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Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Shakespeare Festival gains new artistic director

Steven Wallace, director of the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance, is stepping into a new pair of shoes this year. Wallace is now both the producing and artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival after founding director Sidney Berger’s retirement earlier this year.  Wallace came to UH three years ago as director of the academic program at the School of Theatre and Dance, and is looking forward to continuing Berger’s tradition and vision.

“The big concern that people have is that we are going to do away with the Houston Shakespeare festival,” Wallace said. “We are absolutely not. The festival is the University’s gift to the city; it has always been free and will remain free.”

While the festival is free to the public, with a near two hundred thousand dollar budget, Wallace and the theatre department depend on endowments and private donors to keep the festival going.  This year Wallace hopes to raise an additional two hundred thousand dollars in order to expand the Houston Shakespeare Festival and be able to bring in outside actors and directors.

“My primary obligation is to provide an educational opportunity for students,” Wallace said.  “And for them, working with big name actors and directors will not only provide real world experience but be an absolute asset to their resumes.”

Another thing Wallace hopes to accomplish is to have a few performances inside at UH’s Wortham Theatre. He hopes that by doing this it will create a new audience who would like to see an indoor air-conditioned version, and also to create a new revenue stream by being able to charge for the tickets. “It also gives us an opportunity if there is a corporation willing to support the event, to have the ability and space to host a gala,” Wallace said.

Wallace hopes to reach out to those in Houston’s business, energy, and banking sectors for support.

 “I love the connection to the city,” Wallace said. “In Houston if you dream it, it can happen. I am in a position where I can dream and then I can reach out to partners in the city to come onboard and help me make it a possibility.” 

For those skeptical of his vision, Wallace reminds us that if Sidney Berger had never wanted change the Houston Shakespeare Festival would not be at the level it is today. He plans to continue Berger’s vision of bringing theatre to a wider audience — and to do it in a big way.

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