Updated June 10, 2014
Equity Works: Five Questions for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
From left to right: Brittany Steiger of AEA, Kathryn McGill (Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park), Michael Gibbons (Managing Director of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park) and Christian Hainds of AEA.
Congratulations to Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, a new Equity theatre. Here are five questions with the company’s Artistic Director, Kathryn McGill.
Q: What has Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park meant to and done for the community?
A: Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park was created in 1985 by Kathryn McGill and Jack O’Meara because there was a need in the state for a language-based theatre. We also had a commitment to create a professional theatre for the area. Since our beginning in 1985, education has been a crucial part of our mission. We performed our first season on a stage in the middle of a highly popular public park. As we came to know our audience we learned that they were young, (some very young) and many were not accustomed to attending the theatre. We realized we had been given an important responsibility: Through Shakespeare’s texts we had a chance to find, develop and, most importantly, educate a new theatre audience. Our educational programs grew out of the inspiration of our first season.
Q: Why go Equity?
A: Becoming an Equity theatre has always been a part of our strategic plan. Although we have hired actors for a number of years through guest artist contracts, we were waiting for the “right” time. It is our 30th anniversary and Shakespeare’s 450th birthday year. I guess you could say that the stars are in the right alignment.
Q: What are you looking forward to when working with Equity?
A: We are hoping to enhance our fine company of local non-Equity actors by bringing in actors from across the country.
Q: What can Equity members and audiences look forward to this season?
A: We are revisiting one of our most popular shows (and the one we opened our first season with), Twelfth Night. Following our opening show will be Antony and Cleopatra, Pericles and Macbeth. In tribute to the man and his 450th year, it’s an all-Shakespeare love fest.
Q: Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is turning 30 this year. What has the journey been like?
A: We began with a budget of $500 and a lot of sweat equity. We were terribly idealistic then and I like to think we have kept a lot of that “dreamer’s philosophy,” especially about the future.
We have survived two fires and one flood. We survived because of our commitment to our mission. We began with the promise of bringing accessible performances of Shakespeare and other classics, ones that simply could not be otherwise experienced, to the entire, diverse Oklahoma community. We have never betrayed that vow, but we have changed with the times, varying our production styles, searching out new audiences. We have always maintained a respect for the fundamental truths of Shakespeare, but have always dared to act his plays in harmony with the tempo of our own times. We began with an enthusiasm for language and continue to connect with our audience deeply and profoundly through the spoken word.