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Shakespeare Santa Cruz
Shakespeare Santa Cruz logo.png
Location University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California
Founded 1981
Founded by Audrey Stanley
Artistic director Marco Barricelli
Type of play(s) Shakespeare
Festival date mid-July through August

Shakespeare Santa Cruz was an annual professional theatre festival in Santa Cruz, California, which ran from 1981 to 2013. After losing the financial support of the University of California, Santa Cruz, the company was relaunched through crowdfunding as Santa Cruz Shakespeare.


Shakespeare Santa Cruz was founded in 1981 and performed annually on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Plays by Shakespeare and other great dramatists were performed indoors on the UCSC Theater Arts Mainstage and outdoors in the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen. Bringing in professional actors, directors and designers from throughout the country, the Company's season ran from July to early September and presented three or four plays that ran concurrently in repertory six days a week (no performance on Mondays). With a mission to “cultivate the imagination, wit, daring, and vision that the greatest playwrights demand of artists and audiences alike," SSC sought to present a festival of theatre which showcased contemporary approaches to directing, designing and acting. It eschewed "museum Shakespeare." Attendance grew from 7,716 people in 1982 to 31,013 in 1992. Since its founding, the company's artistic directors have been Audrey Stanley (1982–86), Michael Edwards (1987–92), Danny Scheie (1993–95), Risa Brainin, Paul Whitworth (1996–2007), and Marco Barricelli (2008–2013). Some of the rising theatre stars who have worked at SSC are: David Aaron Baker, Bryan Cranston, Maria Dizzia, Colman Domingo, Dan Donohue, Caitlin FitzGerald, Richard Gunn, Peter Jacobson, Carrie Preston, Reg Rogers, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

In 1997, Artistic Director Paul Whitworth introduced the SSC annual Winter Holiday season. In keeping with the tradition of Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s fresh take on the classics, the holiday shows were original musicals written for SSC by playwright Kate Hawley with music composed by Gregg Coffin, Craig Bohmler and Adam Wernick. A fusion of the traditions of the British pantomime and the American musical, Cinderella, Gretel and Hansel, The Princess and the Pea and Sleeping Beauty were based on traditional fairy tales and appeal to audiences of all ages. The winter season performed in November and December.

In addition to the summer repertory season and the holiday show, Shakespeare Santa Cruz had two performance programs which sought to engage student actors with Shakespearean and other classical texts---the summer Fringe show and the Shakespeare to Go program. The Fringe show was an opportunity for the summer Company's acting interns to perform their own production in the Glen two nights each summer. Past productions included Lysistrata, The Antipodes, Fools in the Forest, and The Mock-Tempest. Shakespeare to Go was an educational engagement program—and recipient of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding—featuring University of California Santa Cruz Theater Arts students who toured local schools in the spring performing one-hour versions of one of the full-length plays to be featured in the summer repertory season. Additionally, Shakespeare to Go presented a limited number of free public performances.

The festival was responsible for supporting itself, but had recently run deficits which were paid by the University of California. In 2008, with California's budget crisis having resulted in reduced funding, the university could no longer afford to cover these debts. An agreement was reached that if the theater could raise $300,000, it could continue operation. Within 10 days of the agreement's announcement, over $400,000 was raised. Claiming continuing financial problems, however, the UCSC Arts Division dean announced several years later that Shakespeare Santa Cruz would end after its 2013 holiday production.

Following this announcement, the theater company began a campaign to raise money to become an independent company. By February 2014, they raised over $1 million (USD) through crowdfunding to continue on without the financial support of the university. In March 2014, the new company changed its name to Santa Cruz Shakespeare.

Season history

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