About the Alabama Shakespeare Festival
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the State’s theater, builds community by engaging, entertaining, and inspiring people with transformative theatrical performances and compelling educational and outreach programs.
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, located in Montgomery – Alabama’s state capital – is a fully professional regional theatre that produces around ten productions each season in association with Actors’ Equity Association, The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and United Scenic Artists Union. Productions of Shakespeare are at the artistic core of the company. Broadway musicals, children’s productions, American classics and world premieres round out the annual offerings at ASF.
In 1972 Martin Platt, the founding Artistic Director (1972-1989), had a dream of classical theatre and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) was born. Originally located in Anniston in an un-airconditioned high school auditorium, ASF was a summer theatre festival – plays ran for six weeks during summer months. When the Festival faced bankruptcy in the early 1980s, Board Member Carolyn Blount approached her husband with this problem: The State of Alabama was about to lose a great cultural asset if something was not done. Wynton Blount agreed to build a new home for ASF, set in a 250-acre park, if only the theatre would move to Montgomery. Mr. Blount christened the performing arts complex “The Carolyn Blount Theatre” in December 1985. After moving to Montgomery, ASF began year-round operations with more than 400 performances scheduled each year. Mr. Blount’s gift of the theatre complex was the largest single donation in the history of American theatre. ASF has remained financially sound ever since – one of the few American theatres to do so.
The $21.5 million Carolyn Blount Theatre, designed by Thomas Blount and Perry Pittman, with consultation by ASF designer James Michael Stauffer, is based on the theories of Andrea Palladio and houses two theatres (the 792-seat Festival Stage and the 262-seat Octagon), production shops, rehearsal halls, and administrative work spaces. More than one million bricks were used in building the complex, which contains more than 100,000 square feet of space. The late Russell Page, famed landscape architect, planned the English-style grounds and lake.
ASF, the State’s Theatre, is the largest professional, producing theatre in Alabama and one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Since the theatre first opened, millions of adults have experienced one of the theatre’s productions. Each season, ASF produces seven to ten plays, including at least two plays by Shakespeare.
In 2016, ASF celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Southern Writers’ Project (SWP), which commissions, develops and produces new plays. In May of each year, fortified by an artistic team of directors, actors, and stage managers, four playwrights immerse themselves in a completely supportive environment, where they can write and re-write their scripts, before sharing their work at a public reading as part of the SWP Festival of New Plays. SWP supports playwrights throughout the rest of the year by gathering small groups of actors to read works-in-progress. This process gives playwrights to opportunity to hear their words.
Over one million students have participated in one of ASF’s myriad of arts education programs. SchoolFest, a student-matinee program, provides 30,000-40,000 students annually with subsidized tickets for a performance of one of the ASF’s plays. As part of its dedication to outreach, ASF offers in-school workshops on Shakespeare. The workshops begin with an abridged production of the selected work followed by an interactive lesson led by ASF’s actors on the language and themes of the piece.