The Shakespeare Festival is returning to Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, and will celebrate its 49th year of bringing The Bard's work to the stage.

In 1972, Dennis Brestensky, a now-retired English professor at the Lemont Furnace campus, started the festival knowing that William Shakespeare wrote all his plays to be performed because many find read reading the works somewhat intimidating.

“I thought if I can get a good acting group to come in and perform Shakespeare, maybe I can convert some people,” said Brestensky, who is the festival chairperson.

For 22 years, the National Players, which is the longest-running touring company in America, have performed at the Shakespeare Festival, a free event open to the public.

“If you see them perform, you'd want to see them perform again,” Brestensky said of the company, based at the Olney Theatre in Olney, Maryland. “They are a young, professional, dynamic acting company with a cast of 10 that appeals to all ages. They can do Shakespeare really well.”

This year marks the debut of the Nitwittany Players, a cast of four alumni of the campus-run organization of The Lion Players, all of whom Brestensky knows.

“I've seen all of them act, and they're fantastic,” he said.

The schedule for the festival includes:

Nov. 8 through Nov. 12: Shakespeare displays at the library and the Maggie Hardy Magerko Auditorium Lobby;

Nov. 9 from 10 to 11 a.m.: “Command the Room: Movement” demonstration from the National Players at the Maggie Hardy Magerko Auditorium Community Center;

Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: “Speak the Speech Shakespeare” demonstration from the National Players at the Maggie Hardy Magerko Auditorium Community Center;

Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.: “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” a 90-minute performance followed by a question and answer session with the National Players at the Maggie Hardy Magerko Auditorium Community Center. Reservations are suggested;

Nov. 10 at 11 a.m.: “A Raisin in the Sun,” a 90-minute performance followed by a question and answer session with the National Players at the Maggie Hardy Magerko Auditorium Community Center. Reservations are suggested;

Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.: “Classics I: Shakespeare, God, and Demons and Angels Between Heaven and Hell," a 60-minute performance by the Nitwittany Players followed by a question and answer session.

“I think people like to have opportunity to see Shakespeare performed live by a good company,” Brestensky said. “It's a top-knotch cultural event in Fayette County, where we normally don't have the opportunity.

Brestensky said the cost to put on the festival is about $4,000, but the festival is free to attend because of grants from co-sponsors Maggie Hardy Magerko Foundation Fund and the Casteel Family Advised Fund held by the Community Foundation of Fayette County.

He also gave credit to the campus's director of student affairs, Chad Long, for his work, adding that Long has been indispensable for the festival to both occur and succeed.

The festival was canceled last year due to COVID-19, and Brestensky said people who attend the festival are required to wear a mask due to campus regulations.

For performing events, reservations are suggested by contacting Holly at 724-430-4271 or hlh5158@psu.edu.

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