Glenn L. Dobbs
Founder & Executive Producer of Bard Fest
It’s been over ten years now and its time to update my original thoughts when this website was developed.
Bard Fest is a story about evolution. At first it was a simple idea. Could we present full length Shakespeare productions cheaply in a very small place in rotation? Could we do it well?
The answer was yes.
Our first year we had 35 actors and crew. Othello’s fort was black wooden cubes. Costumes were simple. But the stories were not. The tales were complex, compelling and deliciously entertaining. They sold well. We didn’t lose money and soon found we were able to offer a small profit sharing stipend to the performers.
We were on to something. Bard Fest evolved beyond individual theatre companies and became something larger. It became a vehicle by which we could present classic stories and offer multiple opportunities to local talent. This part of the growth was key. By using the structure of a festival, we were able to provide support of multiple different artistic visions at the same time.
As our shows increased in size and scope we outgrew our initial theatre rapidly. We found we could do more. A lot more. Our production value elevated. We had moved a long way past wooden blocks for castles. We could offer a valuable product to theaters that wanted new content.
Other theatre parters in town embraced this idea and wanted to be a part of the story. We became a community. The world of theatre has always been about networking and along the road wonderful people have shared with us their resources, talent and expertise. We continued to try new ideas, shows with more production value, and new spaces opened up.
Gradually, we became “a thing”.
For our all volunteer production team the work increased exponentially. More than a few times the task stretched us to the breaking point. Yet, we held on and continued to refine and improve the festival to the point we were in seven different theaters across the city all at the same time!
Now we have over 90 local artists that participate each year with the productions. The shows are diverse, compelling, and always entertaining. We see new actors each year who want to get involved and help us tell the greatest stories every written.
I met many people who shared this vision along the way. No one was more important than Mr John Clair. John had a small theatre in Carmel and a big heart. When I went to him years ago with the idea he immediately embraced it. It was John who gave us the home, financing, and administrative expertise to get us started. He took a big risk with me. It was John’s leadership and gentle wisdom that became our compass for the festival. John guided us home. I am forever grateful.
I don’t know how long we can continue. Theatre, by its very nature, is filled with artists in transit between different projects. It is ephemeral, here for a moment shining brightly, then gone. Everyone is always looking for the next show. One day we too will be gone.
But until that day comes, we will continue annually to offer some of the best theatre in town. In doing so, we will tell great stories about what it means to be human. The tales are dramatic, heroic and often incredibly funny. It is when we come together as a community and share wonderful stories we tear down the barriers that divide us. We show that we are really more alike then different.
It is for these reasons and more that we spend hours and hours of our time preparing these plays. We want to change the world, one story at a time.
In the end, when a story touches an audience, you can feel the world brighten a little. It is the pursuit of that light, however brief it shines, that make all of this effort worthwhile.