Breathing fresh air into timeless texts for Oak Park and beyond…
Oak Park Festival Theatre is the Midwest’s oldest professional (Actors’ Equity Association) classical outdoor theater. Our summer productions of Shakespeare and other theatre masters are staged in idyllic Austin Gardens in the heart of downtown Oak Park.
Oak Park Festival Theatre was founded in 1975 by Oak Park resident Marion Karczmar, and launched Its first production William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That first inspired production was performed on a flatbed truck parked on the Westgate cul-de-sac in downtown Oak Park, with a cast that included then unknowns David Mamet and William H. Macy.
In 1976 the Park District of Oak Park graciously invited the festival to perform under a canopy of stars in the idyllic Austin Gardens located at 167 Forest Avenue. Every year since that time, we return home the gardens to build our summer stage.
In succeeding years prominent regional directors brought their talents to Austin Gardens, including James O’Reilly, David Darlow, Patrick O’Gara, Tom Mula and Dale Calandra. In 2003 Jack Hickey assumed artistic leadership in 2003 and is currently serving in that role.
Careful expansion of the theatre began in 2005 when a second summer production was added to the schedule, generating a two-play outdoor season. The next year expansion continued as an indoor venue, National Historic Landmark Pleasant Home, was added, converting to a three-play season. This format (one indoor spring play and two outdoor summer productions) continued for four years, through 2009. Further growth occurred in 2010-2011, when a season with four full productions was established. In 2013 we returned to our two-play summer season to evaluate and strengthen the financial and organizational foundation of our company Our 2015 season shattered over four decades of attendance records with over 6,700 delighted patrons, and sent critics running to the thesaurus for superlatives for our productions. Careful planning and the outstanding successes of our productions restored the fiscal health of the company, and in 2016 our first full time employee, Jhenai Mootz, was hired to be the Managing Director for the company.
Since those humble beginnings where a few inspired actors gave breath to Shakespeare’s words on a flatbed truck, Oak Park Festival Theatre has grown into one of Chicagoland’s iconic theatres. Spending an evening under the stars in Austin Gardens enjoying history’s finest plays has become a treasured summer tradition for thousands of theatergoers.
Friday, Jun 7, 2019 at 11:00am
Chicago Blues Festival
Thursday, Jun 13, 2019 at 1:00pm
Hall Branch Library
Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 8:30am
Ingalls Memorial Hospital
JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR