Shakespeare Festival a diamond in the rough

Bob Martin Goat Hill Gazette
Posted 8/9/13

I interrupted the writing of this column to attend the final and very enjoyable production of Ring of Fire, a compilation of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits which ended a month-long run Sunday afternoon at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Theatre in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get the gift of local news. All subscriptions 50% off for a limited time!

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Shakespeare Festival a diamond in the rough


I interrupted the writing of this column to attend the final and very enjoyable production of Ring of Fire, a compilation of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits which ended a month-long run Sunday afternoon at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Montgomery.

The show was advertised as a basic songbook of Cash’s music of love, faith, struggle, success, rowdiness and redemption and featuring such hits as I Walk the Line and Folsom Prison Blues.

This is just one in the lineup of shows for this season which ranges from Elvis, the Early Years to Macbeth. Tickets may be ordered on line or by phone.

The Shakespeare Festival is a fully professional regional theatre that produces 10 or more productions each season. In addition to Shakespeare productions, the mix of shows includes Broadway musicals, children’s productions, American classics and world premieres.

In 1972 Martin Platt, the founding Artistic Director (1972-1989), had a dream of classical theatre and The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) was born. Originally located in Anniston in a high school auditorium without air conditioning, ASF was a summer theatre festival where plays ran for six weeks during summer months.

When the Festival faced bankruptcy in the early 1980s, board member Carolyn Blount, believing the state was about to lose a great cultural asset, approached her husband with the financial problem. Wynton ‘Red’ Blount agreed to build a new home for ASF, set in a 250-acre park, if only the festival would move to Montgomery. After moving to Montgomery, ASF began year-round operations with more than 400 performances scheduled each year.

It is has been reported that the Blount’s gift of the theatre complex was the largest single donation in the history of American theatre. ASF has remained financially sound ever since - one of the few American theatres to do so.

The $21.5 million Carolyn Blount Theatre houses two theatres (the 792-seat Festival Stage and the 262-seat Octagon), production shops, rehearsal halls, and administrative work spaces. More than one million bricks were used in building the complex, which contains more than 100,000 square feet of space. The late Russell Page, famed landscape architect, planned the English-style grounds and lake.

ASF operates year-round, producing world-class productions annually, including three works of William Shakespeare. The remainder of the productions are classics of the stage — works by playwrights such as Moliére, George Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder, and Eugene O’Neill — along with musicals and new works commissioned by the Festival.

The Southern Writers’ Project, ASF’s new play development program, was founded by former Artistic Director Kent Thompson in 1991 as an exploration of the South’s rich cultural heritage and is dedicated to creating a theatrical voice for Southern writers and topics.

SchoolFest, ASF’s widely acclaimed student matinee programs, entertains and educates more than 36,000 schoolchildren each season from throughout the region.

It was a wonderful gift from Wynton and Carolyn Blount to the people of Alabama.

Clock is ticking on filing BP claims

Montgomery lawyer Jere Beasley alerts us in his monthly report that businesses in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Florida Panhandle, the western-most counties in Florida down to Key West and the eastern-most counties in Texas that have not already participated in the BP settlement need to “move on their claims if they think they have any.” He reports that the date of April 22, 2014 appears to be the day that will mark the end of filing claims against the oil giant.

One question lawyers get frequently is whether of not the BP Settlement Program continues to pay claims. He reports that in the past three months lawyers in his firm have obtained substantial recoveries for businesses, some in six or seven figures. The Beasley firm also represents the State of Alabama in its claims against BP.

Beasley writes that despite erroneous rumors “in the midst of litigating the massive trial in New Orleans, paying an army of accountants there to process claims and physically paying billions in claims BP still managed to “eke” out a $4.2 billion profit. He adds that the profit actually beat industry forecasts for the company by $1 billion.

The U. S. Coast Guard announced in June that BP had completed cleanup work in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.

Bob Martin is publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: