Abilene Shakespeare Festival 2023
The Abilene Shakespeare Festival, which takes place annually in June, provides an excellent opportunity to expose West Texas to the major works of Shakespeare and other classical literature. Our audiences have been made up of young and old, blue collar and white collar, cowboy and executive. We continue to introduce new patrons to Shakespeare who have little experience in regular theatre-going, and we are committed to bringing them high-quality, exciting new productions of classical works for little to no admission price.
HISTORY OF THE ABILENE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
The Abilene Shakespeare Festival, which began in 1990, is located in Abilene, Texas on the Abilene Christian University campus. Each year we are excited to take advantage of the theatre spaces in ACU’s Williams Performing Arts Center. This venue offers an exciting challenge for artists, and stands as an integral part of the life and culture of Abilene. The 2000 Festival was our first time to produce two plays simultaneously, and it proved to be a great success both with audiences and with cast/crew.
2021 A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Twelfth Night
2018 Merry Wives of Windsor; The Merchant of Venice
2017 The Tempest; Much Ado About Nothing
2014 Macbeth; William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead
2013 Taming of the Shrew
2011 Much Ado About Nothing (musical); Comedy of Errors
2009 Henry IV, pt. 1
2008 As You Like It
2007 Measure for Measure; Love’s Labour’s Lost
2006 Romeo and Juliet; The Triumph of Love
2005 Twelfth Night; Julius Caesar
2004 The Taming of the Shrew; The Hunt
2003 Hamlet; The Tempest
2001 Much Ado About Nothing; Richard III
2000 Two Gentlemen of Verona; Macbeth
1999 Henry V
1998 The Complete Works of Shakespeare
1997 Comedy of Errors
1995 Merchant of Venice
1994 As You Like It
1993 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1992 The Winter’s Tale
1991 Twelfth Night
Prior to Abilene Shakespeare Festival
1988 Taming of The Shrew
1987 Romeo & Juliet
Click each title to watch the trailers (if available) and click the arrows to read more about each show.
2011 (Directed by Adam Hester)
2017 (Directed by Adam Hester)
This 1960s out-a-sight take on Shakespeare incorporated music by your favorite sixties’ groups such as the Supremes, the Beatles, the Shirelles, Tina Turner, and many more! Shakespeare’s template for the modern romantic comedy hit all the right notes with witty repartee, fantastic tunes and more than a hint of romantic attraction. This production showed the Bard at his fun-loving best in a raucous musical comedy.
In this 2011 production, director Gary Varner took a completely fresh approach to Shakespeare’s funniest farce about mistaken identity using only six actors and inventive staging. Audience participation made this an especially fun evening for patrons and actors alike.
summaryIn a groundbreaking production celebrating the Abilene Shakespeare Festival’s 20th anniversary, the ACU Theatre collaborated with ACU’s mobile initiative to engage audiences in a startling and innovative way with Shakespeare’s classic text. This new, contemporary interpretation offered a creative and interactive experience intensifying the thrilling story of Othello and Desdemona as they are caught in the wicked, fiendish web of Iago’s vengeance.
2017 (Gary Varner)
2003 (Mark Smith)
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- Play of the Year
- Kelly Haseltine – Nominee, Supporting Actress in a Non-Musical
One of the most famous of Shakespeare’s romances, The Tempest is a tale of Italian nobility marooned on a magical Caribbean paradise. True love blossoms amidst a fantastical group of magical fairies, conniving noblemen, and honest seamen, all engineered by Shakespeare’s greatest sorcerer, Prospero. Don’t miss this enchanting production
The Merry Wives of Windsor
2018 (Directed by Adam Hester)
Shakespeare’s hilarious and brilliantly constructed farce, The Merry Wives of Windsor, finally comes to the Abilene Shakespeare Festival. Adam Hester has reimagined this piece as a variety show capturing current social and political themes through the lens of Saturday Night Live. Imagining that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page have fallen for him, the fat knight Sir John Falstaff decides to seduce them both, as much for their husbands’ money as for their personal charms. Wise to the old rogue’s tricks, the women turn the tables on him with a series of humiliating assignations and a very damp, extremely smelly laundry basket.
The Merchant of Venice
2018 (Directed by Gary Varner)
Gary Varner brings an exciting new take on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice using five actors to play all the roles, except for Shylock, the antagonist and tragic character (played by Adam Hester) at the center of the drama. This uncompromising production explores the tense relationship and prejudices between those that have, and those that have not. Dark in its humor and romantic hijinks, The Merchant Of Venice takes audiences on a journey of love, mercy and justice.
2014 (Directed by Adam Hester)
2000 (Directed by Adam Hester)
A play of “vaulting ambition” and “black and deep desires,” Macbeth unleashes the horror of murder and witches and prophecy in a powerful new production set in the heart of the 1930s Mafia. Equity Actor Josh Blann will play the title role and Miranda West, senior ACU Theatre major, plays his ambitious wife. Macbeth reveals itself to be Shakespeare’s most powerful and darkest nightmare—a terrifying parable for our own time in which we, too, are urged to take more and more chances, whatever the consequences. Shakespeare has the answer: Macbeth is the consequence. We must beware!
2004 (Directed by Adam Hester)
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By Jeff Berryman
Jeff Berryman transports us to the mystic realm of fifth century Britain in this second installment of his King Arthur trilogy. The Hunt is on for the mighty sword of Pendragon, the romance of a lifetime, and ultimately for the High King. This electrifying world premiere is not to be missed!
William Shakespeare's Land of the Dead
2014 By John Heimbuch
Directed by Gary Varner
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Zombies!!! Prepare for hilarity as the ACU Theatre takes you to London, 1599. After the Globe’s inaugural performance of Henry V, Shakespeare fends off an embittered Will Kemp, furious about Falstaff’s removal, and Francis Bacon, who has arrived with an idea to pitch. When the company’s costumer is bitten by a plague-ridden madman, and the Queen, played by ACU Theatre professor Kari Hatfield, and her men arrive seeking safety, life in the playhouse takes a turn for the worse. As affliction spreads through London, the Globe is quarantined and the survivors within must fight for their lives. William Shakespeare’s Land Of The Dead, is a comedic homage to zombie films and a “carefully” researched drama about Shakespeare and his authorship.