Nearly 35 years ago, Gary and Patricia Ellson launched what would become Actors' Theatre by presenting William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on the lawn of Schiller Park.

Nearly 35 years ago, Gary and Patricia Ellson launched what would become Actors' Theatre by presenting William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on the lawn of Schiller Park.

Through the years, Actors' Theatre has continued that tradition, presenting classic theater in German Village's central park for free.

The theater group performs for audiences from throughout the world, and has become Ohio's largest free outdoor theater festival, performing for 18,000 guests annually.

Summer evenings in Schiller Park have become a community picnic.

The company is a cultural institution as much as an arts organization.

Shows are presented for free. Economics bar no one from our audience.

ATC has an exceptionally diverse audience, and we strive to present everyone equally in our work.

Actors' Theatre reflects the diversity of its audience in the diversity of its artists.

In recent years, the theater company has grown from a grass-roots theater collective into a professional regional theater company.

The company has performed throughout Columbus, including at Columbus Commons, Easton, Columbus School for Girls and the Columbus Performing Arts Center.

Actors' Theatre has received dozens of awards for artistic merit and the community contributions that we make in German Village and central Ohio.

As Actors' Theatre moves forward, the company's focus will remain on creating the most dynamic presentations of classic theater in the area.

In keeping with that priority, ATC will produce four shows per season in Schiller Park.

We are also committed to making Shakespeare accessible for our whole community, and will begin offering internships and other training opportunities for teens to cultivate new young artists locally.

In addition, ATC will be teaching at the new Columbus Gifted Academy and is also expanding its own acting classes for adults and children, taught by Andy Falter, director of The Globe School.

We embrace the mission that has been entrusted to us as we move into the future.

Classic theater is classic because it speaks to the common truths of human experience -- experience not tied to race, gender or economic conditions.

Actors' Theatre seeks to present all of the voices in our diverse community with honesty and integrity and will make our performances accessible to all. We believe that our 2016 season -- Othello, The Countess of Monte Cristo, The Winter's Tale and An Ideal Husband -- are a grand celebration of our history and future.

For the first time, audience members will be able to become supporting members of the theater in 2016.

Actors' Theatre will be working with local businesses and leaders as a key arts partner in the community.

The company will also be announcing exciting collaborations with other exceptional companies in the Columbus area as we seek to present work that challenges, inspires and entertains our audience.

The support of German Village makes it possible for Actors' Theatre to continue this tradition of quintessential theater on beautiful summer nights in verdant Schiller Park, all for free, as it has been for 35 years.

Philip J. Hickman, artistic director of Actors' Theatre of Columbus, submitted the Village Notebook column.