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General Information

The Institute of Outdoor Drama was founded in 1963 as an organization dedicated to serving the American historical outdoor drama movement.  In the ensuing years, its scope expanded and grew internationally to include Shakespeare festivals, religious plays, musicals and all other types of plays always with the shared characteristic of outdoor performance.  To reflect this growth, the organization changed its name in 2014 to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre (IOT). We are based in the College of Fine Arts and Communication at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.  Our scope includes a wide variety of international professional and community theatre organizations. These organizations are united by their dedication to producing outstanding theatre and their unique roles in providing exceptional entertainment and tourism attractions for their regions.

We serve four primary constituent groups:

  1. All outdoor theatres with an interest in our programs and networking opportunities
  2. Members who pay annual dues and benefit from our consulting services, conferences, auditions, public information and research projects
  3. Actors, directors, designers and technicians working in outdoor theatre
  4. Members of the public or press seeking information about performances and theatres in different parts of the world

The services provided by the Institute to its members include:

  • The annual national outdoor theatre conference
  • The Mentor Consultation Program providing free consulting services to our members (see details at Mentors)
  • Unified Auditions for theatre companies
  • Individual member profile pages on the Institute’s web site, with links to the members’ own web sites and listing in the online membership directory
  • Research and publications on matters of interest to the membership, including attendance  statistics, audience surveys, theatre design, economic impact studies, technological developments, cultural tourism and marketing trends
  • Feasibility studies for new theatres provided by teams of professional consultants and ongoing development assistance for communities wishing to establish outdoor theatres
  • Public information and promotions of the performances provided by our members
  • Liaison with other national and international arts services and tourism organizations, government agencies and unions
  • Assistance in executive search
  • Awards programs for Lifetime Achievement and Volunteer of the Year

Perhaps the most valued benefit of membership in IOT is the network it provides for theatre professionals who share common challenges, expertise and aspirations. For more information about membership Click Here.

Original Institute Conference in Chapel Hill, NC, 1963

The Institute celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its founding in 2013, having been established in 1963 at the University of North Carolina. A public service agency of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at East Carolina University, the IOT is the only service organization providing leadership in fostering artistic and managerial excellence and expansion of outdoor theatre through training, networking, research and advisory programs. The Institute serves as a clearinghouse for its member theatre companies around the world.

The Institute gathers information related to outdoor writing, management, and production and distributes that information to production companies, planners, the news media and artists in the field. It works with writers, lawyers, directors, architects, managers, promoters, performers and designers, and experts in marketing and travel.

Mr. Mark R. Sumner

Mark R. Sumner


In 1990, the Institute of Outdoor Theatre established the Mark R. Sumner Award to honor  his lifetime contribution in the field of outdoor theatre. The award recognizes significant contributions by an individual to a specific organization, or to outdoor theatre as a whole, including but not limited to playwriting, directing, acting, design, theater architecture, patronage, scholarship, musical composition, technology and innovation, producing and administration. This award is presented annually at the National Conference on Outdoor Theatre, held in October.


Award Recipients

  • 2013 – Paul Nicholson, Executive Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
  • 2012 – Jackie Mills, Founder-Playwright, Salado Legends, Texas
  • 2011 - Scott J. Parker, Director Emeritus, Institute of Outdoor Theatre, North Carolina
  • 2010 – William R. Winkler, III, Board Chairman, Horn in the West, North Carolina
  • 2009 – *James E. Wilson, Founder and General Manager/Producer, Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, North Carolina
  • 2008 – Gayle Bowling , General Manager, Theatre West Virginia, West Virginia
  • 2007 – Anne “Si” Arnold, Costumer, Stephen Foster – The Musical, Kentucky
  • 2006 – Mark Hofflund, Managing Director, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Idaho
  • 2005 – Barbara Polly , Producer, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Virginia
  • 2004 – Dennis Anderson , Artistic Director, Ramona and San Jacinto Valley Shakespeare Festival, California
  • 2003 – Larry D. Gustke, Assoc. Professor, NC State University, North Carolina
  • 2002 – *Fred Alley, Artistic Director/Founder, American Folklore Theatre, Wisconsin
  • 2001 – Tina Packer, Artistic Director/Founder, Shakespeare &  Company, Massachusetts
  • 2000 – Marion N. Waggoner, Producer/Artistic Director, Tecumseh!, Ohio
  • 1999 – William M. Hardy, Director, Unto These Hills, North Carolina
  • 1998 – Fred C. Adams, Founder, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Utah
  • 1997 – *W.L. “Rusty” Mundell, Founder, Tecumseh!, Ohio
  • 1996 – David W. Weiss, Director and Designer of 15 outdoor theatres, Virginia
  • 1995 –* William W. Patton, Executive Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon
  • 1994 –* Josef Meier, Founder, The Black Hills Passion Play, South Dakota
  • 1993 –* Kermit Hunter, Playwright of 43 outdoor dramas, Texas
  • 1992 –* Raymond Railard, General Manager, TEXAS, Texas
  • 1991 – *Bert Ballard, General Manager, The Stephen Foster Story, Kentucky

         (* Deceased)

Scott J. Parker


The Scott J. Parker Award is a new award presented to an exceptional volunteer in the field of outdoor theatre.  A cash prize of five hundred dollars ($500), this award recognizes an individual who has been nominated by an IOD member theatre for their extraordinary, dedicated and unpaid service to the organization over a significant period of time.   These volunteers may have served on boards of directors or worked in any aspect of a theatre’s operation from the front office to backstage to the box office or usher corps.  An awards committee will consider nominations for the Scott Parker Award annually, although an award will not necessarily be made every year.

Award Recipients

  • 2013 – Lynell Ginter, The Stephen Foster Story