A History of Tennessee Shakespeare Company

A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in Germantown, Tennessee, in 2008 as the Mid-South’s professional, classical theatre and education organization, Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC) is the creation of native Memphians Dan McCleary (Producing Artistic Director) and national Disney Teacher of the Year, E. Frank Bluestein (Executive Director).

Dan is a former Associate Artistic Director, artist-manager, and Director of Marketing and Development at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires. In 2006 he began scouting sites in the southern United States to establish a new classical theatre, and he chose his hometowns of Germantown and Memphis.

In addition to Mr. Bluestein, Dan was joined by Father Gary Sturni of St. George's Episcopal Church, Mrs. Barbara B. Apperson, Mrs. Donna Ladd, and committee of devoted individuals in making the preparation year possible. Almost all of those involved in that first committee meeting of January 2008, remain as founding Board members or supporters.

                            History on Website Picture                 

Since then, TSC has grown into a $716,000 (FY15) theatre and education organization that has performed, among other titles, As You Like It inside St. George's Church and outdoors in Mrs. Apperson's Forest of Arden, an all-female Julius Caesar in Germantown City Hall, A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Poplar Pike Playhouse, Othello inside St. George's, and Themes from a Midsummer Night (in collaboration with IRIS Orchestra) at Germantown Performing Arts Centre, Macbeth outdoors at the Shelby Farms "Wooden O" outdoor amphitheatre, Romeo and Juliet on the roof of Dixon Gallery & Gardens and inside 820-seat Germantown Performing Arts Center, and Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew as environmental theatre inside the museum of the Dixon. Nearly 20,000 patrons have attended.

Additionally, TSC's education program has grown at twice its projected pace, having served over 100,000 Mid-South school children from over 100 Memphis area and Southeast schools with Free Will Kids’ Nights, morning matinees, original touring shows, in-school playshops, free interactive Study Guides, and in-school residencies. The jewel of the program is The Romeo and Juliet Project, now entering its fourth year. The Project sends teams of teaching artists into entire Freshman classes in a select Memphis area high school over multiple visits to get students on their feet speaking the text and relating the play’s life-lessons to themselves. The N.E.A. and Arts Midwest have recognized TSC in each of the past two seasons as one of just 40 theatres in the United States to be awarded a Shakespeare in American Communities grant.

TSC has had an economic impact on its community of more than three million dollars ($3,000,000).

In addition to its extraordinary 23-member Board of Directors, TSC is supported by a 30-member Groundlings volunteer organization.

Season Six Highlights: 2013-14

TSC recently completed its sixth season. After having its education funding eliminated by its municipal government in June 2013, TSC enjoyed record artistic success, expanded education programming, and national recognition in the year that followed.

Highlights from TSC’s sixth season include:

• The National Endowment for the Arts/Arts Midwest awarded TSC a $25,000 matching grant for our innovative Romeo and Juliet Project. TSC was one of only 40 theatres in the United States to be recognized, and the youngest, with this prestigious Shakespeare in American Communities award. You quickly matched the grant, thus nearly replacing all the education funds that were eliminated last summer.

• TSC programmed nearly 13,000 student interactions in the Memphis area, across Tennessee, and in five other southern states with its education outreach and professional productions. Programming included a TSC-created touring show titled Shake(s), Rattle, & Roll, matinees and post-show community discussions of teen violence around Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Romeo and Juliet Project in primarily Title One schools, 53 in-school playshops, 82 days of in-school residencies, and a TSC-created interactive Study Guide for The Taming of the Shrew.

• TSC produced five productions for over 6,000 audience members, 34% of whom were Memphis area students under 18 years of age.

• TSC launched the Tuesday Literary Salon as part of our Southern Exposure Series, as well as the professional career of local artist-manager Cara McHugh (TSC 2014 Journeyman).

• TSC welcomed new collaborators, partners, and generous sponsors in Boyle Investment Company, Independent Bank, International Paper, Shelby County Schools, and Target Stores.

• You broke all education program fundraising records with our Fifth Annual Gala in February, which featured one of the great gentlemen and talents of Broadway, Howard McGillin (Phantom of the Opera, The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

• You put TSC in a financial position to expand our upcoming seventh season, in which we will project 22% growth, project 48% of income coming from earned sources (instead of contributed sources), and ensure that 60% of our expenses will be targeted for our programming (instead of toward overhead or fixed expenses).

• TSC transitioned to a new, modern, larger administrative office within the Shops at Forest Hill village after the municipal government decided not to renew TSC’s office lease on the historic train depot.

       TSC's Hamlet, 2013, featuring Brian Sheppard and Phil Darius Wallace.  Photo: Joey Miller.