from two to three productions in 1988 and briefly switching to a rotating repertory format in 1989. In 1990 budget limitations forced a return to stock performances of four plays in 59 performances, but the company's goal was still to return to a rotating repertory format. They began charging admissions in 1988, but still set an attendance record with 12.000 visitors for three shows.

In 1989 the City of Edmond's parks department created a new performance site for the company and in 1991 funded the construction of permanent toilet facilities. OSP also built its own semi-permanent two-story wooden thrust stage in 1990. By 1991 OSP had grown to the point where its 25-member board could arrange two benefits each year, raising $15-20.000, and the company received fairly large grants from companies like Phillips Petroleum and Target Stores.

In 2001, OSP's stage was destroyed by fire. The company rebuilt on the same location, but in 2005 fire again struck and the company relocated to the University of Central Oklahoma as a temporary home. In December 2006, under the leadership of then-Board President David Holt (politician), OSP announced that it was relocating to downtown Oklahoma City, and the Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage and from June 14 through September 1, 2007 it presented its inaugural summer season in downtown Oklahoma City with performances in repertory of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Macbeth.

In November 2007, OSP produced Oklahoma's official Centennial production of "The Grapes of Wrath". The production was underwritten by Devon Energy

Oklahoma Shakespeare partnered with Oklahoma City University in 2008 and returned to its summer home at the newly renovated Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage in 2011.

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's 2012 Summer Season includes "Two Gentlemen of Verona" (June 14 - 30, 2012 at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage), "The Tempest" (July 5 - 21, 2012 at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage), "Cymbeline" (July 26 - August 4, 2012 at Oklahoma City University's Black Box Theatre), and "Othello" (September 13 - 29, 2012 at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage).

Aside from its Mainstage productions, Oklahoma Shakespeare presents touring productions, produces its "Theatre for the Ears" series of staged readings to explore some of the lesser-known classics, and coordinates community events such as the Sonnet-a-Thon, a public reading of all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, held each April at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

OSP's Education Programs provide opportunities for students, educators and parents throughout Oklahoma and the Southwest to experience the power of Shakespeare's language and dramatic vision through play, passion, poetry, active participation and performance. The company does this through interactive, fast-paced playshops and residencies in the classroom, full unabridged student matinees, tours of productions to schools and communities, and summer programs that delve deep into the world of Shakespeare performance and study.

Since 1985, Oklahoma Shakespeare has been the region's premier classical theatre. With two different performing venues, the organization is dedicated to excellence in producing an eclectic range of classic plays to the entire Oklahoma City metro area and beyond. Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is a non-profit organization overseen by a Board of Directors.

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