The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival began modestly in 1972 at Sugar Pine Point State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The then-named New Shakespeare Company presented eight performances during its inaugural season. The organization continued there for two years, until it ran into scheduling conflicts over the use of Sugar Pine Point’s Ehrman Mansion. It then moved to Skylandia Park in Tahoe City, until attendance outgrew parking facilities, and another home was sought.
In 1976, the company and Nevada State Parks agreed to hold the performances at Sand Harbor State Park – 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. It is estimated over 500 people attended each of twelve performances that first year at Sand Harbor.
At first, the newly-named Shakespeare at Sand Harbor 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 management. The cultural efforts prospered under the direction of NTFAC and became a 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 1994, the NTFAC folded and The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau was selected to manage the activities.
In 1995, the newly-christened Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was incorporated as an independent non-profit organization dedicated to managing and improving the performances at Sand Harbor. The Warren Edward Trepp Stage, a state-of-the-art stage facility, built at a cost of nearly two million dollars, was dedicated at the start of the 2000 season.
In May of 1999, the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, a non-profit community foundation, was awarded a generous grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation through the Community Services Center Program. The Program was designed to help privately supported, non-profit organizations with 501 C (3) status join together to house their operations in a shared facility. The Festival was fortunate to have been invited to share this one-of-a-kind facility. Designed from the ground up for the special needs of non-profits and volunteer organizations, it is the headquarters of the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, 14 other full-time resident organizations and over 55 other additional groups non-profit organizations who utilize the facility as needed. The Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, which provides an umbrella of benefits and value-added services to aid the non-profit organizations on the North Shore, together 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.