Bard on the Green

Cape Fear Shakespeare marks its 30th anniversary

Cf Shakespeare

June marks the thirtieth anniversary of Cape Fear Shakespeare, and the company is celebrating in the best way possible: a free-to-the-public Shakespeare festival.

The company, composed of an adult and youth division, will perform two of the bard’s comedies, The Two Noble Kinsmen and The Comedy of Errors at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater throughout the month.

“It’s special that we have made it for thirty years,” says CHERRI MCKAY, the company’s manager producer and artistic director. “The milestone is that we are still performing.”

Cape Fear Shakespeare was the brainchild of Stan Norman, a University of North Carolina Wilmington professor, who wanted to make Shakespeare accessible to all, especially the underserved. With the help of UNCW students, teachers, and other volunteers, the adult company, Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green, was born.

In 2008, the second part of Norman’s vision, the Shakespeare Youth Company P.E.T. Project (Performance Education in Theatre), came into being.

Though it wasn’t her intention, McKay has become the heart and soul of Cape Fear Shakespeare. In 1993, she volunteered to help out with the company’s first performance and continued to do so year after year. It wasn’t long before McKay’s strength as a stage manager was recognized, and the rest, as they say, is history.

McKay, who accepts no payment for her work, is immersed in Cape Fear Shakespeare for nearly half of each year. She selects and edits the plays to be performed, paring them down from three or five hours to the more acceptable two or two-and-a-half-hour productions. For the youth company, she also creates themes the young cast can identify with.

McKay also collaborates with numerous artists involved in each performance. Many of the plays include music and dance, which she says wakes the audience up and gives them eye candy.

Then there’s McKay’s favorite part, rehearsing the actors, which occurs in her backyard 5:30-9:45 p.m. in the weeks preceding the performance.

And, of course, there’s all the background work that goes into producing a play, costume selection, set design, lining up and working with the tech crew, and so much more.

“I do everything,” McKay says. “I do it all because I love it. It’s a passion.”

McKay’s dedication for the festival has brought its own reward. It has become a well-loved tradition for area residents and out-of-towners alike. People gather at the amphitheater a couple of hours before the performance, indulge in a picnic packed with their favorite foods, and then take in a night of culture and entertainment.

“It’s important to people who live here,” McKay says. “I’ve seen people come back year after year. The retirement homes bring buses. People come from Jacksonville and Raleigh. They plan their trips to the beach around us.”

McKay says she plans to keep Cape Fear Shakespeare going long into the future.

“It’s hard for me to imagine this not being here for me,” she says. “It’s who I am.”

Cape Fear Shakespeare

June performances of The Two Noble Kinsmen and The Comedy of Errors

Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheatre Drive

Free to the public

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., performances start at 8 p.m.


To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to

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