Raymond Caldwell Endowment Fund sets the stage for the future of theater in East Texas

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – Thunderous applause filled the Van Cliburn Auditorium at Kilgore College today. Not for a performance, but for the official announcement of an endowment fund that will ensure a strong future for theater in East Texas.

The fund is named after Raymond Caldwell, founder and former artistic director of the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

“An endowment fund is like a savings account that grows with interest. So people put money in the endowment fund, we never touch that capital, but the interest that is raised can be used, five percent, can be used every year if needed, ”Caldwell said.

They hope they don’t have to use it, but Meaghan Simpson, artistic director of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, said the fund would allow them to focus less rigorously on fundraising and put more effort into other areas. .

“We have a lot of lenses that cost money. Things like renovating a stage store, and one day we want to build, eventually, a dormitory or a place to live, ”she said. “We want to update some of our technologies and the elements that we have around our festival center. “

Simpson said she believes their future is secure thanks to the relationship between the Texas Shakespeare Foundation and Kilgore College. The endowment fund is a bonus. It currently stands at around $ 1.5 million pledged, according to Simpson, with a target of $ 5 million.

“What the endowment does for us is it gives us that leeway to say that now we can really go beyond what we’ve always dreamed of doing,” said Simpson. “We can make it so that maybe we can take a little more risk, make bigger musicals, maybe we can expand the areas of our business.”

During the ceremony, they also announced the honorary chairman of the endowment fund and alumnus of the Texas Shakespeare Foundation as Michael C. Hall. He is currently in production on a new cover of the “Dexter” series.

“Michael C. Hall was an actor here for us in 1995. At that time he was a graduate student at New York University, where I met him and where he auditioned for me,” Caldwell said. “He was a wonderful actor, very talented. He played three major roles while he was here and we have followed his career ever since.

Caldwell wants to be clear that the actors at the festival come from all over and are professional actors.

“It’s not the students of Kilgore College who perform Shakespeare plays in the summer. I understand they think that because it’s at Kilgore College and always has been, but it’s always been professional theater, ”he said. “We go from coast to coast to audition professional actors and bring them to town for ten weeks. All shows are designed, directed and performed by professional theater artists, not undergraduates. Although we do use Kilgore College students as interns both on stage and backstage.

It is vital to Caldwell that the theater has a solid base in East Texas. He said Kilgore was fortunate enough to host such a prestigious professional theater.

“You’ll be hard pressed to find another junior college throughout the state of Texas or anywhere that has a professional theater company on its campus,” Caldwell said. “I think this is a real opportunity for theater and arts enthusiasts in this whole arena to have professional-grade, professional-caliber theater right here in their backyard.”

In all of his years of working in the theater, Caldwell said he always told his students this and believed that theater was psychology in action.

“The art of making plays is studying human behavior. How we behave, why we behave, that way, how we react to others. You can learn so much about yourself and about mankind and mankind by studying theater, by performing plays. I did it, “he said.” And I have prejudices, of course, but for me it was like a religion, I learned more about the world and my fellow human beings and about the way to love them and accept them that I have not learned elsewhere. “

The theater currently has four plays running at the moment. They do 100% seating and masks are optional. For tickets or more information, you can visit their website.

Copyright 2021 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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