The mission of Woodward Shakespeare Festival is to present live theatre productions for the cultural education, entertainment, and inspiration of our community, and to make our contribution to the arts of California’s Central Valley accessible to everyone.
In pursuit of this mission, we offer free outdoor theater each summer. From June to September, audiences enjoy Shakespeare and other classic works on the Festival Stage in Fresno’s largest city park, Woodward Park.
Shakespeare’s plays endure because they challenge our creativity. They delight us with their rich language and wit. They help us explore our foibles and follies. They give voice to the heights and depths of what human nature is capable. Shakespeare addresses and belongs to us all.
At Woodward Shakespeare Festival, we are excited to gather the community together to explore the “infinite variety” of these plays. There is something about the experience of live outdoor theater that fires the imagination, draws us in, and lightens the spirit, bringing people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life together in a common experience. Please join us this summer for some festival theater!
In 2001, local Fresno/Clovis actors S. Eric Day and Brandon Weis imagined a season of Shakespeare plays produced outdoors in a festival environment. The idea simmered for some years until, in 2004, Christien Sweeney added her energy and vision to the enterprise and the Festival was born.
Day and Sweeney produced and directed the first two seasons, presenting Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet (2005), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth (2006). The Festival initially performed in the Rotary Amphitheater of Woodward Park, but in later years moved to the Activities space (near the Japanese Garden) and finally to its current home, the Festival Stage in the northeast corner of the park, overlooking the San Joaquin River valley and bluffs.
Our current season consists of two plays during the summer months, and a Library Series from the fall to spring. Our partnership with the Fresno County Public Library goes back to even before the Festival officially began, when staged readings of Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the Woodward Park Library as a way of sharing our passion for Shakespeare with the community.
We at Woodward Shakespeare Festival are grateful to the many people who have participated and continue to participate in the Festival — our volunteers, directors, designers, casts and crews, donors, sponsors, community partners, and of course, our audiences. It is your enthusiasm for our labors and your passion for our mission that inspires all that we do and all that we aspire to do.