CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival has made its triumphant return, bringing the transformative words of William Shakespeare to life for audiences to enjoy across Northeast Ohio free of charge.
"Every year, the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, for the last 25, has been really getting better and better," said Dusten Welch, Artistic Director for Cleveland Shakespeare Festival.
Free, live and right outside — it's the simple philosophy of the summer staple. The live-action event has successfully sparked dialogue and growing interest each year.
Dubbed “Cleveland’s most accessible theater,” it attracts roughly 5,000 viewers per season.
With so many folks cooped up at home over the last couple of years due to the pandemic, the number of spectators could reach new heights for this extra special 25th anniversary year.
Accessibility has been a focal point.
"We perform in these public spaces so that anybody can see it, often times surprising people that [say], 'Oh wow, there's an art event going on!'" said Welch.
The festival combines arts, culture and entertainment.
This year's productions highlight Shakespeare's "Hamlet" — considered to be one of the greatest works of all time — and Moliere's "The Learned Ladies," which is a much lighter and satirical piece.
"Everything is larger than life, really big. Really big reactions. There is no subtlety," said Maggie Rhodes, who plays Philaminte in "The Learned Ladies".
Organizers say the entire festival is intentionally hyper-local.
Whether you realize it or not — it’s all about the people, the places and accessibility of Cleveland.
"Most of our actors will either be from this area or have strong ties to it whether they went to school here or grew up here but moved away," said Welch.
And whether you’re walking by or fully engaged in the performances—organizers say feedback is highly encouraged and much appreciated.
"We need the audience's reaction to fill us up and to give us something to play off of even more," said Jennifer Jarvis, the actress who plays Henriette.
Friday night's production of "The Learned Ladies" is happening in Public Square at 7 p.m, and it's free!
There are tour dates across Northeast Ohio, from Rocky River to Mentor to Euclid.
You can check out the full list here: TOUR SCHEDULE & GUIDE | Clevelandshakespeare