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January 06, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 06, 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama Shakespeare Festival Board Chairman Charles A. Stakely announced today that Alfa Mutual Insurance Co. of Montgomery has provided $1 million to ASF to continue the nationally acclaimed school matinee program, SchoolFest.

"Alfa saved SchoolFest, pure and simple," said Stakely. "Alfa can be proud that children from all over Alabama--from every social distinction, from those with agricultural roots to those with more urban backgrounds--will still be able to enjoy this first-class educational experience."

In October, due to the total elimination of state funding for ASF -- a negative impact of over $563,000 per year -- the theatre announced that SchoolFest would be eliminated unless new funding was secured by the end of 2003. The new funding from Alfa keeps the program intact for more than 25,000 Alabama schoolchildren in the 2003-2004 and the 2004-2005 seasons, Stakely said.

"Our company is very proud to be a part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and to make this contribution which will benefit schoolchildren all across Alabama now and for years to come," said Alfa President and CEO Jerry Newby.

"We are extremely grateful for Alfa's vision for a better Alabama," said Alan Harrison, ASF's managing director. "University studies show that schoolchildren who participate in the arts programs like SchoolFest score better on tests, are more tolerant of other races and religions and are far less likely to engage in malicious activities like drugs and gangs," Harrison said. "This important part of ASF will now be called 'Alfa SchoolFest'."

"But even with this generous gift, we're not out of the woods," Harrison said. "More than ever, we need people to pick up some tickets and enjoy the plays, and where possible, make individual and corporate gifts." Over the past 17 years, Alfa SchoolFest has entertained, engaged, and educated over 650,000 schoolchildren and their teachers from every county in Alabama, across all socioeconomic and racial lines. Special performances are held on weekday mornings at substantially reduced ticket prices. Study guides are provided and students are invited to stay after each SchoolFest performance for short discussions with the actors. Pre-attendance workshops are held for teachers in order to more fully incorporate the play into the school curriculum. Any individual or business wishing to contribute may call ASF directly at 334-271-5335. For tickets, call 1-800-841-4ASF (1-800-841-4273) or buy tickets online at www.asf.net.

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