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Shakespeare Lightning Round: Tom Ridgely

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Dates Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Live on Instagram

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? Most overrated Shakespeare play? Who’s Shakespeare’s worst character? We ask our guests 30 lightning-fast questions about their favorite—and least favorite—things about the Bard. Watch the latest episode of the Shakespeare Lightning Round with St. Louis Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Tom Ridgely.

About Tom Ridgely

Tom Ridgely has served as Producing Artistic Director of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival since 2018. He is also a Drama Desk-nominated director who has developed or presented work at the Public Theater, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Red Bull and more. He’s worked with Tony nominees Sting, Sherie Rene Scott, Will Swenson, Kelli O’Hara, Bill Irwin and others, and his productions have won DFW Theater Critics Forum and ECNY Awards and been nominated for St. Louis Theatre Critics Circle, Connecticut Critics Circle and BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards.

Ridgely came to St. Louis from Waterwell in New York City, the company he co-founded and led and as Artistic Director from 2002-2018. There he created and produced more than a dozen world-premieres and adaptations of classics that were nominated for three IT awards, a Drama Desk, a New York Magazine Culture Award and a Village Voice “Best of NYC”. Many involved innovative community partnerships, such as resurrecting the lost WWII-era Frank Loesser musicals, Blueprint Specials – featuring Broadway and military veterans and presented on board the former USS Intrepid aircraft carrier – and adapting and directing Waterwell’s dual-language (English/Farsi) version of Hamlet: designed and performed by a company largely of Middle Eastern and South Asian artists. As Artistic Director of Waterwell, he also oversaw the Waterwell Drama Program at the Professional Performing Arts School, one of the preeminent training grounds for young artists and innovators in the country, which offers daily, year-round, conservatory-style classes to more than 200 New York City public school students absolutely free of charge.

Since taking over the Festival, he has won a St. Louis Magazine A-List Award for “New Arts Leader” and overseen the Festival’s shift to developing and producing new work, which also won an A-List Award for “New Programming”. The Festival’s regional premiere of George Brant’s Into the Breeches won the Theatre Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Production of a Comedy, and the collaboration he conceived between the Festival, Jazz St. Louis and Big Muddy Dance Company on a world-premiere adaptation of Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder won the Theatre Circle Award for Outstanding Musical as well as a St. Louis Arts Award for “Arts Collaboration”. His outdoor production of King Lear – starring Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner André DeShields, with an all-BIPOC cast – was the nation’s first major live theatrical event since the onset of Covid-19 and was named the “Best Live Theater” of 2021 by the Riverfront Times. The Festival’s new TourCo program he launched in 2021 is now the largest outdoor Shakespeare tour in the world. And the Confluence Regional Writers Project has commissioned over a dozen new plays from emerging playwrights in Missouri and Illinois since 2019, more than half of which have gone on to full productions at theaters around the country.

He also led the effort, alongside Aaron Williams of 4theVille, to prevent the closure of Sumner High School, the oldest black high school west of the Mississippi, and give it a new focus on Arts and Activism. The Sumner Recovery Plan won a LaunchCode Moonshot Award for “Collaboration”, an ACAC IDEA Award for “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility” and a St. Louis Arts Award for “Art Collaboration”. It now offers daily in-school instruction in Dance, Drama, Fashion, Music and Visual Art to over 200 St. Louis public school students through an innovative public-private partnership with over a dozen local arts organizations.