Molly Risso believed in the magic of theatre, and as Artistic Director of the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, she built a strong theatre department at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
With her creation of the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, she brought to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Durant theatre professionals, student training for a professional career in the arts and educational opportunities for a growing community through a children's theatre workshop. Much like Shakespeareans, from all walks of life, a bigger audience was one of her goals. Children's Theatre Workshops were essential to changing that. Risso said, "A long time ago, I learned from Paul Baker at the Dallas Theatre Center that 'a little child shall lead them' is a good philosophy for theatre as well as theology."
Molly believed people needed to learn to appreciate good theatre while they were children, whether they were going to be in the audience or participating in the play. The validity of her belief is evident. Hundreds of children have been in the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival. After all these years, community members are still returning, many with their own children.
Even today, as Molly's dream lives on, the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival is one of the top summer theatre festivals in America. It has made Durant and Southeastern Oklahoma State University a destination for tourists, professional and aspiring actors and theatre artisans who, together, continue to make magic!
Dr. Molly Risso
Today, Riley Risso Coker keeps the dream alive as OSF's Producing Director.
Producing Director of Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival and coordinator of dance for theatre at Southeastern. Professor Coker has immersed herself in theatre arts, earning a BA in Theatre from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and an MFA in Acting from California State University. She has also served the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival as Educational director, Production Stage Manager, Choreographer, Administrative Assistant and Director.