Michigan Shakespeare Festival Issues Urgent Plea for Support
Jackson, Michigan – The Michigan Shakespeare Festival has issued an urgent plea for aid from its friends and donors as a result of an unexpected shortfall in financial support from several key sources. The call came from Bart Williams, Managing Director, who described the crisis.
“With so much momentum going into this coming season, it is distressing now find several funding sources we had counted on did not come through.”
Williams described the budget shortfall as in the “mid five figures” and that emergency measures were needed to fill this gap within the next few weeks. Without additional funds, the season might be shortened or cancelled altogether.
Williams said some donors have already stepped forward but much more help is needed. “I am happy to report that we are already on our way to our goal of $50,000,” said Williams. “We have received $21,000 in emergency pledges in just a few days. If we can find donors or sponsors who will at least match that amount, we can resolve this crisis. There is so much good news surrounding the Festival, it would be a tragedy if we can’t. ”
Williams describes the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, now in its 18th season, as on the verge of a breakthrough as an arts organization and as an economic engine for Jackson County and the State of Michigan.
“The 2012 season is attracting advance ticket sales in record numbers,” he said, “and we are generating unprecedented media attention.” Stage and film stars Dame Judi Dench and Stacy Keach have publicly endorsed the Michigan Shakespeare Festival bringing it increased visibility. This year’s Festival will feature Shakespeare’s Richard III and Love’s Labour’s Lost as well as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The Festival begins July 12 and runs through August 12.
“Much of the credit for our progress belongs to our Artistic Director Janice L. Blixt,” said Williams.
Under her leadership, MSF has increased its production sizes, grown technical capability, and strengthened the MSF acting company with an influx of fresh professional talent including actors who left the area thinking they would be unable to make a living. More than 75% of the Festival company is made up of Michigan natives. Blixt is also credited with creating the Michigan Shakespeare Festival High School Tour that this year performed full-length productions of Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth in 47 high schools before nearly 8,500 students. The MSF also sponsors a high school scholarship monologue contest and other community-based events.
In addition to its artistic merits, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is a significant economic driver for Jackson and for the state. More than 80% of the Shakespeare audience travels 20 -100 miles or more from throughout Michigan and surrounding states. The MSF has generated an estimated 2 million dollars in local revenue and over 3.5 million dollars statewide. Those numbers are increasing through tourism partnerships with area attractions including the Ella Sharp Museum, a number of local wineries, Michigan International Speedway, Historic Jackson Prison Tours and others.
Donations to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival can be made through the Festival website at www.michiganshakespearefestival.com or by calling Janet Meyer or Bart Williams at 517.998.3673.