Ohio Shakespeare Festival, which is known for its summer Shakespeare productions on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, will have a second home to stage shows during the fall, winter and spring months.
Nancy Cates, the co-artistic director of Ohio Shakespeare Festival, said that the theater company will move into Greystone Hall in downtown Akron, into the theater space formerly occupied by Actors' Summit. Neil Thackaberry and Mary Jo Alexander, the co-artistic directors of Actors' Summit, both retired and the theater board had decided to close the theater.
"We have signed a letter of intent that, as of Oct. 1, we will take over the sixth and seventh floors," said Cates, who runs Ohio Shakespeare Festival along with her husband Terry Burgler. "We will try to hit the ground right away."
To help accomplish this goal, Cates said that for the first time, Ohio Shakespeare Festival will launch a fundraising campaign through indiegogo.com, starting Sept. 1.
"In the 15 years at Ohio Shakespeare Festival, we never did any fundraising," Cates said. "We have never had a brick and mortar building. We've never had a facility to maintain. This will be a considerable expenditure, but I think we are ready for it now."
Cates credited daughter Tess Burgler and son-in-law Joe Pine for taking the initiative and securing the theater space at Greystone, which used to belong to the Masons.
"Tess and Joe did it," Cates said. "They proposed this with the Akron Convention and Visitor's Bureau. They thought this would be a good place for us, with the retirement of Neil and Mary Jo."
Cates stressed that Ohio Shakespeare Festival would continue to stage two Shakespeare shows at Stan Hywet in the summer, and that plans for the 2017 at the historic property were underway.
At the Greystone Hall space, Ohio Shakespeare Festival will stage four shows a year as part of its regular season, tentatively starting this October.
"The first show will be designed to appeal to the family, branching out from our 'Robin Hood' show [at Stan Hywet] this past summer, which had been our first foray into family programming," Cates said, adding that 'Robin Hood' received a "huge, positive response from the audience."
The regular season also will include a classic piece, a contemporary work and, of course, a full-length Shakespearean work, Cates said. In addition, the theater company plans to do student matinee shows of shortened Shakespeare works, starting with "Macbeth."
"These would have a small cast and run about 60 minutes," she said. "They would include the full language of Shakespeare. There is a three-actor version of 'Macbeth,' about 60 minutes long, but with the actual language. It's an extremely clever integrated script, with full costume."
The theater company would contact the schools to see what their students are studying, and try to work with the schools, Cates added.
Pine and Tess Burgler would "spearhead the Greystone management," Cates said.
"Joe would handle educational programming, and Tess would do advertising, PR and social media, which is what I do now," Cates said.
Cates said moving into Greystone was "a wonderful opportunity."
"We did not expect it to come up," she said. "It's mind-boggling to walk into this building and think, 'It's beautiful, and we are going to be doing shows here!' We had always intended to do more than Shakespeare programming, but we've been distracted by other work. Now we can do Shaw and O'Neill and Coward."
Another advantage to being indoors? Not having hold, edit or (rarely) cancel a show due to inclement weather, Cates said.
"We will have some sort of celebration the first time it rains and we don't have to stop," Cates said. "Not sure what we will do, whether it will be a champagne toast or balloons, but we will do something."
Third theater, still a charm
Ohio Shakespeare Festival is not the only theater Cates and Terry Burglar oversee; they also are the artistic directors of Coach House Theatre in Akron, which stages shows fall through spring. This season, Cates said, Coach House will do 88 performances, which includes a mainstage series of five shows, its Elder Theatre series readings and its Black Box series. In addition, Coach House just finished the first of three phases in its capital campaign to improve the theater structure. This phase included creating an addition to the building, which created space for larger changing rooms and a larger greenroom, and freed up space to create a scene shop.
"In the 89 years that theater has been there, it has never had a scene shop," she said. "We've always built our sets directly on the stage."
Obviously, running three different theater spaces will keep the family busy.
"All theater, all the time," Cates said, and laughed. "But, you do something you love, and you never work a day in your life. We are extremely fortunate that way."