The mission of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is to enrich our community by providing the highest quality theatrical and cultural productions for the residents of the greater Lake Tahoe area and visitors from around the world. We also provide meaningful educational experiences for youth by offering theatrical outreach programs throughout the 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 run from 1972-1974, Shakespeare was performed on the lawn in front of the Ehrman Mansion until maintenance issues made this venue unsuitable for further outdoor theatrical performances. Two to three years later, under the auspices of the North Tahoe Fine Arts Council (NTFAC), performances were moved to Skylandia Park in Tahoe City, where steady attendance growth surpassed the capacity of parking facilities, and another new home was sought.
In 1978, NTFAC and Nevada State Parks agreed to hold Shakespeare performances at Sand Harbor, a functional unit of the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. In the spring of 1979, a modest stage was built with the help of volunteer contractors, carpenters and students. During August 1979, hundreds of enthusiastic Shakespeare fans attended a total of nine performances at Sand Harbor.
NTFAC produced and managed “Shakespeare at Sand Harbor”, nicknamed “Bard on the Beach”, until 1994. During this time, NTFAC contracted with several different Shakespeare companies, and some local actors performed with many of the troupes. By 1988, the repertory schedule increased to 15 nights each August and often included a non-Shakespearean play. Each year, more and more people made the trip to Sand Harbor to enjoy a picnic and a play under the stars, often to sold-out houses.
In 1994, NTFAC folded and the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau took over the management and production of Shakespeare performances at Sand Harbor. The following year the “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, invited Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival to share space in the Donald W. Reynolds Not-for-Profit Center. Designed from the ground up for the special needs of not-for-profits and volunteer organizations in the North Lake Tahoe region, this 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.
In 2010, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival joined a unique, strategic producing alliance with Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise, Idaho and Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland, Ohio. This ongoing collaboration is designed to maximize return on organizational investments, increase production efficiencies, create long-term work opportunities for artists, and share best practices. Led by a unified management team and supported by a single production staff, the three separate 501c3 regional theaters continue to reap remarkable artistic and economicbenefits, and have seen audience growth year-over-year.
Under the stewardship of the LTSF Board of Directors and Festival management, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival continues to provide theatrical and cultural programs in a casual setting on the beach at Sand Harbor, and is 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 33,000 patrons each summer. In addition, the Showcase Series, featuring the best of the region’s arts and culture organizations, reaches an additional 6,500 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.