Texas Shakespeare Festival Foundation President Sue Brown joked she calls the festival “the miracle on Henderson Boulevard” for its longevity, now in its 32nd season.
After the festival began in 1986, the TSF staff asked a group of supporters to form a guild. Frank Thornton, president of the college
at the time, asked that the guild also have a foundation attached to it.
“It was actually proposed by [Thornton] who recognized that the festival had grown so much since it was founded in 1986 that it would soon outgrow KC’s ability to be the sole financial supporter,” TSF Foundation member Christina Anderson said, narrating a video presentation about the not-for-profit during the Kilgore College Board of Trustees’ pre-meeting Monday night. The 2017 company also had its official Media Day Monday morning to help promote the season, which begins June 29 with “Much Ado about Nothing,” the first of the four main stage productions to open.
The top priority of the TSF Foundation and Guild is to raise money for the festival with a secondary purpose of purchasing equipment the festival needs, which many times is shared with the KC theater department also. These purchases include costumes, flooring and lighting.
This year, the foundation paid for the lease of a large warehouse space that is being used as an indoor scene shop, allowing the artists to work indoors without the threat of weather delaying their work.
The foundation also funded the renovations to the TSF Festival Center’s UpStairs Space to allow for productions.
Some of the ways the Foundation and Guild helps raise money is to send a fundraising letter campaign each year and increase membership.
This year has been the highest fundraising year on record, Anderson said.
To help raise money, Brown said, the group also purchases all the merchandise for sale in the Stratford Room, so the all the money from the sales go directly to the festival.
Members also provide volunteer services during the main festival season each summer. The Foundation and Guild members host a welcome dinner and a Strike Dinner for the TSF Company each year, while also providing funds for breakfast six days a week, lunch three days a week and funding for the festival’s craft services coordinator, Sarah Fish.
The festival is funded in thirds with 30 percent of the funding coming from in-kind donations from Kilgore College and other entities, 30 percent from the TSF Foundation and Guild and 40 percent from the festival itself through ticket sales and programming.
Kilgore College pays for the salaries of Caldwell and Managing Director John Dodd. The TSF Foundation pays for the salaries of Associate Artistic Directors Meaghan and Matthew Simpson, who have brought year round programs back to the area and also serve as adjunct KC faculty members and guest directors in KC productions.
“None of these programs and benefits would be possible without the support of the TSF Foundation and Guild, and they are provided at zero cost to Kilgore College,” Anderson said.
In addition to the foundation-purchased equipment and renovations used by the KC theater department, TSF also brings KC students and alumni into the festival each year.
KC students who have participated in TSF have gone on to become career theater professionals, Anderson said.
“Kilgore College is one of only two junior colleges in the United States that offers its students the opportunity to add a professional theater credit to their resume while still a freshman or a sophomore. And not just in acting, but also in every other element of technical theater production,” Anderson said, noting more than 150 Kilgore College students have worked with TSF since 1986.