CenterStage Collaborates with Kentucky Shakespeare

This summer, CenterStage is embarking on an exciting new venture – the company has established a community partnership with Kentucky Shakespeare. During discussions to explore working together, the two artistic directors, John R. Leffert of CenterStage and Matt Wallace of Kentucky Shakespeare, discovered that they had both scheduled the same play for the coming season.

Kentucky Shakespeare's Ramey Amphitheatre

Kentucky Shakespeare’s Ramey Amphitheatre

Well, not exactly the same play.

Kentucky Shakespeare will be presenting the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet July 1-24 and CenterStage opens their 2016-17 season July 7-24 with the classic’s contemporary reinterpretation, West Side Story, by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim originally conceived and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Wouldn’t it be fun to offer the two shows to the entire community in the same venue? It’s a great way to offer something extra at the open-air Central Park venue and a wonderful way to get the word out to folks who’ve never ventured into The J about CenterStage’s first-rate productions. And so the project was born with CenterStage remounting West Side Story in Central Park during Kentucky Shakespeare’s Community Partners Week, August 2-7.

“This will be the first musical ever to be presented in the park,” Leffert said. This collaboration presents both companies the opportunity to share and expand our audiences exposing them to two different genres of theatre with the hopes of opening their minds to each.

While the CenterStage cast of West Side Story will remain the same at both venues and the elaborate costumes CenterStage patrons have become accustomed to can certainly be transported to Central Park, the show will require some changes in order to work in the outdoor venue.

Kentucky Shakespeare’s C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater is an open air stage with a unit set designed to accommodate traditional Shakespeare plays. That means that the wonderful scenery Leffert’s crew constructed for West Side Story at The J will be left behind and the CenterStage Company will have to adapt the staging to the Central Park stage.

CenterStage’s season opener at the J will feature its largest live orchestra to date to play Bernstein’s amazing score. The outdoor setting of Central Park is not conducive to a live orchestra and the music would get lost. To best fit the venue, the music, though still professional in quality, will be prerecorded with the singers performing live in order to fit the venue. Due to length of the show, some of the longer dance sequence will be shortened at the park to ensure the performance is not too long.

“This is a very exciting opportunity,” Leffert said. “Matt [Wallace] is my hero. There is no other individual I know who could have done what he has been able to do. He has given a gift to this entire community by saving Kentucky Shakespeare and giving it the prominence in this community it deserves.”

Leffert and Wallace have actually worked together before as actors in a play at Derby Dinner Playhouse. They are eager to collaborate on this project this year.

CenterStage’s 2016-17 season also includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Assassins, Funny Girl, Disney’s Mary Poppins and Sondheim on Sondheim. Season tickets are on sale now at or by calling 502-238-2709.

Kentucky Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona runs June 2-12, The Winter’s Tale runs June 17-26 and Romeo and Juliet runs July 1-10. The company also offers all three plays rotating in repertory July 12-24, and you can catch the Bard-a-thon, all three plays in one night, on July 23. Check their website,, for specific dates.

West Side Story is next, then Shakespeare in Dance with the Louisville Ballet.

Get your tickets now for CenterStage’s full West Side Story production at The J. Then catch Kentucky Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and wrap up with CenterStage’s Community Partners Week show. All Kentucky Shakespeare productions are presented in Central Park at no charge, although donations are welcome.

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