Austin Shakespeare Festival: Changing of the Bard

Guy Roberts has resigned as artistic director of the Austin Shakespeare Festival, and Ann Ciccolella has been named his successor

Ann Ciccolella
Ann Ciccolella

Sometimes the Austin arts scene changes so fast that it can make you dizzy. Guy Roberts, the artistic director of the Austin Shakespeare Festival since 2001, resigned that position on July 31, and on Aug. 9, the ASF board announced Ann Ciccolella as the new artistic director.

The festival has been operating since 1984, offering at least one free production of a Shakespeare play in Zilker Park each year. For most of its history, the festival was a community effort, but that began to change in 1997, when Paul Norton took over as artistic director and started moving the company into a technically professional endeavor. After Norton resigned the position in 2000, the ASF board hired Roberts, who continued treading the professional path and turned ASF into a year-round producing organization, regularly employing Equity actors and stage managers. In 2002-03, ASF presented a full season of Shakespeare's plays for the first time in its history. But while Roberts initially experienced unprecedented success in both raising funds and gaining critical recognition, ASF soon ran into massive funding problems and, in recent seasons, had to postpone or cancel productions on a consistent basis. Finding someone who will say these problems directly contributed to Roberts' resignation is difficult, but it would be even more difficult to believe they didn't.

Fortunately for ASF, the board almost immediately found a successor and not just any successor but one intimately familiar with both the city and its arts scene: Ann Ciccolella, executive director of the Austin Circle of Theaters for nine years and managing director of Zachary Scott Theatre Center from 1999 until this past July. That she was available to step into the ASF job so soon after stepping out of the Zach job was a happy coincidence for all concerned. Ciccolella immediately got to work, meeting privately with established company members and holding an open meeting for all parties interested in participating in the festival. While the company is transitioning, her immediate plans include extensive community outreach; a weekly Shakespeare workshop, as well as occasional showcases; an Oct. 27 benefit performance at the Curtain, Richard Garriott's scaled-down replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre; and, of course, producing the annual free Shakespeare production at Zilker this spring.

So not to worry, Austin. Your award-winning Shakespeare company is in the best, most capable of hands.

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Guy Roberts, Austin Shakespeare Festival, Ann Ciccolella

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