Kentucky Shakespeare just had the kind of season most theater companies would kill for.
A year removed from the turmoil of internal scandal and an aborted summer schedule, the organization returned with its biggest season in decades, invited fellow Elizabethan practitioners to the stage, and set records along the way.
And that was just a summer. For 2015, Matt Wallace and company want to make Kentucky Shakespeare a year-round affair.
This past weekend, Wallace announced Kentucky Shakespeare’s 2015 summer season. The company will build on the successes of last year, make adjustments based on experience and continue making changes to improve the audience experience even more.
The 2015 summer season will be built around a trio of main-stage professional productions, following this year’s uber-successful formula of staging three shows and then running them in repertory. Kentucky Shakespeare’s main-stage season will consist of “The Tempest,” premiering June 3; “The Taming of the Show,” beginning June 18; and “Macbeth,” starting July 2. Each will run for two weeks, then alternate each night July 14-26, culminating in a one-day “Bard-a-thon” showcase of all three on July 25.
“The model definitely worked,” said Wallace, the company’s producing artistic director. “I knew that I wanted to be able to equally distribute the performances with the professional shows, which we didnâ€™t do this year. We just did ‘Hamlet’ for one week and then went into rep. Now that we can see that the audience demand is there and the supportâ€™s there, weâ€™re going to run the third show two weeks as well, and then two weeks of rep. So all three shows will do 15 performances.”
The season will also start early, taking advantage of the end of the school year, and end earlier, avoiding the uncertainties of August weather.
In picking the shows, Wallace stayed close to the comedy-history-tragedy trichotomy of 2014 without repeating it.
“I thought â€˜I want to do something different,â€™” he said. “‘Tempest’ is one of my favorite plays, and I thought it might be a fun follow-up for our audiences after ‘Midsummer’ with some of the fantastical elements of the play. We havenâ€™t done ‘Shrew’ on-stage since 1998. It was definitely time to bring that back to the stage.”
The company will invite in a new batch of Community Partners, with a twist in 2015: rather than additional stagings of Shakespeare, the companies will do original works inspired by The Bard. Theatre  will apply its mission of “recent and relevant” with a new commission inspired by the works of Shakespeare. The Bard’s Town will stage “Chasing Ophelia,” the play that opened the popular local theater/restaurant, and a work author and The Bard’s Town owner Doug Schutte wrote while in England at the rebuilt Globe Theatre.
“Itâ€™s going to be a fun follow-up to our last season, because a lot of the characters like Bottom and Hamlet and Ophelia, youâ€™ll be seeing those in ‘Chasing Ophelia,'” Wallace said.
“Recent and Relevant Shakespeare” and “Chasing Ophelia” will run Aug. 4-9.
The Louisville Improvisors will put a late-night twist on Shakespeare as they contribute improvised shows in the Elizabethan’s vein after the main-stage productions at 10:30 p.m. on June 27, July 11 and July 18.
“I talked to them a long time ago about this idea,” Wallace said. “In that improvised Shakespeare, we might even keep an actor or two from the show that night to maybe make a guest appearance. Itâ€™s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Globe Players high school troupe will contribute “The Comedy of Errors” July 29-Aug. 2. The company’s “Macbeth” will follow in “Hamlet”‘s stead from 2014 as the touring production of Shakespeare in the Parks, visiting different parks around Jefferson County in a scaled-down form in advance of the summer season. Wallace is in talks with different metro council members about expanding the tour’s reach for 2015.
Beyond the spring tour, summer season and year-round school touring, Wallace is looking to take advantage of other performance opportunities for the company. For the first time, Kentucky Shakespeare will have a presence at the St. James Art Fair next month, performing educational programming each day from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. The company will also perform a candle-lit reading of “Macbeth” Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Resurfaced Popup Plaza open-air lot at 615 W. Main St.
Beyond producing the plays, Wallace is looking to continue improvements to the audience experience, attempting to replace the 30-plus-year-old lighting truss over the Central Park stage (the Kentucky Colonels have already contributed half the cost) and looking to replace the time-worn wood seating in the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater with aluminum benches. He also is working with Councilman David James on installing lighting in the Central Park pergola.
All in all, 2015 looks to be an even bigger year for Kentucky Shakespeare.
“Weâ€™re pumped and ready to get rolling,” Wallace said.