In 1961, the Lakewood Board of Education invited a homeless Shakespeare company to move into the local civic auditorium and the Great Lakes Theater Festival was born. Though the first season of rotating rep was an all-Bard affair, it wasn’t long before the GLTF took on other important playwrights, like Sophocles and George Bernard Shaw, going on to broaden its scope to include musicals, light comedies, modern classics, and works inspired by the classics. From the beginning, GLTF has attracted and nurtured top talent, and the company’s alumni list includes John Lithgow (whose father, Arthur, founded what would become the GLTF in 1950 at Antioch College), Celeste Holm, Tom Hanks, Piper Laurie, Jean Stapleton, Hal Holbrook, and Olympia Dukakis.
The Great Lakes Theater Festival is the largest provider of educational outreach in Ohio. The company reaches out to students through several programs, including matinée performances especially for students, touring productions, in-school residencies, and the Summer Theater Institute. Adults can get a little education, too, from special events like the pre-show discussion program Director Night and the subscriber series Playnotes, in which a guest scholar introduces the play and puts it in context.
The Great Lakes Theater Festival recently moved into a new home, the 550-seat Hanna Theatre. Not only does the Hanna have great sightlines and lots of legroom all around, it also features plush banquettes, club chairs, and historic boxes that provide both a close view and some old-fashioned theatrical glamour.
Great Lakes Theater Festival Information
- Public Transportation: Very Good (within a 5-minute walk from several RTA buses that run on Euclid Avenue and Chester Avenue)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Schedule is generally Wednesday–Sunday, with some Tuesday performances
- Ticket Prices: $15–$69; students $13 for most shows, group discounts available for parties of 10 or more
- Subscriptions: Options include Three-Play, Four-Play, and Five-Play subscriptions $126–$245, senior and family packages $96–$140, young adult (25 or younger) $42–$60, FestPass for six $318, eight $408, and ten $490. Boxes and Banquettes package is premium seating for four people, any date: Three-Play $636, Four-Play $816, and Five-Play $980; Flex options also available. Benefits include discount reserved parking and free ticket exchanges (one per show).