By Shelby Mertens
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – All’s well that ends well, Shakespeare’s own words, as the Virginia Shakespeare Festival at the College of William and Mary will become the official Shakespeare Festival of Virginia starting July 1.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed Senate Bill 1123, which awards the Williamsburg festival that official designation, after it was approved by the General Assembly last month.
Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, who serves as an adjunct professor at William and Mary’s law school, sponsored the bill.
The new law comes just in time for the festival’s 35th anniversary this summer. The Virginia Shakespeare Festival has entertained more than 300,000 people over the years.
The legislation notes that Shakespeare’s work was first performed in the New World at Williamsburg in 1753, and the Virginia Shakespeare Festival happens to be the oldest Shakespeare festival in the state. The College of William and Mary is the second oldest university in the country.
Robert Ruffin, the interim producing director for the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, is thrilled that McDonnell signed the bill last week and that the festival will now receive state recognition.
“It is the loyal support of patrons, audiences, artists and donors over the last 35 years that has brought us to this point in history. We thank Gov. McDonnell for following the Virginia Legislature in acknowledging the Virginia Shakespeare Festival as the official Shakespeare Festival of Virginia,” Ruffin said.
“Shakespeare wrote his plays to serve all people, young and old, rich and poor. What better place for the official Shakespeare Festival than Williamsburg, a cradle of democracy in America?”
SB 1123 did not pass without some opposition from legislators representing districts with their own Shakespeare festivals. Richmond has the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, and Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center. In the past, Virginia Beach has held the Hampton Roads Shakespeare Festival.
This summer, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival will feature performances of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “King Richard III,” and “The Turn of the Screw,” based on the Henry James novella. All productions are performed in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the William and Mary campus.
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.
For information about the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, visit vsf.wm.edu.