The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival began modestly in 1972 at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The New Shakespeare Company presented eight performances during its inaugural season. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival continued there for four years, until it ran into scheduling conflicts over the use of Sugar Pine Point’s Ehrman Mansion.
In 1976, the company and Nevada State Parks agreed to hold the performances at Sand Harbor – even though it was considered to be a less accessible location. A bare-bones stage was hastily built for just over $1,000 in materials and labor. In 1976, our first year at Sand Harbor State Park it is estimated over 500 people attended each of twelve performances.
At first, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was managed by the staff of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. In 1982, the North Tahoe Fine Arts Council (NTFAC) began “Tunes in the Dunes” and took over the management of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. The Festival prospered under the direction of NTFAC and became a cultural tradition at the park. Each year, more and more people made the trip to enjoy a picnic and a play under the stars at Sand Harbor. But in 1992, the North Tahoe Fine Arts Council folded and a new manager for the Festival was needed.
The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors and Convention Bureau was selected to manage the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. In 1995, a long-term contract was signed with the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, a non-profit group dedicated to managing and improving the performances at Sand Harbor. As part of the agreement, the LTSF, completely through private funding, constructed a state of the art stage facility. The Warren Edward Trepp Stage, built at a cost of nearly two million dollars, was dedicated at the start of the 2000 season. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor is still a fun, casual evening on the beach, but under the stewardship of the Festival, it has also become one of the outstanding outdoor cultural events in the United States.
In May of 1999, the Parasol Foundation, a non-profit community foundation, was awarded a generous grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation through the Community Services Center Program. The Community Services Program is designed to help privately supported, non-profit organizations with 501 C (3) status, join together to house their operations in a shared facility. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was fortunate to have been invited to share this facility; it is one of a kind. Designed from the ground up for the special needs of non-profits and volunteer organizations, it is the headquarters of the Parasol Foundation, 20 other full-time organizations and over 80 other groups who utilize the facility as needed. The Parasol Foundation, which provides an umbrella of benefits and value-added services to aid the non-profit organizations on the North Shore, along with the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, has given the Festival a wonderful opportunity to be part of a model project for non-profit organizations in America.