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“For fresh concept, surprising intervention, precise portrayals and sleek style, it doesn’t get any better than Orlando Shakespeare.”

– Florida Today

Plays and Events


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Simply ShakespeareSimply Shakespeare

  • 1970 - 1976
    Professor Stuart Omans of the University of Central Florida leads a touring bus of students into area schools to perform scenes from Shakespeare.


  • 1975 – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) gives UCF a grant for the Teacher Training Institute. Dr. Omans organizes a teacher-produced production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Loch Haven at the Civic Theatre. Thousands attend. Midnight performances are added to accommodate the demand.
  • 1979 – 2nd NEH Grant for UCF $150,000: Hamlet: The Renaissance Mind

Getting Started

  • 1987 – UCF Provost Richard Astro and UCF English Department Chair John Schell release Omans from teaching to start the UCF Project for the Development of Humanities and Fine Arts, aimed toward establishment of a Shakespeare festival.
  • UCF President Trevor Colbourn donates office space in the Day Building.
  • Richard Astro approves startup funding for the Orlando Shakespeare Festival.
  • UCF provides administrative offices and salaries for the Artistic Director, Business Manager and Secretary.

Stuart OmansMaking A Theater
Stuart Omans and Mayor Bill Frederick approach Walt Disney World for assistance in renovating the bandshell at Lake Eola. Disney and the City of Orlando donate funds for the expansion.

The Guild
Orlando Shakespeare Guild is founded. The first Guild fundraiser is held at Enzian Theater.


OSF OfficeA New Board

  • Incorporation of the "Orlando Shakespeare Festival."
  • First Board President: Michael Daspin, 1989-1990
  • Initial Board includes: Bill Boyles, Marion Brechner, Trevor Colbourn (UCF), Mark Garrett (Baker Hostetler), Marilyn Goldman (S.I. Goldman), Ellen Prague, Diane Pickett and others

Office and Staff

  • OSF administrative offices established on the corner of Pine Street and Magnolia.
  • Festival hires Elizabeth Wills, OSF's first Business Manager, and Peg Jones, first Publicist.

First Season

  • 1989 – Festival Season Budget: $300,000
  • Costumes rented from Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, England. First time RSC loans costumes in the USA. Michael and Sandria Reese of the RSC join the OSF Company.
  • Performances are free to the public. All available seats are reserved within hours.
  • Opening Night is the coldest day of the last five years.
  • Southeast Tourism Society selects OSF as one of the "Top Twenty Events in the Southeast."

Festival Heats Up

  • Festival performances expand to five weeks and move to April 1991 for warmer temperatures.
  • OSF hires three professional actors from Actors' Equity Association for the season.
  • UCF Early Music Ensemble becomes the resident music group for OSF.
  • Orlando Shakespeare Guild begins merchandise sales, raffle and ushering during performances.

Board Expands
Board President: Mark Garrett (Baker Hostetler), 1990-1992
New Board Members include: Bill Edwards (Olive Garden), Linda Lindsey (Ernst & Young), Rita Lowndes, Thaddeus Seymour (President of Rollins College) and more


TYCThe Young Company
Formation of The Young Company, a high school performance troupe for at-risk youth. Judith Rubinger is the first Director. Group receives special award from Walt Disney World.

More Actors
OSF expands its agreement with Actors' Equity Association to six actors. New York actor Jim Helsinger joins the company as Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet and Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Getting Bigger
Third OSF spring season holds 29 performances. Estimated attendance is 21,000 at Walt Disney World Amphitheatre.

Board President: Rita Lowndes, 1992-1994


A Big Pledge
Baker Hostetler pledges $75,000 to OSF to be given over a three-year period.

Come to the Renaissance
Renaissance Festival Weekend: OSF holds weekend Renaissance Faire in Winter Park's Mead Garden.

What's in a name?
OSF officially changes its name to "Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival" to highlight the partnership with UCF.

Changing of the Guard
Stuart Omans announces his last season as Artistic Director. The Board appoints Mary Ann Dean to the newly-created position of Executive Director.

Board President: George Fender, 1994-1995
Board Chairman: Rita Lowndes, 1994-1995
New Board Members include: Ron Blocker (OCPS), Jim Heekin (LDDK&R), Frank Holt (City of Orlando) and Teresa (Brockman) Colling (First Union)

New Artistic Director
OSF Board Chair Rita Lowndes meets with new UCF President John Hitt who agrees to initiate a national search for a new Artistic Director. Jim Helsinger is appointed.

The ArtsMall
OSF converts a store in the old Winter Park Mall into a 120-seat venue. The Festival produces its first full-length non-Shakespearean production, Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker.

Shakespeare Unplugged
OSF starts the Shakespeare Unplugged series, monthly readings of Shakespeare plays with the goal of reading the entire canon of Shakespeare. The first season features "The Italian Plays."


  • OSF begins the Shakespeare Alive program, bringing professional actors into local K-12 schools.
  • The Shakespeare Pins for PALS Bowl-a-thon is born, helping provide tickets to schools and individuals who otherwise could not afford to attend.

Board President: Linda Lindsey (Greater Orlando Aviation Authority), 1995-1997
Board Chair: George Fender, 1995-1996
New Board Members include: Susan Arkin (OCPS) and Sally Blackmun (Darden)
Festival Season Budget: $550,000


Fall Expansion
OSF expands to two fall productions performed at the Civic Theatre.

The War of the Roses
Shakespeare Unplugged monthly public readings series of the canon continues with "The History Cycle" and "The War of the Roses."

More Classes

  • OSF Education Department begins holding Saturday community classes at UCF Downtown Academic Center.
  • OSF begins a semester-long program teaching Shakespeare to at-risk students at Wymore High School with master teachers Richard Width and Suzanne O'Donnell.

The Renaissance Revels
A new pre-show event, The Renaissance Revels, provides renaissance faire entertainment, puppet shows, songs, juggling and merriment before spring OSF productions.

Associate Board
OSF Associate Board is founded. Joe Amos serves as the first President.

Board Chair: Rita Lowndes, 1996-1997


The Historical Museum
OSF moves fall productions to the Orange County Historical Museum in Loch Haven Park. The building is scheduled to be torn down after the History Center moves downtown.

Much Ado About Love
February 14th, 1998 – OSF celebrates Valentine's Day with a fundraiser dance and dinner held at the Peabody Hotel on International Drive.

Kings and Comedies
Shakespeare Unplugged, the monthly reading series, explores the remaining history plays and lesser-known comedies.

United Arts
OSF becomes a principal member of United Arts of Central Florida, the Central Florida umbrella arts fundraising organization.

Board President: Cynthia Sucher (Dynamic Healthcare Technologies), 1997-1999
Board Chair: Linda Lindsey, 1997-1998


Moving Indoors
On behalf of OSF, John Lowndes and Gordon Arkin negotiate with the City of Orlando for a long-term lease of the Orange County History Museum building. Costume and scene shops move into the museum.

"The Apocrophya"
Shakespeare Unplugged completes the canon with a public reading or full production of all the works of William Shakespeare. In addition, Eric Hissom leads the effort to begin public readings of new plays.

STAA Conference
OSF hosts the annual conference of Shakespeare Theatre Association of America. More than 120 Artistic and Managing Directors from Shakespeare Festivals around the country attend. Royal Shakespeare Company actor Tony Church gives a performance of his one-man show.

New Board Members include: John Sanders (Foley & Lardner LLP), Ingrid Cordell, and Ellen Prague (returning).
Development Director Cathi Melton resigns from the staff to join the Board of Directors.


Rita Lowndes leads a fundraising campaign to raise $3.2 million to renovate the Historical Museum building as a new home for OSF. Lead gifts include the State of Florida's Cultural Facilities Grant, City of Orlando, Darden Restaurants Foundation, Dr. Phillips, Inc. and individual donors. OSF begins the "Take a Seat Campaign" to name seats in the theaters. VOA is selected as the architectural firm for the project.

PlayLab, a monthly program to read new plays, replaces Shakespeare Unplugged on Monday nights once a month. PlayLab adds four-performance workshops of Twilight at Monticello by J.D. Sutton, Billie and Fran by Eric Hissom, and Around the World in 80 Days by Mark Brown.

Lillie Stoates Awards
OSF wins Central Florida Awards for: Best Play, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and special Golden Lilly Award for 10 years of service to the community.

Go Wilde
Jim Helsinger and Central Florida Theatre Alliance President Terry Olson lead an effort to produce a "Go Wilde Season," celebrating the works of Oscar Wilde throughout Orlando. The season features 15 readings and productions of Oscar Wilde plays by local theaters and universities. The December issue of American Theater magazine highlights this Central Florida event.

Board President: Susan Arkin (OCPS School Board Member), 1999-2001
Board Chair: Rita Lowndes, 1999-Present

Festival Seasonal Budget


Jack Jennings & Sons begins demolition and renovation in March 2001 on the new John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. The OSF administrative offices move to the new site. Building committee members include Mary Ann Dean, George Fender, Margaret "Bro" Garland, Marilyn Goldman, Jim Helsinger, Gary Kreisler, Rita Lowndes, Trisha Margeson, and Bill and Ksenia Merck.

The PlayLab series includes seven monthly readings and workshops of The Trial of Joan the Maid by Jim Helsinger and Hyde in the Shadows by Michael Carleton.

Pulitzer Play-a-thon
October 28 - 29 – OSF holds the Pulitzer Play-a-thon. The event draws local theaters together for public readings of Pulitzer Prize winning plays.

New Board Members include: Brian Phillips (A. Brian Phillips, P.A.) and Bruce Harris (Harris Harris Bauerle Sharma)


Opening the New Center
The grand opening includes a week of special events co-sponsored by Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed and Greater Homes Construction. Highlights include:

  • November 25 – Special dinner for donors, underwritten by Steve Goldman.
  • November 28 – Sneak Peek Tour for community members to see the new complex.
  • November 30 – Gala Opening Night performance of The Taming of the Shrew in the new Ken and Trisha Margeson Theater.
  • November 30 – The Shakespeare Guild opens the Harry and Jackie Pappas Gift Shop for merchandise sales, as well as raffle and concessions in the new building.

Opening the Goldman
The new Marilyn and Sig Goldman Theater opens on February 22 with Hamlet preceded by an elegant dinner underwritten by Steve Goldman.


More Shows
The newly sponsored Darden Theater for Young Audiences Series expands to two productions for children.

New Plays
PlayLab features new monthly play readings September through May and workshops of A Christmas Carol by Jim Helsinger and A Tale of Two Cities by Robin Olson.

Festival Season Budget
$1.6 million


Holiday Show
OSF adds a holiday show to its seasonal offerings with A Christmas Carol in Five Parts, expanding the Signature Series to six productions.

PlayFest Begins: The Orlando Festival of New Plays
PlayLab changes its name to PlayFest and creates a 10-day festival of new plays. The first Orlando Festival of New Plays runs November 1 - 9, 2003 and features 29 plays in readings, workshops and full production. Highlights include:

  • Keynote Speaker: Israel Horovitz (Obie and Drama Desk winner).
  • Workshops: The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge by Mark Brown, Trapezium - A Knightly Farce by Henry Rathvon
  • Fringe Re-Loaded: Dead Man Flying by Eric Hissom, La Putain Avec Les Fleurs by Rocky Hopson and Rob Houle, Mr. Story and the Supposed Gauguin by Tod Kimbro
  • Guest Workshops: Isadora by David E. Macelroy, Holmes! - Book and lyrics by Brett Nicholson, Music by Hans Vollrath
  • The Voicemail Plays: Two to three-minute plays that take place via voicemail on phones in the lobby.

Board President: John Sanders (Foley & Lardner LLP), 2003-2005
New Board Members include: Phillip Anderson (CNLBank), Suzanne Gilbert (Holland + Knight), Ford Kiene (City Beverages), John Quigley (AmSouth Bank)


The Bard's Cup
OSF creates the Bard's Cup Golf Tournament fundraiser played at the Rosen Shingle Creek Golf Club.

New Musical Offering
OSF premieres its first production of a musical with A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler.

PlayFest '05
The second season of PlayFest runs January 14 - 23, 2005, featuring readings, workshops and full productions, including:

  • World Premiere: Trapezium - A Knightly Farce by Henry Rathvon
  • Workshops: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Richard Width, Quincunx by Henry Rathvon
  • 22 Readings of new plays by OSF and guest theaters, including one-acts and plays for young audiences. Special feature is a reading of The Beauty of the Father by Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer Prize Winner).
  • The E-mail Plays: Short plays that unfold in a series of e-mail messages on computers in the PlayFest Lounge.

New Board Members include: Kurt Bauerle (Harris Harris Bauerle Sharma) and Jim Goodrich


Harriett Lake & PlayFest
Harriett Lake makes the lead gift toward "The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival Endowment in Playwriting," a $1 million endowment held by the UCF Foundation for the development of new plays at OSF and a playwrighting curriculum in the UCF Department of Theater. In addition, she makes a four-year commitment to be the presenting sponsor of the newly named "PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays." The new "Harriett's Bar" is dedicated on June 6, 2005 to honor Mrs. Lake.

Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
3rd annual PlayFest includes:

  • Keynote Speaker: Robert Schenkkan (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
  • World Premiere: Robinson Crusoe by Jim Helsinger
  • Workshops: Breaking the Shakespeare Code by John Minigan, Savages by Anne Nelson, Seagulls in a Cherry Tree by William Missouri Downs
  • 22 Readings of new plays
  • The Webcam Plays: Short plays that take place entirely through Web camera conversations.

New Studio Theater
The Lester and Sonia Mandell Studio Theater opens. This new flexible 99-seat theater is capable of many different configurations for productions and serves as a rehearsal hall.

Shakespeare Poker
New "Texas Hold 'Em" fundraiser premieres in the fall with 75 players. It becomes an annual fall and spring event.

With matching funds from Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, OSF raises the organization's endowment to a total of $360,000.

A Fond Farewell
After serving for 11 years as Executive Director, Mary Ann Dean retires.

Board President: Brian Phillips (A. Brian Phillips, P.A.), 2005-2007
New members include: Janet Rapp (Geller, Ragans, James, Oppenheimer & Creel), Steven Jamieson (Mall at Millenia), Lisa Prast


From Festival to Theater
To better reflect the year-round performance schedule and permanent theaters, the word "Festival" is changed and a new name is chosen: Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF.

Shakespeare with Heart
Shakespeare with Heart is added as a new program – a summer camp for teens with and without special needs produced in partnership with United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida and sponsored by the UCF Exceptional Education program.

Hispanic Initiative
The Hispanic Initiative begins. Dora Toro and La Prensa donate $10,000 toward the purchase of a caption display system to show Spanish translations during selected OST Shakespearean productions.

Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
PlayFest runs February 23 - March 4, 2007. Highlights include:

  • Keynote Speaker: Theresa Rebeck (Finalist for Pulitzer Prize)
  • Southern Premiere: Crime and Punishment
  • Workshops: China – The Whole Enchilada by Mark Brown with music by Paul Mirkovich, The Stone Face by Sherry MacDonald, and You Might as Well Live by Norman Mathews
  • 10 Readings of new plays
  • The Podcast Plays: Short plays are available on ipods throughout the lobby.

Bay Hill Golf
The annual Bard's Cup Golf Tournament moves to Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

National Grant
OST receives its first of three Shakespeare for a New Generation grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest to expand the Shakespeare Alive program. OST is one of only 35 theaters in the nation to receive this honor.

New members include: Linda Akins (Orange County Government), Diane Chase (UCF), Jose Fernandez (UCF), John Keating (Keating and Schlitt, P.A.), Valerie Pickert (CNLBank), Jan Pratt (OCPS), Patricia Strasberg



  • The OST production of Into the Woods is featured on the cover of The Sondheim Review.
  • Mack and Penny McLaughlin upgrade the McLaughlin Rehearsal Studio and add a new mural where all who work for OST may sign their names.

New Managing Director
Donna Law hired as new Managing Director.

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge and Around the World in 80 Days are published by Dramatists Play Service.

Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
PlayFest runs February 8 - 17, 2008. Highlights include:

  • Keynote Speaker: John Pielmeir (Great American Play Contest Winner for Agnes of God)
  • Regional Premiere: Opus by Michael Hollinger
  • 10 Readings of new plays
  • Workshops: The Blue-Sky Boys by Deborah Brevoort, The Castle of Otranto by John Minigan, and The Unfortunates by Aoise Stratford
  • The Typewriter Plays: Short plays are written on typewriters in the PlayFest Lounge.

Board President: Debbi Toohey, 2007-2009
New members include: W. Michael Black (Dean Mead), Keith J. Hesse (Carlton Field, P.A.), Joyce Johnson (Tiffany & Co.), Karyn Kaplan, Alexis Pugh, Jeff Ramsey (Regions Bank), Mark Terry (TKO), James Tyson (Insurance Office of America), Joann Tyson (Cosmetic Promotions)


20th Anniversary
OST celebrates its 20th Anniversary Season!

More Scripts
Every Christmas Story Ever Told, Robinson Crusoe and Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker are published by PlayScripts. Hyde, In the Shadows is published by Humdrumming, Ltd., London. China – The Whole Enchilada is published by Samuel French.

New York Shows

  • Around the World in 80 Days opens Off-Broadway at the Irish Arts Center.
  • China – The Whole Enchilada is featured in the New York Fringe Festival where it wins the Award for Excellence as Outstanding Musical.

National New Play Network
OST hosts the National New Play Network Showcase of New Plays. Professional theaters from around the country come to Orlando to attend readings of new plays. (December 2008)

New members include: Shirley D. Bias (OUC), Steven Chicurel (UCF), Kimberly Cooper (Tiffany & Co.), Chris D'Amico (Dean Mead), Jack Lord (Foley & Lardner), Paula Manchester (Darden), Andrew Massy-Farrel (Massy Communications), Barry Miller (The Closing Agent), Kalindi Ramcharan

OST Seasonal Budget
$2.5 million


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