Texas has a reputation for bar-b-que, Stetson hats, and football, but most folks probably don’t equate that state with Shakespeare. But y’all should.
Down in the eastern part of the state, there is a performing gem known as the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Located just one hour from either Dallas or Shreveport depending on which direction the wind takes you, TSF as it is known, is in its 30th summer of performing true repertory theatre. Rep theatre is a dying art form because of the difficulties and expense of rotating a new show every day. Think about it – each production has to be fully portable as it has to be broken down and set up again every four days. But while this causes a headache for the theatre, it means as an audience member you can drive over to Kilgore, spend the weekend and see four professional shows in the intimate, (just 200 seats), air-conditioned theatre on the Kilgore Community College campus. (Not kidding about air-conditioned. It may be summer in Texas, but bring a sweater. Or a parka. They keep that theatre chilly!)
Each season, TSF offers two Shakespeare plays along with a comedy and a musical so even if the Bard isn’t your cup of sweet tea, the festival offers something for everyone. But if you do enjoy iambic pentameter, then know that this is the kind of company that tackles all the plays even the ones few others brave like Cymbeline (2014 & 2002) and Coriolanus (2006). But it’s not just the great production values that make TSF special, it’s the people.
All guests are greeted at the door by volunteers and directed to concessions (manned by acting interns), the box office or the ushers (local volunteers). These volunteers are part of the Friends Guild and make sure that the not only the audience but the visiting actors feel welcome throughout the summer by hosting pool parties and dinners.
But let’s say that seeing four shows in one weekend really isn’t for you. Well, Kilgore has a lot more offer as it’s the home of the Rangerettes Museum (think Texas’ version of the Rockettes) and the East Texas Oil Museum as the most oil rigs in one square mile once stood in Kilgore. Both are interactive and involve locals explaining the history and yore of the area.
Yes, Dallas, Austin, and Houston get all the press, but for those looking for a fun, artistic and perhaps a little educational summer weekend, the Texas Shakespeare Festival and the city of Kilgore prove that all the world truly is a stage.