SummerFest honors Joe Ferrell with first lifetime achievement award in outdoor theater

Director Joe  Ferrell looks over the script at the sound booth during a dress rehearsal of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival's "Much Ado About Nothing" at the University of Kentucky Arboretum in Lexington on Sunday July 9, 2006. Herald-Leader photo by Brian Tietz.

Director Joe Ferrell looks over the script at the sound booth during a dress rehearsal of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at the University of Kentucky Arboretum in Lexington on Sunday July 9, 2006. Herald-Leader photo by Brian Tietz.

Longtime Lexington director Joe Ferrell was honored with the inaugural SummerFest lifetime achievement award before Friday night’s performance of Twelfth Night.

The newly established award was created to honor, “an individual who has contributed to the production of quality outdoor theatre in Lexington,” according to a SummerFest statement. While SummerFest itself launched in 2007 at the Arboretum on Alumni Drive, and this summer moved to the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater in the Beaumont Circle area, the award looks back to the days of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival and Shakespeare in the Park, which started in 1982 and played several locations, including Woodland Park and Bell Court.

Ferrell has been part of many of those years, being the go-to director for Shakespearian dramas in the the event’s heyday of the late-1990s and early-2000s and showing a knack for classic and contemporary American drama as well. Ferrell has also made some onstage appearances, including a cameo in SummerFest’s 2008 production of Lord of the Flies. In recent years, he has served as an artistic director for SummerFest, though he is currently on hiatus from that role.

In an interview before SummerFest opened this season, executive director Wesley Nelson said that the award was an effort to honor the past of summer outdoor theater in Lexington as the company forges into the future at MoonDance. He said Ferrell was an obvious choice for the inaugural honoree given his influential service throughout most of the three decades of summer outdoor theater in Lexington.

Twelfth Night continues tonight and Sunday. SummerFest’s second production of this season, Little Shop of Horrors, runs July 23 to 27 and July 30 to Aug. 3.

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