Announcing the cast & creative team of Everybody!

The cast of Everybody, clockwise from top left: Alexandra Van De Poel, Avi Roque, Britney Frazier, Jenny Nelson, Victor Talmadge, Jomar Tagatac, Sarita Ocón, Stacy Ross, Lance Gardner.






You can’t take it with you, but everybody tries. When Everybody faces imminent death, which companion—Beauty, Friendship, Stuff, or Love—will make it to the final destination? The core company of actors will be cast by lottery each night, letting fate decide the journey as they play out this new riff on an ancient morality tale with surprising grace, humor, and heart.

“In this day, in this country, in this moment, we need compassion, and that is what this play so beautifully makes the case for,” commented Cal Shakes Artistic Director Eric Ting. Director Nataki Garrett added, “I have been working with Branden and his plays since 2010. I have a deep and profound respect for his words and his ways of expressing a desire for connection.”

“I was especially struck by the original Everyman because of the way it marries the experience of the commons—and theater is one of the few commons left to us in the modern world—with the most intimate questions of spirit and faith, and transience, and the questions of what ultimately matters in life,” says Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. He continues, “And what I love about theater is that you have to be there or it’s gone— it doesn’t wait for anybody. It rewards people who care about the form and who show up. So how perfect a metaphor is that for life? And where better to practice feeling the fear of death and solitude than in a place where we are all together, breaking bread and sharing laughter?”

Returning to the Bruns with Everybody are: Lance Gardner (2016’s Much Ado About Nothing, Fences, You Never Can Tell, and Othello), Sarita Ocón (Quixote Nuevo, Cal Shakes’ All the Bay’s a Stage touring production of Twelfth Night, A Streetcar Named Desire and To The Bone at Ubuntu Theater Project), Stacy Ross (2016’s Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Lady Windemere’s Fan, among many others), and Jomar Tagatac (2017’s As You Like It, Life Is A Dream). Joining them in their Cal Shakes debuts are: Britney Frazier (Campo Santo’s Casa de Spirits, Ethos De Masquerade, H.O.M.E., and Superheroes; Hedda Gabler at Cutting Ball Theater), Jenny Nelson (Sense and Sensibility and Cinderella at Pacific Conservatory Theatre) , Avi Roque (The Crucible at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, We’re Gonna Be Okay and Men On Boats at American Theater Company), Victor Talmadge (Broadway’s November, National Tours of The Lion King and The King and I, and Weathervane Productions’ A Lesson From Aloes, among many other regional credits), and Alexandra Van De Poel (The Prince of Egypt at TheatreWorks, A Christmas Carol at A.C.T.).

Everybody’s creative team includes: Scenic Designer Nina Ball (whose previous designs for Cal Shakes include As You Like It, Othello, Twelfth Night, and The Comedy Of Errors); Costume Designer Naomi Arnst (Cal Shakes’ All the Bay’s a Stage touring productions of The Tempest and 12th Night; Santa Clara University’s Legally Blonde, the Musical); Lighting Designer Xavier Pierce (Cal Shakes’ black odyssey,The Glass Menagerie, and August Wilson’s Fences ); and Sound Designer Jake Rodriguez (Hamlet and Nicholas Nickleby at Cal Shakes, Magic Theatre’s Bruja, A.C.T.’s Rock and Roll, plus the world premieres of Passing Strange, The People’s Temple, and Fetes de la Nuit at Berkeley Rep).

Everybody is a sparkling new riff on the 15th-century morality play The Summoning of Everyman by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whom the New York Times calls “one of this country’s most original and illuminating writers.” A finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Everybody is Cal Shakes’ second official offering under the New Classics Initiative (NCI), exploring what it means to be a classical theater in the 21st century, and to allow living writers to expand our classical canon.

Directed by Nataki Garrett making her Cal Shakes debut, Everybody plays July 18 – August 5 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. Get tickets and more info here!

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A Spy in Rehearsal: Quixote Nuevo Dispatch #1

by Alicia Coombes, Publications Manager

Last week I had the pleasure of watching rehearsal for the first time since the first read-through. The cast welcomed me with the offer of snacks (their snack game is ON), and they worked on blocking a scene from around page 50 of the new script.

Playwright Octavio Solis has spoken about how thrilled he is that he can continue exploring the story of Don Quixote (this is its third incarnation! Hence: Quixote Nuevo) and is particularly excited about the possibilities afforded him with an all-Latinx cast.

Here’s a bit of an interview between Production Dramaturg Sonia Fernandez and Octavio:

Sonia Fernandez: I wanted to ask you about the Spanish. I’m curious because the Spanish within the scenes can be understood through the context around it. But you have whole songs in Spanish.

OS: Well yeah. I think because music is a language unto itself. Even if we don’t know the lyrics, we respond to the emotions that are carried through. Music can say—with its notes, just with its melody and its rhythm—it can say everything and more than if you literally translate that into language, into written words, into spoken language. It’s universal. Everybody gets that. There are people like my brother who lives in Mexico, he’ll hear Frank Sinatra, or Perry Como, and love that music, or Billie Holiday, and have no idea what she was singing, what the words were. It didn’t matter. Because he knew what they were singing about. They were singing about love or a party or heartbreak or loneliness, they understood that in the music, they feel it. So I feel like I can do that in this play. And in my plays, generally there’s often some songs that are all in Spanish. People will get it, and if they don’t, you know, then they just gotta wait until the song is over.

SF: There’s just something beautiful that I find in plays in other languages that it’s like you’re giving a special treat to the people who understand it. They’re getting something extra. And those are the people who may not usually get something extra, but in this you say, this is for you. It’s for everyone, but especially for you.

OS: Yeah. I feel that way, and there’s no doubt about it, I’m writing for an English-speaking audience in my plays, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t offer these little gifts to the people who also can speak Spanish who are there. And we may get audiences that don’t speak any English at all, and if we do, these songs will be a way for them to help carry on the journey of the play. At least that’s my hope.

This Quixote squarely lives in today’s Texas, steps from the Mexican border, and his is an American story rather than a Spanish/European one. The new script features songs in Spanish, some characters whose only language is Spanish, some whose only language is English (or “Texan” maybe? No disrespect, as a former Oklahoman), and other characters who playfully mix Spanish and English into a greater sum of its parts. The cast’s familiarity with the language is also varied: during rehearsal, some folks tried to remember rules of grammar, others helped with accents. Some practiced new lines written just moments before, and some played with their jokes a few different ways, feeling out what different emphases gave to the lines.

We’re all a bunch of language geeks around here, and it’s nice to see a living playwright play with language with the same zeal that I imagine Shakespeare must have done. There are raunchy jokes, bilingual rhymes, and poetic moments that will be a delight to watch this cast continue to explore.

More soon as I continue to spy from the rehearsal room! For lots more behind the scenes, follow #QuixoteNuevo and @calshakes on Instagram; and if you haven’t bought tickets already, you can get them here.

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Quixote’s Dreams

by Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg

I wonder what Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote, would think if he were to spend an hour or two at the conversation table on the plaza at the Bruns? His trusty horse, Rocinante, would be tethered in the car park because we don’t allow horses on site (unless they’re on stage—and never again, not after the nightly clean-up routine for our first staging of Macbeth). There would be hills stretching beyond, enticing Don Quixote with invisible adventures, and the goats he runs into would be replaced by gently lowing cows. Quixote’s stout lance and suit of armor would stand out amongst a sea of puffy jackets. And, just as in his story, our accommodating grounds staff would surely allow him to keep his helmet on, with a straw serving for the reed that gets his wine to his mouth.

And there would be dreams: dreams held up in the face of adversity, dreams abandoned or cherished, dreams that belong not just to our knight errant himself, but to every person sitting at that plaza table. And this is one of the great beauties of Cervantes’ long, rambling story. It’s a story about dreams that keep a man going even when his ear is mangled and anyone else would have given up and gone to bed; dreams that carry him, his friend Sancho and his tired old horse Rocinante, through heat and cold and exhaustion; dreams that transform the world so that Quixote can find a reason to live in it.

As you can see, I love Don Quixote (but advise those of you who haven’t read it to listen to it on tape on a very, very long journey.) But I am positive that, after decades of loving Cervantes’ story, I’m going to love Octavio Solis’s adaptation even more. Solis is back with us again, adapting another classic novel (the last being Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven in 2009.) Into our current cynicism, the playwright is infusing the breath of an old, old story, but a story that is primal for us as human beings. What is the sum of a life? No matter who we are, or how much we possess or don’t possess, we all must leave our loved ones, our enemies, our goods and chattels, someday, to cross that border alone beyond this mortal life.

Emilio Delgado as Quixote; photo by Kevin Berne

And here is where Octavio’s adventure with Don Quixote begins. He’s renamed Cervantes’ story Quixote Nuevo, signaling the area near El Paso, Texas, where Octavio himself was born and raised. In Quixote Nuevo, Octavio asks Cervantes to travel through time and help us to learn about who we are today. And nothing would make Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote, happier than to oblige: he always thinks he’s right; he knows what it means to gallop full-tilt in the face of reality; and he believes, above all else, that one should always follow one’s dreams. As with all of us, it’s Quixote’s dreams that make him ferociously, vulnerably, poignantly, hilariously human.

And in Quixote Nuevo, he’s dying. Why on earth would he accept this new curve ball from reality when he’s never accepted anything else?  Why would he believe the doctors and philosophers who tell him it’s all over? It’s not over—it never will be; because the great gift he has is his imagination, which carries him back, through hurts, heartaches, the crumbling of his aged mind, to the days when all things were possible and all he needed was a horse, a friend and a will of iron. Octavio has taken Cervantes’ marvelous character—the inhabitant of the first novel ever written—and, assisted by director KJ Sanchez and a fabulous creative team, brought him across the Atlantic. In Octavio’s words, he’s endeavored to give Quixote “a different cast, darken his skin, darken his hair, give him roots that are more native to the Americas,” then set him to seek out adventures in La Plancha, Texas. And all we need do is bring our jackets, our wine and our sandwiches, and we can be right there with him.

Quixote Nuevo begins playing June 13. Get tickets here!

Posted in 2018 Season, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Quixote | 2 Comments

Announcing the Quixote Nuevo cast & creative team

Click here to buy tickets!

We’re opening our 2018 Season with Octavio Solis’ World Premiere of Quixote Nuevo, directed by KJ Sanchez! Our music-filled contemporary retelling of Cervantes’ classic novel will feature feature Emilio Delgado, best known for his long-running role as Luis on Sesame Street, in the title role, and a cast of Latinx actors from the Bay Area and beyond:

Clockwise from top left: Juan Amador, Carlos Aguirre, Emilio Delgado, Sol Castillo, Hugo Carbajal, Sarita Ocón, Amy Lizardo, Michele Apriña Leavy, and Gianna DiGregorio Rivera.

Juan Amador (who can often be seen DJing locally, including for the Grammy-nominated group Alphabet Rockers), as Sancho; Carlos Aguirre (Bruja, Lily’s Revenge, and Oedipus el Rey at Magic Theatre; Campo Santo’s Fuku Americanus and A Place to Stand);  Hugo Carbajal (Heart Shaped Nebula and The Great Divide at Shotgun Players, San Francisco Mime Troupe’s Freedomland and Oil and Water); Gianna DiGregorio Rivera (Custom Made Theater’s How I Learned to Drive, Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Michele Apriña Leavy (A Tale of Autumn, Blackademics, The Late Wedding, and many more at Crowded Fire Theater, The Seagull, Twelfth Night, and Comedy of Errors at Livermore Shakespeare); and Sol Castillo (The Night Fairy, Charlottes Web, and Adventures of Pop Quinly at South Coast Repertory, Sunsets & Margaritas at Denver Center, and Of Mice and Men at Pasadena Playhouse), all making their Bruns debuts. Returning to Cal Shakes are Amy Lizardo (Cal Shakes’ All the Bay’s a Stage touring production of The Tempest, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar, Hundred Days at Z Space, The Unfortunates at A.C.T.) and Sarita Ocón (Cal Shakes’ All the Bay’s a Stage touring production of Twelfth Night, A Streetcar Named Desire and To The Bone at Ubuntu Theater Project, The River Bride at Arizona Theater Company, PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo at South Coast Repertory).

Quixote Nuevo’s creative team includes: Scenic Designer Annie Smart (whose previous designs for Cal Shakes include Measure for Measure and The Glass Menagerie); Costume Designer Ulises Alcala (The Gangster of Love at Magic Theater, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Don Pasquale, Le Nozze di Figaro, and many more at San Francisco Opera); Lighting Designer Wen-Ling Liao (Vietgone at A.C.T., Reel to Reel at Magic Theatre, Barbecue at San Francisco Playhouse); Co-Composer/Music Director, & Sound Designer David R Molina (Lydia at Mark Taper Forum, Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles at Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Co-Composer/Music Director Eduardo Robledo (musician, performer, and educator who has been a member of Teatro De La Gente, Teatro Campesino and the San Francisco Mime Troupe).


Quixote Nuevo plays from June 13-July 1. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Call for Artists’ Angels!

Our 2018 Season is shaping up to be an epic adventure, with many guest artists returning to the Bruns (like some of our friends from black odyssey) or joining us for the first time (like our friend from Sesame Street, Emilio Delgado).

Want to help? If you:

  • have an in-law or guest unit with a private entrance,
  • are vacating your house or apartment for part of the summer,
  • or have frequent flier miles, hotel points, or car rental connections going unused,

…you can! Join our Artists’ Angels program by providing hospitality for the extraordinary visiting artists who come work at Cal Shakes and help enrich our work and community. In exchange for your in-kind contribution of housing, you will be acknowledged as an Artists’ Angel and be invited to attend the opening night dinner and performance for your hosted artist’s production, in addition to receiving all the benefits offered at your level of donation.

If you or someone you know is able to help us welcome our visiting artists, please contact Camille Rohrlich at

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Ask Philippa: An Epic Journey

by Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg

Have a question for Philippa? Email, or comment below!

Photo by Jay Yamada

This season traces an amazing arc from late medieval times through to the present day. We begin with Don Quixote, the most famous jewel from the Spanish Golden Age, adapted for Cal Shakes by one of America’s most important playwrights, Octavio Solis, under the new title, Quixote Nuevo. Solis (who adapted John Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven for Cal Shakes in our 2009 season) re-situates Don Quixote on the Mexican border, as Quixote, near the end of his life, looks back at the ideals and loves that have inspired him, portraying the very human quest to search all one’s life for a “nugget” of truth, or beauty, or joyousness, or innocence, that is barely remembered. We then move to Everybody, adapted by MacArthur genius Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from Everyman, originally an anonymously-authored late medieval play about the search for the most vital tool that a human being needs to take en route to “the great mystery.” In Jacobs-Jenkins’ hands, this is a play filled with surprise, poignancy and humor. In our final slot of the season we will stage a third adaptation, The War of the Roses, drawn from Shakespeare’s history plays. As a young man of under 30, and to huge public acclaim in the London theaters, Shakespeare wrote the Henry VI plays that we now know, together with Richard III, as his “minor tetralogy.” These plays about the saintly Henry VI and the conspirators who surround him, followed by the villainously attractive figure of Richard III, flesh out some of Shakespeare’s richest questions about how we mortal beings manage the threats, the temptations, the passions, the losses, that inevitably come with power.

More Info/Tickets

Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).



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Announcing Lead Artists for our Epic 2018 Season




We’re thrilled to announce the directors for our 2018 Season—KJ Sanchez (Quixote Nuevo), Nataki Garrett (Everybody), and Eric Ting (The War of the Roses). We’re also excited to announce the Cal Shakes debut of Sesame Street’s Emilio Delgado, who will play our Quixote, as well as the return of Cal Shakes favorites Aldo Billingslea, Stacy Ross, and Danny Scheie in The War of the Roses.

“I’m thrilled to be working with these fantastic collaborators in 2018,” Artistic Director Eric Ting said.

“KJ’s work with American Records (a theater company whose mission is to make theater that chronicles our time and serves as a bridge between people) and her passion for the communities she makes work with is so close to our own mission at Cal Shakes and an excellent entry point into our reimagined Quixote Nuevo. And Nataki’s roots in Oakland, reputation as a “change-leader” and champion of new and diverse voices in the American theater, along with her close artistic relationship with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins makes her a perfect fit to direct Everybody.”

Ting continued, “I’ve already had the pleasure of working with KJ and Nataki on casting for the 2018 Season. All three shows lend themselves to strong ensembles, and each show will have crossovers with several actors joining more than one show. I love that KJ and Nataki are game for helping to create such a vibrant company of new faces and returning favorites. I know our returning audiences love seeing Danny Scheie (You Never Can Tell, The Mystery of Irma Vep), Stacy Ross (Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night) and Aldo Billingslea (black odyssey, Fences) on our stages. Many of us know Emilio Delgado from his 30+ years on Sesame Street as Luis, the friendly Fix-It Shop owner, and we’re all delighted to welcome him to La Mancha, Texas, the fictional setting of our Quixote Nuevo, for the summer!”

Read the whole press release here.

Your epic summer—filled with fantastical escapades, Shakespearean intrigue, and classic works reimagined for today—is closer than you think. Subscriptions are on sale now!

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