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SummerFest Comes Home

BY KIM THOMAS

The Lexington Shakespeare Festival began over 30 years ago as Shakespeare in the Park at Woodland Park. In  2007, under a new Board of Directors and staff, SummerFest was born — one of the region’s oldest continually operating Summer Theatre experiences, relocating first to the Arboretum, and later to Moondance, in Beaumont, where there was a permanent stage in place.

For the last 10 years I have tried to coax pals into seeing a SummerFest play at the Arboretum or Moondance Amphitheatre, and most of the creative regrets usually end with, ‘haven’t wanted to go since they moved it from Woodland Park!’”

This summer, it’s time for a homecoming.

Let the casts of As You Like It and Jesus Christ Superstar do all the work, while you find ample street parking, bring a blanket, basket of noshes, and a box of wine, and voila — you’ve got it made, literally, in the shade!  Sit under the tall trees at Lexington’s favorite city park, Woodland Park, located where Clay meets Woodland meets High Street, nestled ‘tween all the busy and cool parts of campus and downtown.

As You Like It is the show that opened the original Shakespeare in the Park series.   According to Kentucky Conservatory Theatre Executive Director Wes Nelson (who will be directing Jesus Christ Superstar, along with choreographer Jenny Fitzpatrick and musical director Jessica Slaton Greene), the shows will again alternate weekly performances, giving each cast (and perhaps some of the crew) a week of ‘rest’ to refresh for a new performance later in the month.  So if you miss one show, no worries, there’s another one just around the calendar corner.

Nelson says, “As we continue to find new ways to engage our audiences and challenge local artists, we are also thrilled to celebrate the rich history of outdoor theatre in Lexington. Keeping that in mind, we welcome the return of two important shows from our shared past with the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, and in July, we look forward to welcoming those who’ve longed for the return ‘home’ for so long.”

In the past, SummerFest has presented Shakespeare and musicals (like Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, etc).

SUPERSTAR Stage Manager Natalie Cummins is happy to see the show back in its old neighborhood. “My first experience with the old Lexington Shakespeare Festival was in 2004, and by then the shows were staged in the Arboretum. I’d always wished that I could have worked at Woodland Park, so on a personal level I’m thrilled that SummerFest is returning to the old roots. I also believe that the atmosphere of that area really lends itself to outdoor theater, and I think the community is very happy with the return.”

This article also appears on page 11 of the June 2016 printed edition of the Hamburg Journal. 

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