Popular Lexington Festival Shutting Down

Lexington's Shakespeare Festival is shutting down after 25 years, a move directors said was caused by declining support and increased expenses.

Shakespeare Festival Executive Director Derek Mannon said cost
of wood, lighting and sound have risen and the festival has no
budget surplus after two seasons of rain-threatenend and canceled

Mannon said this year's biggest audiences were around 1,600 and
the $8 ticket price no longer allowed revenues to cover expenses.
Mannon declined to say how much the festival lost this year.

"We really felt like if we raised prices again we would lose a
lot of audience," Mannon said.

The festival started in 1982 in Woodland Park as a free event
with minimal sound and light. In 1997, it moved to the Arboretum
across from Commonwealth Stadium at the University of Kentucky.

Production values rose, and audiences that were sometimes well
over 2,000 strong came out with their picnic baskets and blankets
to see the plays. The festival celebrated the biggest show in its
history, a production of Jesus Christ Superstar that drew more than
9,000 patrons over five nights in July 2004.

The festival put on its last shows in July. The shutdown
surprised some of those involved.

"When the festival ended in July, I did not see this coming,"
said Jason Meenach, the festival's artistic director the past two

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)