Chaya Gordon-Bland, Artistic Director
The mission of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) is to increase the cultural, artistic and educational offerings of the state of South Dakota and surrounding regions through professional Shakespeare performances and arts education events delivered in a lively and accessible format.
With Shakespeare’s work and words as our platform, we aim to ignite imaginations, stimulate a love and appreciation for language, foster a deeper understanding of humanity, cultivate a connection to history and world cultures, and stimulate audience members to think, feel, and learn about themselves and their local and global communities. By creating highly accessible work that entertains and enlightens individuals, strengthens communities, and increases the artistic offerings of the region, the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival seeks to fulfill an important cultural and educational need throughout the state and Great Plains Region.
Organizational History and Structure
The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival is a professional non-profit theatre company supported in collaboration with the University of South Dakota’s College of Fine Arts and Department of Theatre. The SDSF was formed in 2011 by founders Artistic Director Chaya Gordon-Bland, Executive Director Greg Huckabee, and Production Manager Scott Mollman, and launched its inaugural season in Vermillion, South Dakota, in June 2012. Since the summer of 2012 the SDSF has been offering fully produced professional Shakespeare performances in Vermillion’s Prentis Park and daytime arts educational offerings for youth and adults. Since our inception, and in keeping with our mission, all Festival events are free and open to the public.
Some of our most significant accomplishments to date include engaging approximately 1200 patrons per year with free arts and educational programming; publication by Heuer Publishing Company of a 10-minute play written by Vermillion high school students in an SDSF Playwriting workshop; broadcasting of our full-length documentary film Taming Shakespeare on South Dakota Public Broadcasting TV in 2016; and garnering the “Best Local Production” in Siouxland by the Sioux City Journal for our 2012 production of As You Like It.
In fall 2015, in collaboration with USD Theatre, the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival launched a new initiative, and sent a tour of Shakespeare performances, theatre workshops, and cultural exchange experiences to high schools throughout southeast South Dakota. The touring group travelled to Wagner High School on the Yankton Reservation, Flandreau High School, and the Flandreau Indian School, engaging over 450 South Dakota high school students from diverse backgrounds with live theatre arts. The tour was supported with a grant from USD’s Center for Academic and Global Engagement (CAGE), matched by funds from USD Theatre, and the United Way of Vermillion. Through our expanded outreach initiatives we successfully engaged over 1650 youth and adults of increasingly diverse demographics with live arts throughout our 2015 season.
In fall 2017 the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of South Dakota, assembled a professional Board of Directors to provide guidance and governance to our organization, and achieved our own 501c3 status. With this strengthened infrastructure in place, we look forward to continued growth and expanding impact in our communities.
The SDSF enjoys relationships with arts and educational organizations in the regions such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, National Music Museum, Vermillion Public Library, and the Downtown Vermillion Cultural Association, which allow us to share resources, cross-market, and engage in collaborative programming. The SDSF partners with SESDAC, Sanford Senior Care Center, Minnehaha Youth Detention Center, and area high schools, to engage these members of our communities with live theatre arts and educational programming. Additionally, the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival receives co-sponsorship and support from key community organizations including the South Dakota Arts Council, University of South Dakota, City of Vermillion, Vermillion Chamber and Development Company, Sanford Vermillion, United Way, Vermillion Rotary, and the Vermillion Area Community Foundation.
2017 The Comedy of Errors
2016 The Winters' Tale
Not Your Mama's Shakespeare (school tour)
2014 The Taming of the Shrew
2013 educational programming only
2012 As You Like It
Programming and Vision
Current programming of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival consists of four days of professionally produced full-length Shakespeare performances in Vermillion's Prentis Park, pre-show vending and entertainment, and educational programming for youth and adults. In keeping with our mission, all programming is offered free to the public.
As our theatre company grows we plan to expand our offerings to a repertory season of two or more plays, to extend the reach of our performances beyond Vermillion through a regional production tour, and to continue to develop our educational outreach programming, working with additional partners, and beyond the summer months. By touring to schools, outdoor parks, and venues throughout the state and region, we strive to reach beyond larger urban centers and expose geographically remote and historically under-served communities to the immensely valuable cultural, artistic and social experience of a state-wide Shakespeare Festival.