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Attendance drops for Shakespeare Fest due to rough weather

Leverage Dance Theater on the House Stage at Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio
Leverage Dance Theater on the House Stage at Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park

Attendance was down by more than 10,000 people for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ performance of Antony and Cleopatra over last year's production. Artistic and Executive Director Rick Dildine says that’s the cost of doing business outdoors.

“I think any time you’re collaborating with Mother Nature you have to be ready for whatever she throws at you, and it was definitely a very rainy season,” he said, citing a rough year for all outdoor theater. “Our other partners that do outdoor theater had a very rainy season this year as well.”

The organization also saw poor weather last year, with an attendance drop then as well.  For 2014, festival organizers said attendance had dropped from its average of 55,000 attendees to 44,000 as a result of bad weather.  Although this is the second year of decreased attendance the organization says participation and finances have increased by more than 30 percent since 2009. This year the performance ran from May 22 to June 14.  

Regardless of the numbers, Dildine was proud of those who came and the show.

“The real success for us was the crowds that were there: averaging over 2000 people a night, one of our most diverse casts we’ve ever done, and really seeing our audience diversifying in an incredible way,” he said.

The festival also announced that the Old North Neighborhood would be the subject of this year’s Shakespeare in the Streets adaptation of Twelfth Night. The performance will take place on North 14th Street Sept. 17-19.  This will be the fourth Shakespeare in the Streets production. Nancy Bell, playwright and assistant professor of theater at Saint Louis University, will adapt the play which will be renamed once reworked. 

A look at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis by the Numbers:

Attendance Since Beginning: 672,000

2015 Attendance: 32,000

Average Attendance Per Night: 2,000

2014 Attendance: 44,000

Previous Average Attendance: 55,000

Duration of festival: 14 years

Duration of Shakespeare in the Streets: 3 years

Average Attendance for Shakespeare in the Streets: 300-500 people a night

Number of Plays Produced by Shake 38: 38 (total Shakespeare canon)

Students Reached by Educational Programming: 270,000

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