The Freewill Shakespeare Festival is produced by The Free Will Players Theatre Guild (FWP) in Edmonton and is one of the longest running outdoor Shakespeare Festivals in Canada. FWP was formed as a not-for-profit theatre company in 1989 by a group of seven recent graduates of the UofA in a truly cooperative, pass-the-hat spirit with the mandate to produce the works of William Shakespeare. Since then, FWP has grown to an organization that employs about 45 artists, administrators, and support staff at the height of the summer season of plays and has drawn over 200,000 people to its productions.
FWP’s seasons consist of two fully realized Shakespearean productions that play in repertory over 4 weeks. Productions boast contemporary interpretations of setting, theme, and character to best communicate the plays ideas for a modern audience. Some seasons have also included ancillary events such as an off-site secondary production, guest productions, puppet shows, and Camp Shakespeare. FWP endeavours to make the productions accessible to all audiences, regardless of age, ability, education or income levels, while also developing new audiences and mentoring theatre professionals of the future. In the spirit of the original artists’ ‘pass the hat’ philosophy FWP continues encouraging audiences with Pay What you Will and special pricing for students and seniors.