Our History

Sidney Berger

Sidney Berger

After a year of planning, encouraging, and acquiring interest in a projected national organization of Shakespeare festivals and theatres, Sidney Berger, Producing Director of the Houston Shakespeare Festival, and Douglas Cook, Producing Artistic Director of the Utah Shakespearean Festival, invited the producers, artistic directors and managing directors of over thirty-seven Shakespeare festivals and companies to Washington D.C. for an organizational meeting January 12-13, 1991.

Berger and Cook chaired the meetings and their hosts were the Folger Library and the Kennedy Center. These representatives of American and Canadian theatres primarily involved with the production of Shakespeare’s plays unanimously agreed to unite their common interests and, after a series of runoff votes, selected the organization’s name: “The Shakespeare Theatre Association of America.”

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The conference members had no difficulty in determining guidelines for their new organization. The Association would influence organizations ranging from well-established professional companies to non-Equity and university-affiliated festivals. The Association would facilitate the sharing of ideas related to an American production approach to Shakespeare. It would be a resource network and an instrument of communication. It would bridge the gap between scholarship and production; and it would promote better teaching of Shakespeare in schools. The founding members determined that a yearly meeting should be held in early January to avoid conflict with members’ production schedules. An additional point was that the Association would not focus on matters that were already handled by existing organizations such as LORT, TCG, ATHE, and U/RTA. Membership would be organizational, but individual “associate” membership would be available.

Doug Cook

Doug Cook

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival offered to help publish a STA newsletter, Quarto, twice a year, and Jim Volz accepted the appointment as editor (a position he still holds). The financial support for the publication and the gathering of news to be covered would be the responsibility of STA and it members. The first slate of officers elected for STA were Sidney Berger, President; Douglas Cook, Vice President; Jessica Andrews, Treasurer; Felicia Londras, Secretary; Thomas Bradac, Western Member-at-Large; Stuart Omans, Eastern Member-at-Large.