Champlain Shakespeare Festival Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Champlain Shakespeare Festival Papers are composed of correspondence, printed matter, reviews, photographs, and technical materials such as production books and cue sheets. The collection covers the years 1959 to 1988 and is arranged chronologically by year, with subjects arranged alphabetically within each year.
- Champlain Shakespeare Festival (Organization)
Collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.
The Champlain Shakespeare Festival, one of the longest-running summer Shakespearean repertory companies in North America, was established in 1959, under the auspices of the University of Vermont’s Department of Continuing Education and its then director Ray Phillips. Phillips’s support of the project was secured by festival director Greg Falls and Ed Feidner of the University’s Drama department. The Festival, begun as part of the 350th anniversary celebration of Samuel de Champlain’s 1609 “discovery” of Lake Champlain, was initially designed by Falls and Feidner to provide young actors with the opportunity to attempt classical roles that they might otherwise be unable to secure in commercial theatre.
In July 1959, the Festival opened for its first season in the Arena Theatre in UVM’s Robert Hull Fleming Museum, offering productions of The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Molière’s The Miser. In 1962, Feidner became producer and director for the Festival, which soon established an alliance with the Actors’ Equity Association. The Festival quickly outgrew the Arena Theatre, and in 1974, the company moved its productions into the newly renovated Royall Tyler Theatre.
The Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1983, receiving congratulatory messages from Vermont Governor Richard Snelling, President Ronald Reagan, and Shakespearean actor Sir John Gielgud. In an effort to increase attendance and charitable giving, festival administrators diversified the company’s repertoire and increased expenditures to expand its administrative staff and promotional activities. Judith Williams, who had taken over as the Festival’s producer in 1981, was replaced in that role by William Schenk in 1986. The Festival came to a close in 1989, just before its 31st season, following Feidner’s resignation as director of the Festival.
Of the ninety plays produced during the Festival’s thirty-year history, 75 of them were productions of 37 different Shakespearean plays. The remaining plays were written by other playwrights, including Beckett, Stoppard, Marlowe, and Williams. Some of the Festival company’s alumni went on to lucrative stage, film, and television careers, most notably Jason Miller (That Championship Season), Richard Sanders (WKRP in Cincinnati), and Carole Demas (Grease).
The Festival, while formally known as the "Champlain Shakespeare Festival," maintained strong ties with the University of Vermont throughout its existence. Because of this, it was often referred to informally as the "UVM Shakespeare Festival."
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The Champlain Shakespeare Festival Papers contain correspondence, printed matter, reviews, photographs, and technical materials from one of the longest-running summer Shakespearean repertory companies in North America. The collection covers the years 1959 to 1988 and is arranged chronologically by year.
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- Champlain Shakespeare Festival Papers
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