The Wilmington City Council approved a policy change Tuesday that would allow more concerts to be held at the Hugh Morton Amphitheater at Greenfield Lake.
The revision affects the city’s usage policy for the open air facility, which has a capacity of 1200 people. Previously, Cape Fear Shakespeare Ltd. had exclusive use of the amphitheater from the fourth Wednesday in May to the last day in June for its free Shakespeare on the Green Festival. Following council’s approval, they no longer have those dates blocked off, and concert promoters are allowed four dates during the time period.
The non-profit and the city have had a long-standing partnership, with Cape Fear Shakespeare producing nearly 1,000 shows at Greenfield Lake since the early 1990s, long before renovations on the amphitheater were made.
Cape Fear Shakespeare Executive Board Member Aimee Schooley said the group had no idea that concert promoters had an issue with the exclusive use policy until it was brought up at city council agenda briefing last month. Since then, however, she said her group and the main concert producer at Greenfield Lake, Huka Entertainment, have met and been in communication about sharing the venue in a way that’s beneficial to all in the community.
“The most crucial elements of our mission statement are to educate, produce and present free Shakespeare for all,” Schooley said during the public information portion of Tuesday night’s city council meeting, which came after the item was approved by council. “Although some of the new revisions will challenge us, we have always felt strongly about the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. We realize that the lion’s share of the work to implement the changes to the policy will be on our organization, but with the help of Beau Gunn from Huka Entertainment, we’ll be able to maximize efficiency and make transitions smooth.”
Gunn, a managing partner in the group, said on Monday that he was pleased with the policy changes, which would give him and other promoters four dates (with a maximum of two on a Friday or Saturday) for additional shows. Gunn is also General Manager for Local Voice Wilmington, the parent company of Port City Daily.
“I’m happy that the city was able to reach a compromise,” he told Port City Daily. “I think the community as a whole will be the benefactor in this.”
Huka has already begun announcing some of its summer concerts, with icon Willie Nelson highlighting the season with a May 24 concert.
Shakespeare on the Green, the oldest and only free Shakespeare festival in eastern North Carolina, is also looking forward to their 2016 season.
“We invite each and every one of you to pack a picnic, come out with us under the stars and be reminded why Shakespeare on the Green is a treasure of outdoor theater at its finest,” Schooley said at the end of her comments. “Cape Fear Shakespeare – drama free since ’93!”