Last year's move from the Arboretum on Alumni Drive to MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater was one of the biggest leaps in a series of changes that Kentucky Conservatory Theatre made to refine SummerFest, an outdoor summer theater series with roots in the defunct Lexington Shakespeare Festival.
Wesley Nelson, KCT executive director, says the new venue was a smash hit for audiences and organizers, but KCT will continue to make tweaks to improve the event, including:
■ 8:30 p.m. start time. When the event was at the arboretum, shows started at 8:45, which meant many shows did not wrap up until after 11. Last year, organizers switched the start time to 8, but Nelson says they were working against summer daylight.
"We got some good feedback last year, but what we did discover that the lighting was virtually useless throughout the whole first act," says Nelson, who is aiming for a "happy medium" with this year's start time.
■ Repertory format. In the past, SummerFest (and the Lexington Shakespeare Festival before it) mounted three shows on three consecutive weekends. In 2013, SummerFest reduced its season to two shows. This year, each of the two shows will be shown on two alternating weekends to allow more opportunities to attend.
■ More seating options. Last year's premium seating area included chairs directly in front of the stage, but many patrons missed being able to bring their own blankets to picnic in front of the stage. This year, the option to bring blankets and chairs is back. Chair seating ranges from $15 to $20, while blanket seating (seating up to four) ranges from $20 to $60.