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THE TEXAS SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL


Caroline Donica
The Texas Shakespeare Festival (TSF) is the only professional theatre in East
Texas. TSF grew steadily since its founding in 1985. According to Raymond Caldwell,
the founder of TSF, the festival originated from a request by Mrs. Lewis, an interested
community member, for Kilgore College to put on a play about the oil fields in East
Texas.1 Encouraged by public interest, Caldwell expanded the idea to a summer festival
that featured not only Shakespeare, but also a selection of other plays. TSF has hosted
international theatre artists from China and performed an annual Christmas radio play
since 2013.2 Although it reflected national trends in play selections, publicity, and
theatrical design, the Texas Shakespeare Festival received positive recognition locally
and nationally unlike bigger theatres such as Broadway.
Historians have identified some national trends affecting theatre since 1980. Live theatre
struggled since the advent of film and television. To combat dwindling audiences, many
theatres performed popular plays and musicals to attract public attention. Broadway
produced fewer original works. Decreasing ticket sales caused theatres to become more
economically cautious, but the introduction of the internet provided free tools for
publicity and a method of reaching nationwide audiences. Theatrical design also shifted
to be culturally sensitive and innovative. Broadway exemplified the national trends in
play selection, publicity, and design, and TSF followed those trends.
1 Raymond Caldwell, phone conversation interview with Caroline Donica, Longview,

TX, October 15, 2015.


2 Texas Shakespeare Festival, http://www.texasshakespeare.com/ (accessed November

12, 2015)

Play selection was one of the first elements impacted by national trends as seen on
Broadway. Because Broadway was supported mainly by tourists, its plays were primarily
popular works which appealed to a wide variety of people.3 Original or experimental
works previewed at regional theatres to demonstrate marketability before entering
consideration for Broadway staging.4 Musical revivals, such as Rodgers and
Hammersteins works, were performed frequently to attract spectators.5 Other
productions starred celebrities or famous actors to draw in fans. Broadway became the
leading example of commercial theater, but critics censured it for producing works based
on profitability. Broadways play selection was based on audience attendance.
The Texas Shakespeare Festival selected musicals, Shakespearean works, and
straight plays that reflected national trends as seen on Broadway. TSFs process of
choosing plays limited the festivals choices. The summer season consisted of two
Shakespeare plays, a musical, a straight play, and a childrens show.6 The festivals only
original productions included Daisy Bradford 3 and a few of the childrens plays. The
majority of the other plays held wide audience appeal in accordance with national trends.

3 Susan Bennet, Theatre/Tourism, Theatre Journal 57, no. 3 (Oct. 2005): 407-418

http://www.jstor.org/stable/25069671 (accessed November 13, 2015)


4 Richard Hornby, Regional Theatre Comes of Age, The Hudson Review 46, no. 3

(Autumn 1993): 529-536 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3852428 (accessed November 13,


2015)
5 Benjamin Barber, Oklahoma! How Political is Broadway?, Salmagundi no.

137/138 (Winter-Spring 2003): 3-11 http://www.jstor.org/stable/40549456 (accessed


November 13, 2015)
6 Caldwell, interview

The Texas Shakespeare Festivals musical selections illustrated national trends by doing
revivals which were popular with audiences. TSF added musicals to the summer season
repertoire in 1994. The majority of the festivals choices were well-known selections such
as Camelot, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof, Once
Upon a Mattress, Shenandoah, and Carousel. Others were based on famous stories,
books, or movies like She Loves Me, Man of La Mancha, and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Because TSF performed in July, patriotic musicals like 1776 were chosen to attract
audiences.7
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals process of choosing musicals for their summer
season limited their selection. Because two of TSFs festival plays were Shakespearean
works, the majority of the cast had to be male. Therefore, the musical also had to be
primarily male. Additionally, limited rehearsal time disqualified any musicals which
required extensive dance practices.8
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals choice of musicals to revive from past seasons
reflected national trends. In 2007, TSF resurrected their first musical from 1994.
Throughout the festivals season, TSF revived four of their musicals: Man of La Mancha,
Camelot, 1776, and My Fair Lady. The latter three were performed twice, and Man of La
Mancha was produced three times. Camelot was a well-known comedic musical. Man of
La Mancha was based on the classic novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. 1776
retold the story of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and included characters
such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abigail Adams. Because
7 Texas Shakespeare Festival Past Seasons, http://www.texasshakespeare.com/past-

seasons (accessed November 12, 2015)


8 Caldwell, interview

TSF ran through July, 1776 corresponded with the 4th of July. My Fair Lady was a
popular musical which many recognized from the 1964 film starring Audrey Hepburn.
All four musicals were popular choices which demonstrated national trends.9
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals organizers selected popular Shakespearean
works primarily comedies and dramas. Typically, the festival chose one Shakespearean
comedy and one drama every year to provide balance. The selection also catered to a
wider range of audience members as those who disliked dramas could attend the
comedies and vice versa.10 Most of TSFs Shakespearean plays were revived. Only a
fraction of Shakespeares shows have not been produced by TSF. These include Titus
Adronicus, Timon of Athens, Henry IV Part II, Henry VI Part I, II, and III, King John, and
Troilus and Cressida. TSF performed all of Shakespeares comedies, most of the dramas,
and about half of the history plays. Typically, Shakespeares history plays were the least
well-known. Therefore, TSFs Shakespearean selection was limited primarily to comedies
and dramas.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals revivals of specific Shakespeare shows
reflected national trends in popularity and economic value. TSF reproduced multiple
Shakespeare plays. The staff responsible for choosing the repertoire spread out the
revivals to keep space between the same productions.11 Throughout TSFs past summer
seasons, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Two Gentleman of
Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and The Comedy of Errors were staged three
9 Texas Shakespeare Festival Past Seasons
10 Caldwell, interview
11 Caldwell, interview

times while Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Nights Dream were produced
four times. All of the productions revived more than once were among Shakespeares
better known works.12
In accordance with national trends, the Texas Shakespeare Festivals chose
straight plays that would be well-attended by audiences. Because TSF typically
performed only one straight play during its summer season, the festival could select
shows which would be known among educated audiences such as She Stoops to Conquer,
The School for Scandal, and Royal Hunt of the Sun. Regular theatre-goers or well-read
viewers would recognize the titles.13
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals process of choosing straight plays in its summer
season limited the festivals choices. Because of the festivals name, Raymond Caldwell
decided to choose the straight play based on the language. He wanted either plays which
used elevated or heightened language to complement the Shakespearean pieces or classic
modern plays. The criteria removed many contemporary or experimental plays that would
be less familiar with audiences. TSFs limited options moved the festival towards
choosing straight plays which would be well-attended.14
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals straight play selection reflected national trends
by choosing shows which would attract audiences either as classics, comedies, or familiar
stories. Daisy Bradford 3 was TSFs most frequently revived play because it was the
original purpose behind the festivals founding. The story centered on the oil field
12 Texas Shakespeare Festival Past Seasons
13 Texas Shakespeare Festival Past Seasons
14 Caldwell, interview

discovery in East Texas. TSF performed Daisy Bradford 3 for seven consecutive years.
The plays locale made it more relatable to audiences interested in local history. As TSF
continued, the festival dropped Daisy Bradford 3 and began performing other works. TSF
produced plays by Moliere nine seasons. The festival chose the playwrights more famous
works such as Tartuffe, The Learned Ladies, The School for Wives, and The Misanthrope.
Educated audiences recognized Molieres name and plays. TSF also chose other classic
shows such as The Importance of Being Earnest, Amadeus, and The Glass Menagerie.
Other plays like Cyrano de Bergerac, Harvey and The Miracle Worker were familiar with
audiences from literature, films, and history. Additionally, TSF produced popular
comedies like Noises Off. The festival performed The Complete Works of William
Shakespeare (Abridged) three times. The well-known, slapstick comedy involved
audience participation and humorously referenced Shakespeare. The majority of TSFs
straight plays were either classics, comedies, or familiar stories.15
Naturally, TSFs publicity was on a smaller scale than Broadways, but the
festival resembled Broadway and exemplified national trends through comparable
methods of marketing, audition advertisements, and tourist impact and promotion.
Broadway epitomized national trends in publicity. With the internets introduction,
Broadway took advantage of online sources which reached nationwide and were often
free. Broadways marketing expanded to include social media. Many social media
avenues, such as Twitter, were free and reached a wider range than traditional options
such as newspapers and television ads.16 Facebook also provided a route for Broadway to

15 Texas Shakespeare Festival Past Seasons

expand its fan database.17 Broadways audition advertisements were also placed online in
national databases such as Backstage.com.18 Sites like Chicago Artists Resource provided
a method for Broadway to advertise both auditions and shows through various articles
and photos.19 Because Broadway was primarily funded by tourism, announcements were
posted on national and state websites.20 As Broadway developed, it pushed publicity in an
online format to remain relevant to audiences. The festival followed Broadways example
in taking advantage of the internet to reach a wider demographic and relate to younger
generations.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals marketing switched to online forms with the
advent of the internet like Broadway. There was no budget for publicity for the festivals
first season. As TSF continued, essential aspects such as technical design and salaries
received more money. The festival relied on local newspapers and television stations to
donate space and time. Because TSF was the only professional theatre in the East Texas
16 Broadway.com @broadway.com, https://twitter.com/broadwaycom?

ref_srctwsrc5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor (accessed November 14,


2015)

17 Broadway.com Entertainment Website,

https://www.facebook.com/Broadway/timeline (accessed November 14, 2015)

18 Backstage.com Auditions

& Open Casting Calls,


http://www.backstage.com/casting/open-casting-calls/theater-auditions/ (accessed
November 14, 2015)

19 Chicago Artists

Resource: New Faces Sing Broadway,


http://www.chicagoartistsresource.org/events/new-faces-sing-broadway (accessed
November 15, 2015)

20 Bennet, 407-418

area and large events of any kind were not frequent in the region, the local papers and
television stations ran free advertisements. However, as the internet developed, TSF
focused on reaching audiences online. Although the festival still used local free
advertising, TSF expanded to other online forms of publicity. Fewer people read
newspapers, and the introduction of streaming movies and TV shows led to fewer people
watching television stations. Therefore, TSF used local free advertising and developed
additional online methods such as the festivals website.21
The Texas Shakespeare Festival took advantage of social media in the same way
as Broadway. The internets democratization allowed TSF to use the some of the same
platforms as Broadway. Both organizations used Facebook and Twitter for marketing
purposes. In 2011, TSF created its Facebook page. Similar to Broadway, the festival
posted pictures, video advertisements, and articles as well as updates on former cast
members.22 Both organizations also joined Twitter as a marketing tool. In 2013, TSF also
made a Twitter account where the festival publicized its shows, posted photos, provided
links to related theatres, etc.23 As social media gained influence, TSF imitated national
trends as seen on Broadway by utilizing Facebook and Twitter as marketing methods.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals advertisements for auditions used the same
platform as Broadways. Online audition databases became possible with the internet and
provided the opportunity to contact actors nationwide. Databases such as Backstage.com
21 Caldwell, interview
22 Texas Shakespeare Festival Theater, https://www.facebook.com/texasshakes/?

fref=ts (accessed November 14, 2015)


23 Texas Shakespeare @texasshakes, https://twitter.com/texasshakes (accessed

November 14, 2015)

and Chicago Artists Resource allowed TSF to communicate audition opportunities to


professional actors. Both websites placed criteria on ads and posted only those which
were legitimate. The sites credibility attracted professional or serious actors and quality
companies such as touring companies, regional theatres, and repertory playhouses. The
festivals audition announcements on Backstage.com allowed TSF to reach professional
actors nationwide.24 TSF posted audition advertisements for the summer season on
Chicago Artists Resource, attracting actors and technicians from Chicago. By advertising
on Chicago Artists Resource and Backstage.com, TSF proved itself to be a creditable
organization.25
Although it was not on the same scale, the Texas Shakespeare Festivals tourism
publicity was comparable to Broadways with advertisements on state and national sites.
The national website, Tripadvisor, posted a page for Broadway with photos, reviews, and
visitor ratings.26 Newyork.com offered suggestions for hotels, attractions, tours,
restaurants, and events for tourists in New York. The state website dedicated an entire

24 Backstage.com Texas

Shakespeare Festival,
http://www.backstage.com/casting/texas-shakespeare-festival-auditions-14121/ (accessed
November 14, 2015)

25 Chicago Artists

Resource: Texas Shakespeare Festival,


http://www.chicagoartistsresource.org/organizations/texas-shakespeare-festival (accessed
November 15, 2015)

26 Tripadvisor: Broadway, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-

d143361-Reviews-Broadway-New_York_City_New_York.html (accessed November 15,


2015)

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page to Broadway, publicizing shows, tickets, and locations.27 TSFs tourism publicity
resembled Broadways on both state and national sites.
While neither TSF nor Broadway paid for the advertisements, both were placed
on the national tourist site Tripadvisor. The website suggested hotels, flights, vacation
rentals, restaurants, and attractions for travelers. Additionally, it provided an opportunity
for others to review places for other tourists. TSFs Tripadvisor page contained a picture,
visitor reviews, and ratings. Although TSFs advertisement was smaller and less
reviewed, the festival was still publicized on the same national tourist website as
Broadway.28 TSF was also advertised on state tourist sites. Texas Highways was an online
travel magazine for Texas. The website provided ideas for events, restaurants, and travel
destinations for tourists. Shakespeare Festivals in Texas were publicized on the tourist
site. TSF was included in the article with a list of the shows in the summer season,
performance dates and times, location, and a link to the festivals website. Although
TSFs advertisement was smaller than Broadways, the festival was publicized on
national and state tourism websites similar to Broadway.29
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals designs demonstrated national trends as seen on
Broadway through historic accuracy, ethnic sensitivity, and innovative and modernized
27 NewYork.com: Broadway Shows, http://www.newyork.com/broadway-show-

tickets/ (accessed November 15, 2015)


28 Tripadvisor: Texas

Shakespeare Festival,
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g56081-d265512-r130633186Van_Cliburn_Auditorium-Kilgore_Texas.html (accessed November 15, 2015)

29 Texas

Highways: Shakespeare Fests in Texas,


https://www.texashighways.com/eat/item/1390-shakespeare-fests-in-texas (accessed
November 15, 2015)

11

choices. In recent years, Broadway strove to improve historical accuracy in stage designs.
Authentic designs were stressed. The historical precision in designs aided in Broadways
ethnic sensitivity. Rather than portraying stereotypes, designers strove for cultural
accuracy. There was also exploration into combining ethnic styles or adding certain
cultural approaches to specific shows.30 Additionally, Broadway experimented with
design, attempting to be innovative and fresh to attract audiences. Although critics
disapproved of the spectacle of Disney shows, the designs were cutting-edge with
pyrotechnics, prosthetics, and hydraulics. Other shows were contemporized from original
texts, and the designs followed the modernization.31 TSF followed Broadways designs
with historic accuracy, ethnic sensitivity, and innovative and modernized choices.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals historically accurate designs were similar to
Broadways. TSFs designs paid careful attention to detail for authenticitys sake. The set
and costume design demonstrated Broadways trends.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals set, costume, makeup, and hair designs were
historically accurate. TSFs production of My Fair Lady illustrated the festivals attention
to detail for historic authenticity. My Fair Lady took place in the early twentieth century.
TSFs set design reflected the period. The furniture was designed to appear period
appropriate with upholstery, set painting, and set decoration. The settee, armchair, and
footstool were upholstered in a fashion to appear in the century. Because most of the set
30 Anne Fliotsos, Cultural Specificity and the American Musical: Rodgers and

Hammerstein Revivals, Studies in Popular Culture 28, no. 3 (Apr. 2006): 1-17
http://www.jstor.org/stable/23416168 (accessed November 13, 2015)
31 Rebecca-Anne Do

Rozario, Reanimating the Animated: Disney's Theatrical


Productions, TDR (1988-) 48, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 164-177
http://www.jstor.org/stable/4488537 (accessed November 15, 2015)

12

was wood, the designers painted the ground platforms with a wood grain technique to
make it look authentic. Careful attention was paid to the set decoration as well. The
pictures on the wall, recording machine, record player, and telephone appeared to be from
the early twentieth century.32 1776 retold the story of the signing of the Declaration of
Independence in 1776. TSFs costume design was historically accurate through the shape,
material, and detail of the costumes. The womens silhouettes had hoops so the skirts
would have more body to appear time period appropriate while the men all wore period
coats. The materials used for the costumes appeared to be quality goods rather than
cheaper fabrics which made the clothing resemble the colonial style. The costuming
detail involved cravats, shoe buckles, jewelry, sleeve cuffs, and buttons. TSFs costume
design demonstrated historic authenticity through the shape, material, and detail in the
clothing.33
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals ethnically sensitive designs imitated
Broadways trends. TSF designed several shows which were based in other cultures. The
festival was careful to be culturally sensitive by steering away from stereotypes and
aiming for ethnic accuracy and authenticity.
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals set, props, costume, and makeup designs
showed ethnic sensitivity through accuracy. The Magic Lotus Lantern was designed with

32 My Fair

Lady,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/sets/72157646785187729/ (accessed
November 15, 2015)

33 1776

(2008),
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/set721564645479497/ (accessed
November 15, 2015)

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strong Asian influences. The set and props strove to be ethnically accurate. The Magic
Lotus Lanterns set reflected Korean panel paintings. The backdrop was split into several
panels which were painted with a nature setting. The backdrops divisions were
reminiscent of the Korean panels, and the painting resembled Asian ink and color nature
scenes. The Magic Lotus Lanterns props included an umbrella and a painting in a frame.
The umbrella was styled like a Japanese umbrella in shape and style with a black and
white swirl pattern. The painting was of a lotus, demonstrating Asian influence of nature
paintings. The black ink and painting technique resembled calligraphy strokes.34 The
Monkey Kings costumes used many bright, vibrant colors, reflecting the Asian influence.
One of the costumes was a long, colorful dragon which was designed to resemble
Chinese New Year dragons. The dragon was worn by several people similar to Chinese
dragons and was the same traditional style and colors. The makeup for The Monkey King
was black, red, and white face paint. The makeup design reflected Japanese Kabuki
masks in color and style. TSFs costume and makeup design used ethnic authenticity be
culturally sensitive.35
The Texas Shakespeare Festivals innovative and contemporized designs were
similar to Broadways. Rather than keeping with traditional interpretations of
Shakespeares works, TSF chose to place several shows in creative time periods and

34 The Magic

Lotus Lantern,
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/sets/72157647650334870/ (accessed
November 15, 2015)

35 The Monkey King,

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/sets/72157648054040112/ (accessed
November 15, 2015)

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countries. TSF also modernized a few Shakespearean plays or contemporized elements of


shows.
The Texas Shakespeare Festival created innovative and contemporized set,
costume, makeup, and props designs. TSFs designs for Julius Caesar in 2008
contemporized the Shakespeare show through set and costume designs rather than setting
the play in Ancient Rome. Julius Caesars set was simple and striking, utilizing only a
few platforms and flats. The floor was covered in black and white tiles in geometric
patterns. Costumes were also simple and modern. Most of the characters wore black,
white, grey, or dark blue. The majority were clothed in dress pants, button-up shirts, and
ties.36 Two years earlier, TSFs innovative makeup and props designs for Coriolanus
contemporized the show. The makeup design used tattoos effectively. The sleeve and
chest tattoos added to the military side of the show. The props design included long
panels of translucent, airy fabric. One of the characters swung the material up and down
in the play.37 TSF produced innovative and contemporized props, makeup, costumes, and
set designs similar to Broadways.
The Texas Shakespeare Festival has continued to grow since its establishment in
1985. In 2007, the festival generated its own Wikipedia page.38 The New York Times also
recognized the festival in several articles. The paper referred to TSF as the respected

36 Julius

Caesar (2008),
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/sets/72157648004266896/ (accessed
December 2, 2015)

37 Coriolanus,

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126376660@N04/sets72157648052488961/ (accessed
December 2, 2015)

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Texas Shakespeare Festival and later articles recommended the festivals seasons.39
Locally, TSF was also well-respected in newspapers such as the Longview News Journal,
the Kilgore News Herald, and the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Typically, theatres following
national trends were criticized. Although it reflected national trends in play selections,
publicity, and theatrical design, the Texas Shakespeare Festival received positive
recognition locally and nationally.

38 Texas

Shakespeare Festival: Revision History,


https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?
title=Texas_Shakespeare_Festival&action=history&year=2007&month=-1&tagfilter=
(accessed December 2, 2015)

39 Wakin,

Daniel, In Texas, Fighting to Keep Brahms on Air, The New York Times
(June 2006), http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/26/arts/music/26radio.html?
pagewanted=1 (accessed December 2, 2015)

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17

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