The mission of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is to enrich our community by providing the highest quality theatrical, cultural and educational experiences to the widest possible audience in the Lake Tahoe region.
What is today “Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival” began modestly in 1972 at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West shore of Lake Tahoe. During its inaugural year, the “New Shakespeare Company” presented eight performances. The company continued productions for two years at Sugar Pine Point State Park until it ran into scheduling conflicts over the use of the Park’s Ehrman Mansion. This necessitated a move to Skylandia Park in Tahoe City, where attendance eventually outgrew parking facilities, and another new home was sought.
In 1976, the company and Nevada State Parks agreed to hold future Shakespeare performances at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park outside of Incline Village, Nevada. A bare-bones stage was hastily built for just over $1,000. The first year at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, over 500 people attended each of twelve performances.
The newly-named “Shakespeare at Sand Harbor” company was managed by the staff of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. In 1982, the North Tahoe Fine Arts Council (NTFAC) inaugurated “Tunes in the Dunes” which was produced concurrently with Shakespeare performances. Eventually, NTFAC took over the management of both programs. They prospered, and each year more and more people made the trip to enjoy a picnic and a play under the stars. In 1994, the NTFAC folded and The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau was selected to manage the programs.
In 1995, the newly-christened “Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival” was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to managing and improving the performances at Sand Harbor. The Warren Edward Trepp Jr. Stage, a state-of-the-art stage facility, built at a cost of nearly two million dollars, was dedicated at the start of the 2000 season.
In May of 1999, the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, a not-for-profit community foundation, was awarded a generous grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation through the Community Services Center Program. This Program was designed to help privately supported, not-for-profit organizations with 501 C (3) status join together to house their operations in a shared facility. Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was invited to share space in this unique facility. Designed from the ground up for the special needs of not-for-profits and volunteer organizations in the North Lake Tahoe region, the headquarters of the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation provides many full-time organizations and other groups with an umbrella of benefits and value-added services to aid them in their missions. The generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has given Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival a wonderful opportunity to be part of a model project for not-for-profit organizations in America.
Under the stewardship of the Board of Directors and Festival management, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival continues today to provide theatrical and cultural programs in a casual setting on the beach at Sand Harbor, and has become one of the outstanding outdoor cultural events in the United States. Today, the Festival produces professional productions of Shakespeare and other theater experiences for over 31,000 patrons each summer. In addition, the Showcase Series, featuring the best of the region’s arts and culture organizations, reaches an additional 6,000 patrons.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival also provides two educational outreach programs that reach over 7,000 young people each year in the Lake Tahoe region. In the summer, the Festival produces the “D. G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program,” an interactive adaptation for children of a Shakespeare play performed at Sand Harbor as well as other locations around Lake Tahoe. During the academic school year, the Festival provides an in-school residency in Shakespeare and the classics, “InterACT,” to schools throughout the region.