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UCSC’s Shakespeare Santa Cruz to fold


Very dreary news from the coast. Shakespeare Santa Cruz, one of the Bay Area’s premier theater companies, will shut its doors after its 2013 holiday production. Budget woes are doing in the 32-year-old institution.

I’m originally from the Santa Cruz area, so the news is an even greater blow. (I’ve taken my nephews to the holiday productions for many years.) Our own esteemed Brad Myers, a Fresno State theater professor, worked at Shakespeare Santa Cruz for eight seasons. (I still remember seeing him play Dr. Rank in “A Doll’s House” with Bryan Cranston and Bridget Connors.) I asked him what he thought about the news:

Shakespeare Santa Cruz was one of the nation’s most innovative Shakespeare companies. Every actor wanted to work there because of the integrity and edginess of the productions. No other company nor institution has had a greater impact on my artistic growth. I am fortunate to have worked with SSC under the leadership of each of its Artistic Directors: Michael Edwards, Danny Scheie, Paul Whitworth and Marco Barricelli. Each brought a fresh artistic vision to the company without compromising the commitment to excellence. SSC was the jewel of Bay Area Shakespeare festivals. Artists and audiences will be hard pressed to fill the void SSC will leave.

I know that lots of people from Fresno attend Shakespeare Santa Cruz. This is a major blow.

On the jump: a list of the 17 Shakespeare Santa Cruz productions in which Brad Myers acted.

Pictured: Brad Myers and Brad Myers, left, and Susan Engbrecht in the 2011 Shakespeare Santa Cruz production of ‘The Comedy of Errors.”

Myers’ Shakespeare Santa Cruz productions


Responses to "UCSC’s Shakespeare Santa Cruz to fold"

Heather P says:

The commentary continues to mourn over in Santa Cruz (like this lovely article highlighting the way that SSC bridged the often insular nature of the UC Campus with the community:

For myself, I went to SSC for the first time at age 16 and it sparked my imagination. I wasn’t a drama student in high school, but seeing plays at SSC had a lasting impression on me and they have continued to influence my theatrical outlook to this day.

But, I realized today that over the last ten years or so, my trips to Santa Cruz itself were planned to coincide with seeing a performance or two at the Festival Glen. As a kid I went every summer with my family for several weeks. It was our summer hometown. But these days I don’t usually plan a trip there unless I can see some theater at SSC. I feel as though I am losing a connection to my youth and my past by losing SSC. And, in reality, I probably won’t visit Santa Cruz as often as I was wont to without the lure of the Festival.

Others may not understand why the closure of a regional theater 3 hours away affects us here, but for a few of us in the Valley, Shakespeare Santa Cruz was “our” regional theater, too.

jamie says:

I am sad to hear this news. But even sadder to read that heather considers a regional theatre 3 hours away “our” regional theatre. Why can’t someone get a full time, professional theatre going in Fresno?

Heather P says:

jamie ~ Because, like a lot of places, there isn’t enough of an entertainment-arts economy here to support it. Even a coastal regional theater like Shakespeare Santa Cruz required the underwriting of the university to keep it financially viable. In the larger metropolitan areas that have regional theaters, issues of audience development, ticket pricing caps, and donor fatigue are significant. In places like Fresno, where there is less money and fewer patrons to support such a theater, it is even harder to achieve.

Many theater companies have tried here. Some are still trying. But ask Joel Abels about what is standing in his way, sometime. I’m sure you’ll get an earful. And this is a man whose company is committed to providing a few equity contracts each year. Ask the Fresno Grand Opera and the Fresno Phil about their financial realities.

Most of us who produce resident and independent theater in the area become quickly acquainted with the financial complexities of the business of the performing arts in an area where it isn’t consumed as often as we’d like it to be. We’d all love to create something where we can work full-time in our passion for theater in Fresno, offering audiences a regional theater they can call their “own”. But we all also have to deal with our own financial realities.

There are caps on the ticket price level we can ask. There is a cap on the amount of money we can usually ask from donors. There are actually far fewer donors to be had here and they get hit up by everything. Major grantmaking bodies these days often require a certain amount of the total budget to be earned -income from ticket and merchandise sales. Or you have to already be a large institution to qualify for the larger grants. And expenses rise as volunteer hours diminish because there aren’t enough people to do what needs to be done to run an arts institution (much less paid staff). There are lots of things that go into it. Many of us have tried to find solutions. Many of us are still trying. Believe me, it isn’t for lack of trying.

In the meantime, we try to develop audiences who want more of what we already offer. Audience development for theater of any kind is something we discuss a lot . Most of us are always looking for new ways to create new theater-goers in Fresno, hoping that long-term audience development will change things eventually. If you or anyone else has some pragmatic ideas for us, believe me, we’ll listen. We’ve tried a number of off-beat things already!

But only when there is enough of a demand for a regional company in the areaand enough money to back up that demand, can it happen.

And I quote Tallulah Bankhead: If you want to help the American theater, dahling. Don’t be an actor. Be an audience!.

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