Author: Elizabeth Hernandez, Staff Writer

DAILY CAMERA: Funding, growing budget helps Colorado Shakespeare Festival thrive heading into 60th year

In four years, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s budget has grown 23 percent, and the festival is in a renaissance.

(Above: Tim Orr holds a model of the stage. Crews and actors are beginning to rehearse and build at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in the Mary Rippon Theater. Photo courtesy of Daily Camera staff photographer Cliff Grassmick)

A brewing pot of coffee propped on a stool was the first site greeting patrons entering the University of Colorado Theatre and Dance building on the inaugural day of rehearsals for the 60th annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and that about summed up the buzz in the air.

In one room, the theater company circled up for the first read through of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Down the hall, designers wrapped measuring tape around mannequins, getting started on crafting costumes. At the outside theater, workers strapped on climbing harnesses as they dangled from lighting rigs needed to illuminate the stage with the help of the stars.

“Now, if I could only remember where I put my backpack down,” he said, pausing on his way from the theater building to the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, built starting in 1936.

Despite losing sight of the bag, Orr has found something much greater in the halls of the theater: stability.

In four years, the budget has grown 23 percent. In that same time span, ticket sales have increased 45 percent.

And the big news that’s making Orr wipe his brow and sigh in relief: a public endowment fund has raised $1.3 million for the festival since the end of 2014.

“That is going to be critically important over the next 20 years or so,” he said. “The money allows us to continue to improve while staying small, which is something we embrace. We’ve been on a very, very good trajectory.”

After losing nearly $1 million several years back, the festival is in a renaissance. Ticket revenue in 2016 neared $1 million, and current sales for this season are ahead 36 percent.

“Our goal is the moon,” Orr said. He’s figured when the endowment reaches $13 million, the festival will be set.

“It will be insulated and protected from the ups and downs and vagaries of the world,” he said. “It will mean we’ll always be able to produce good work. I think of this endowment like a cultural wildlife preserve.”

Orr’s meticulous planning — he plans a few years out — makes things easier, but he also attributes the success to integrating the festival deeper within the university. (Read the Full Article)


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