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Nashville Shakespeare Festival to return to Performing Arts Center

4-show run to include Wilson's 'Jitney,' Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'

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After a five-week run at oneC1TY in Nashville, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is continuing its annual tradition of bringing summer Shakespeare to the Williamson County Performing Arts Center at Academy Park in Franklin for a final weekend of shows from Sept. 16-19.

This year, for the first time in its history, Nashville Shakes has partnered with a Black theatre company, Kennie Playhouse Theatre, and will present August Wilson’s “Jitney” for the first two nights. The second play will be William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” This late summer, free, outdoor event will include nightly academic discussions, pre-show music and food trucks.

Nashville Shakespeare Festival

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival will return to the Williamson County Performing Arts Center at Academy Park in Franklin for a weekend of shows from Sept. 16-19.

Wilson’s “Jitney,” a poignant snapshot of Black life in 1977 Pittsburgh as seen through the lens of a tight-knit group of independent cab drivers, is directed by the award-winning Resident Director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago Chuck Smith and has original music composed by five-time Grammy Award-winner Victor Wooten. “Jitney” will play Thursday and Friday, Sept 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. This show is rated MA for mature audiences due to strong language.

Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is a light-hearted comedy of mistaken identity, directed by the award-winning Founding Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center Jim Warren, with original contemporary music composed by Nashville singer-songwriter Tom Mason. “Twelfth Night” will play Saturday and Sunday, Sept 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. This show is family friendly.

Each evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with “Insight,” free scholarly discussions featuring guest experts on Wilson and Shakespeare. 

At 6 p.m., the nightly pre-show concert will begin, featuring local entertainment. At 6:45, the children participating in Elf & Fairy camp will perform, followed by the Apprentice Company, leading straight into the main performance at 7 p.m. 

Food trucks will be on site, and dogs on a leash are welcome. The festival is free, and audiences may come with their own blanket or chairs or reserve chairs ahead of time with “Noble” seating available for $40. VIP Royal Packages, which include reserved parking, comfortable reserved seating and dinner catered by Bacon & Caviar Gourmet Catering, are $100 each and support the festival’s programming. 

Academy Park Performing Arts Center is located at 112 Everbright Ave. in Franklin. Go to or to purchase VIP tickets. 

Summer Shakespeare 2021 is funded in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission, Metro Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Shakespeare at Academy Park is made possible in part by Williamson County Parks and Recreation.

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