Shakespeare Santa Cruz Presents the Playwright’s Work Through an Edgy Lens

Shakespeare Santa Cruz LogoFounded in 1981, Shakespeare Santa Cruz is one of the premier theater groups in the region, and one of the best cultural experiences in Santa Cruz.

The theater group, which is actually UCSC’s professional residence theater company, focuses on inventive and innovative productions of the Elizabethan Bard’s classic masterpieces. By introducing contemporary aspects, Shakespeare Santa Cruz makes Shakespeare edgy and widely accessible to the audience.

True Repertory Experience

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

The first show that Shakespeare Santa Cruz put on was Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since then they have increased production.  This season they are featuring 2 shows in repertory, with two special performances of the Fringe show.  Shakespeare Santa Cruz has the distinction of being the only true repertory theater company in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one of the only ones remaining in the country.

Volunteers serve as ushers and greeters, adding to the community feel of the theater productions.

Shakespeare in the Glen

Festival Glen Stage at UCSC - Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,

By paved fountain or by rushy brook,

Or in the beached margent of the sea,

To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind.

-A Midsummer Night’s dream, Act 2, Scene 1

One of the unique aspects of Shakespeare Santa Cruz is the magical setting in the redwoods. The shows are presented in either the Festival Glen, or the main stage. The Sinsheimer-Stanley Glen is a large outdoor stage nestled in the shady redwoods and seats approximately 700 people.

The UCSC Mainstage is indoors and is a traditional “thrust” stage with stadium seating on three sides, and seats 526. The 2013 season, however, is the first one that will be performed all in the Festival Glen. The Glen stage was recently expanded and improved with better sightlines.

Traditionally, theater during the Elizabethan era was performed on open-air stages. At the front of the Festival Glen picnic-goers can enjoy food and drink on the ground, while others can sit in amphitheater-style seating under the majestic trees. Either way, the audience is guaranteed to have a uniquely Santa Cruz experience in the shady redwood grove.

Easily Accessible Shakespeare

O this learning, what a thing it is!

-The Taming of the Shrew, Act 2, Scene 1

Shakespeare Santa Cruz was founded in 1981 after Audrey Stanley, the founding Artistic director, had a conversation with the great Shakespearean scholar and UCSC professor, C.L. Barber about the possibility of a Shakespeare Festival at UCSC. After a visiting production of The Taming of the Shrew sparked interest in 1981, Shakespeare Santa Cruz had its first official season in 1982.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz now plays to approximately 50,000 audience members each season.  The theater group is considered one of the best in the nation, drawing actors, technicians, and set designers from across the country.  It was named one of the Top 10 Shakespeare festivals in North America by USA Today.

Besides the summer repertory season, which runs from mid-July through August, the theater company also produces a holiday show, and various performance programs that engage student actors. The Fringe show is an opportunity for interns to act in a show, while Shakespeare to Go is a touring educational outreach program which features UCSC students and is directed by a UCSC theater professor.

It is this attention to outreach and effort to make Shakespeare widely accessible that sets the theater group apart. Because of this, hundreds of thousands have a new-found appreciation and continued love of the Bard’s work.

Click here for more information about this season’s performances.

About Elizabeth Coleman

Elizabeth Coleman is an attorney-turned-writer born and raised in the Santa Cruz mountains. Her mom reads her blog,