Inspired by R. Crosby Kemper, III, the idea of a free Shakespeare festival began in 1997. Since the initial two-week run that attracted 33,000 audience members in 2001, the Festival has grown into a year-round institution producing over 250 public performances annually for nearly 100,000 patrons and students. Presenting Shakespeare and works inspired by Shakespeare, the Festival’s programs are In the Schools, In the Streets, and In the Park. The Festival's work seeks to better the community, facilitate a diverse conversation, and encourage collaboration across disciplines. The Festival believes theatre is a powerful tool for social change and should be accessible to all.