Freewill Shakespeare Festival
Free Will Players endeavor to create professional, contemporary, innovative productions of the works of William Shakespeare that are accessible to all audiences, regardless of age, ability, education, or income levels, while also developing new audiences and mentoring theatre professionals of the future.
The Freewill Shakespeare Festival is produced by Free Will Players in Edmonton, Alberta. Free Will Players was formed in 1989 by a group of actors in a truly co-operative, pass-the-hat spirit with the mandate to produce the works of William Shakespeare. Since then the company has attracted over 260,000 people to 41 main-stage productions. In the past 5 years the festival has annually hosted over 13,000 audience members. These large numbers are a reflection of the high quality of production and the very affordable ticket prices, which range from pay-what-you-will performances to free admission for children twelve. We also offer discounts for seniors and students. The plays are performed at Hawrelak Park in the 1100 seat, canopy covered, Heritage Amphitheatre.
The Freewill Shakespeare Festival consists of two fully realized Shakespearean productions that run in repertory over four weeks from late June to late July. Productions boast contemporary interpretations of setting, theme, and character to best communicate the plays ideas to a modern audience. The Festival also offers the Camp Shakespeare program that runs in tandem with the Festival. Week-long camps expose young people aged 8-16 to Shakepeare’s text, music, dance and stage fighting, culminating in an afternoon showcase for friends and family.
The company established a permanent paid administration in 1999 with the hiring of a General Manager; the Artistic Director position followed in 2000. At this time the FSF began operating under the terms of the Independent Theatre Agreement, engaging professional artists who are members of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. The Festival employs over 40 people at the height of the Festival, including actors, designers, Stage Managers, Production Manager, Administrative Assistant, Publicist and Site/Volunteer Coordinator. Forty percent of the Players’ yearly budget goes to artists’ fees.
Freewill Players / The Freewill Shakespeare Festival has been nominated for numerous Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards for excellence in Edmonton theatre. Most recently, Chris Bullough received the award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in the 2008 production of Richard III, and Nadien Chu received the award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in the 2010 production of Titus Andronicus. In 2003 the Freewill Players / The Freewill Shakespeare Festival was honored to receive the City of Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence Arts Achievement Award and the Syncrude Award for Innovative Artistic Direction at the Mayors Luncheon for Business and the Arts in Edmonton.
2014 The Taming of the Shrew
2013 King Lear / A Midsummer’s Night Dream
2012 The Tempest / Julius Caesar
2011 Othello / Twelfth Night
2010 Much Ado About Nothing / Macbeth
2009 Comedy of Errors / Titus Andronicus
2008 As You Like It / Richard III
2007 Two Gentlemen of Verona (the Musical) / The Winter’s Tale
2006 Hamlet / The Taming of The Shrew
2005 Romeo and Juliet / Love’s Labour’s Lost
2004 Twelfth Night / The Merchant of Venice
2003 A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Henry V
2002 The Merry Wives of Windsor / The Tempest
2001 Richard III / As You Like It
2000 King Lear / Much Ado About Nothing
1999 Macbeth / Two Gentleman of Verona
1998 Julius Caesar / The Comedy of Errors
1997 Twelfth Night
1996 The Taming of The Shrew
1995 As You Like It
1994 Romeo and Juliet
1993 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1992 Much Ado About Nothing
1991 Love’s Labour’s Lost
1990 Twelfth Night
1989 The Comedy of Errors