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!

Share
Posted in 2018 Season, Everybody, Main Stage, Quixote, War of the Roses | Leave a comment

Partnership Profile: Triumph Wine Group

Triumph Wine Group is entering its second season as a Cal Shakes Business Partner and exclusive provider of wine for all Cal Shakes events, including the annual Guiding Stars celebration, opening night dinners, and numerous other events. Triumph wines are also featured at the Bruns Café and are available to all audience members before performances and during intermission.
 
Representing a 20-year tradition of crafting iconic wines that herald from the world-famous Napa Valley and adjacent wine growing regions, Triumph Wine Group brings to the consumer a portfolio of high quality, value driven wines. With a 16-year tenure, their winemaker brings a philosophy of delivering wines of consistency, value, and quality—much like Cal Shakes.
 
Triumph focuses on identifying premium vineyards that provide their wines with the source fruit necessary to create some of the best value wines on the market today through the Triumph Cellars brand. Following a proven business model, Triumph Wine Group represents a unique opportunity for individuals to participate in the ownership of a Napa Valley winery that avoids the traditional asset heavy model which requires large capital investment.
 
As a valued Cal Shakes Partner, Triumph also offers unique discount codes ranging from 10–30% off regular pricing to members of the Champion Program, has provided both auction and raffle prizes for this year’s Guiding Stars celebration, and has become a favorite among Cal Shakes Board members, donors, and staff. Triumph CFO Kevin Fitzgerald is a longtime fan of Cal Shakes, saying, “The plays always have fascinating characters, the spectacular venue and the organizations community outreach is amazing.”
For more information, visit http://triumphwinegroup.com/

 

Share
Posted in 2018 Season | Leave a comment

2018 Guiding Stars Recap

Guiding Stars was brilliant! The passion and generosity of nearly 250 guests garnered almost $400,000 in contributions, ticket sales, and winning bids on incredible trips and one-of-a-kind experiences.

We were so inspired by this year’s Guiding Star, Marcus Gardley, and the four Luminaries, James Carpenter, Tristan Cunningham, Tatiana Chaterji, and John Muir Health.

During the celebration, the guests enjoyed a surprise performance by Linda Tillery and members of her Cultural Heritage Choir, and we surprised Marcus with a visit from Oakland Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington, who read a proclamation declaring September 26, 2018 “Marcus Gardley Day” in Oakland. Marcus’ family was in attendance at the event to cheer him on, and his keynote speech that followed left the crowd inspired and uplifted.

Click here to see a video from the event, with Marcus’ speech beginning around the 13-minute mark.

 

 

Share
Posted in 2018 Season, Gala, Special Events | Leave a comment

Luminary Spotlight: Tristan Cunningham

Every year, we bestow a Guiding Star award and recognize four Bay Area Luminaries whose greatness inspires us. The Luminaries represent the best of our four pillars of work: MAKE, LEARN, ENGAGE, and SUPPORT.

Tristan Cunningham (Luminary: LEARN) has been a teaching artist at Cal Shakes since 2013 and has been seen onstage at the Bruns in Measure for Measure, A Winter’s Tale, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Life is a Dream, and The Tempest. Other Bay Area credits include: The Arsonists (Aurora Theater); Tree (San Francisco Playhouse); And I and Silence (Magic Theater); The Book Club Play (Jewel Theater). She holds a BFA from SUNY Purchase and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association. She is a TBA and BATCC Award winner for her work in The Taming at Marin Shakespeare Theater. You can currently see Tristan onstage in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew at TheatreWorks.

Audiences have been charmed with Tristan’s work onstage at Cal Shakes, most recently as Escalus in Measure for Measure. That sternly capable role belied her playful spirit, which delights fellow actors backstage and kids in classrooms alike.

Tech day with Measure for Measure cast; photo by Tristan.

Cal Shakes Director of Artistic Learning says, “Tristan has become one of our premiere teaching artists. Her work with students combines social justice focused learning alongside academic and performance based teaching. She is also an engaging ambassador for the work the company is doing.”

We asked Tristan for some of her favorite photos from teaching around the Bay Area for Cal Shakes and beyond. Here are some of her picks:

Peace Camp, hosted by the Contra Costa Family Justice Center.

Clowning class taught by Tristan.

Letter from one of Tristan’s students.

We are so proud to be honoring Tristan’s contributions to Artistic Learning here at Cal Shakes and throughout the Bay Area during our Guiding Stars celebration. We’ll be going live throughout Saturday’s ceremony and party, featuring keynote speaker and Guiding Star Marcus Gardley. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you get our updates!

Share
Posted in 2018 Season, Gala, Special Events | Leave a comment

Luminary Spotlight: James Carpenter

Every year, we bestow a Guiding Star award and recognize four Bay Area Luminaries whose greatness inspires us. The Luminaries represent the best of our four pillars of work: MAKE, LEARN, ENGAGE, and SUPPORT.

James Carpenter (Luminary: MAKE) has appeared in over 30 productions at Cal Shakes since 1988. He’s worked all over the Bay Area work  including at Berkeley Rep, A.C.T., Aurora Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Shotgun Players, and TheatreWorks.  Regionally, he’s been seen at Mark Taper Forum, Arizona Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre Company, Intiman Theatre, the Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Yale Repertory Theatre, among many others. James is the recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Excellence in the Arts and their 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, he was named a Ten Chimneys Foundation Lunt-Fontanne Fellow.

Cal Shakes is proud to be honoring James Carpenter on Saturday with a Luminary award at this year’s Guiding Stars. We asked Jim to send us some of his favorite pictures from his 30 years at Cal Shakes, and he did not disappoint! From Jim:

OK, you asked for it….these photos span the years from 1988 at the old Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (the organization Cal Shakes evolved from) in John Hinkle park in Berkeley until today. They’re onstage and backstage and I’ll attempt to date each as well as the production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Left] This was after a two show day of Henry IV pt. 1 at John Hinkle Park in 1987—my first show with Cal Shakes. Me as a pooped Prince Hal. [Right, photo by Kevin Berne.] How’s this for contrast? Titus Andronicus publicity photo as Titus, 2011.

Iago in Othello, 2016 with Aldo Billingslea (Othello) and Julie Eccles (Emilia). [Photo by Kevin Berne.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Left] The Fishmonger in Comedy of Errors, 1988.  And yes, I was every bit as shameless as the picture implies…. [Right] As Richard II, backstage, 1994.

And some favorite people. Just a small sampling of the many friends I’ve worked with at CST over the years. [Phillipa Kelly, Renee Billingslea, Aldo Billingslea, Danny Scheie, and Liam Vincent at last year’s Guiding Stars.]

Jim is not only a powerhouse onstage. In the rehearsal room and at the office we have had the pleasure of getting to know Jim’s humor and warmth—a taste of which you can see in his previous Cal Shakes blog posts (including this hilarious one from the run of 2008’s Uncle Vanya which details a wardrobe malfunction involving a “sleight-of-beard.”)

We’ll be going live throughout Saturday’s award ceremony and party, featuring keynote speaker and Guiding Star Marcus Gardley. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you get our updates!

Share
Posted in 2018 Season, Gala, Special Events | 1 Comment

#ThrowbackThursday: May Liang on Place and Displacement in As You Like It

Left: Assistant Dramaturg and Social Impact Consultant May Liang answering questions about As You Like It at the show’s Community Night. Right photo credit: Jay Yamada.

Contemporary approaches to a 400 year-old text can reveal new resonances — and deep tensions. May Liang, assistant dramaturg and social impact consultant for last season’s As You Like It, reflects on the questions that surfaced in the rehearsal room as actors explored relationships to place and character within the design of the play.

Interested in learning more about gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area? Check out Causa Justa::Just Cause, Cal Shakes’ community partner from our 2015 Artist-Investigator round.

“Are we gentrifiers?”

A question that one may hear being asked at a new SF Mission coffee shop or on the sidewalks around Lake Merritt. It can be spoken in a self-conscious way – an uncomfortable thought in question of where one should belong. Or, for those who question the concept, it can be heard as an incredulous exasperation.

This question also came up in the rehearsal room for Cal Shake’s 2017 As You Like It, directed by Desdemona Chiang. As the lushness of the Court transforms into the skeletal warehouse-like space of the play’s Arden, we see the exiled Duke Senior and his followers huddled in the cold and barren landscape.

But what comes out of Duke Senior is not how forlorn he is for having lost his place. He extols the virtues of their newfound space:

Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Sweet are the uses of adversity…
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in everything.

A translation of this into our modern context can be problematic: it reflects a way of thinking that can be equated to what newcomers may have said about the Mission District in San Francisco just a few years ago, when it was “discovered.” And many of us have heard and seen the results of the changes that followed.

But Duke Senior goes on:

Come, shall we go and kill us venison?
And yet it irks me the poor dappled fools,
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should in their own confines with arrowheads
Have their round haunches gored.

Let’s first acknowledge the historical problem of comparing communities of people (of color) to animals – Shakespeare’s language can be tricky when making leaps in comparing our modern society using his words. But Duke Senior seems to have an inkling that something is not right in their position within their “newly discovered” space. And he’s not the only one – as reported by one of Duke Senior’s followers:

The melancholy Jaques grieves at that,
And, in that kind, swears you do more usurp
Than doth your brother that hath banish’d you….
Swearing that we
Are mere usurpers, tyrants and what’s worse,
To fright the animals and to kill them up
In their assign’d and native dwelling-place.

And so the question came up – “are we gentrifiers?”

Shakespeare could not have predicted that his words could so pointedly describe a notion that is very present in the forefront of our community consciousness with our current housing crisis and widening wealth gap. But it’s impossible to miss it in Jaques’ lament.

As the play’s Arden continues to transform throughout the play, that question begins to unravel – it becomes complicated with other questions that arise:

Where can exiles belong? How does class influence exile? How does a space create confinement vs. freedom of expression and exploration? Who can own a space? Who can welcome others into it? Is this even possible?

In our Arden, the exiles discover their hidden selves, explore other options that were not permitted breath by the confined codes of the Court. They could proudly present themselves as however they like, from a joker turned lover to a lead character exploring and claiming their true gender identity.

The natives of Arden are also not victims – they are more than capable in their way of life and only through their welcoming spirit can the new exiles start to understand themselves and thrive together.

So, are they gentrifiers? I can’t say that this question was answered within the rehearsal process or even within our version of the play. But the context in which we put the exiles and natives of Arden shed some light on how we can critically think about our modern understanding in regards to place and space.

May Liang is an emerging director/theater artist establishing a career in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a Directing Mentee/Resident Artist at Crowded Fire Theater and has worked with TheatreFIRST, PlayGround Center for New Plays (Directing Fellow 2017), Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Ferocious Lotus Theater Company (Literary Manager), Bindlestiff Studios, Ubuntu Theater Project, Berkeley Repertory Theater’s Ground Floor Lab, and Impact Theater. She was a participant in the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab 2017 and you can see her work next at the Bay Area Children’s Theater.

Share
Posted in 2017 Season | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Miguel de Cervantes: A Remarkable Life

by Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg

Last week my 85-year-old mother had cause to go to the bank, where, with her walker frame, she stood in front of another elderly woman with an identical frame. “Let’s have a race,” said the woman behind her. “I should warn you, when I get going with this thing I can run like the clappers,” replied my mother. The other woman said, “I withdraw.”

Today the world—particularly in its wealthier parts—is blessed with many 85-year-olds. In the 16th and 17th centuries this was not the case: many people considered a good long life to be one lived till the mid-forties. But if you made it to the age of 8 (37 percent of children did not), you were not unlikely, if you had the means (and also the good fortune to avoid the plague), to reach the age of 50 or even 60. This was more than true of Miguel de Cervantes, who lived until almost 70, surviving three gunshot wounds and over 5 years’ imprisonment, much of it spent in irons.

We know almost nothing of the first 20 years of Cervantes’ life from 1547 onward, except that he came from a noble but impecunious family. We know much more about this period in Spain, which was one of great transition. The old “native” Spain, with its chivalrous codes of honor and its powerful nobility, had crumbled under the force of the Habsburg kings’ sole dominion, backed by the church and the Spanish inquisition. Spain sought to command as much of Europe as it could, extending its authority into the Americas, the East Indies, parts of France and Germany, Portugal, North Africa, and Italy’s nation states. The Spaniards’ voyages around the world led to many advantages: for example, on discovering that the orange plants they had plundered from China could, within three days, magically cure the horrible disease of scurvy that produced swollen, stinking gums and bleeding to the brain, wealthy Spanish landowners now graced their homes with their own orangeries, namely glass-enclosed, heated greenhouses that produced oranges all year round.

This period of enormous growth and stature led to an efflorescence not only in the gardens of Spain, but also in its artists. The period from 1492 to 1659 become known as the Spanish Golden Age, during which Miguel de Cervantes spent his entire life.

The clearest knowledge we have of Cervantes’ young days begins with his occupancy, at age 21, of the role of Cardinal’s chamberlain. At the age of 23 he resigned this post and entered the military. Seeds of Don Quixote’s stubbornness can be found in the exploits of the young soldier Cervantes: although desperately ill on the voyage from Messina, Cervantes insisted, against all advice from doctors and comrades, on sticking to his post, claiming that he would die in the service of God rather than remain in the ship’s hold secure and in good health. During this military campaign he survived three gunshot wounds, which left him severely incapacitated and hospitalized for seven months, and he never regained the use of his wounded left hand. He came out of hospital, however, only to enlist for another three years’ military service, beginning his return to Spain at the age of 28 in the company of his brother, with a written recommendation from his General to the king honoring his brave service.

On the way home, the Cervantes brothers’ regiment was overpowered by an Algerine force and taken to Algiers. A ransomed fellow-captive got the news of the brothers’ imprisonment to their family, who strove by every means—the father selling his goods and the Cervantes sisters forfeiting their dowries—to cobble together enough ransom money to free them. But when the Algerian governor found on Miguel’s person the general’s letters of recommendation to the king, he concluded that the young man was a person of great importance, and that the ransom money was inconsequential for someone so highly prized: he kept Miguel in captivity, allowing his brother to go free.

Thus began a period in Miguel’s life that affords some precedent for his eventual literary hero’s indomitable strength of conviction (if not for his absurdity). Miguel tried not only to escape, but to take his fellow captives to safety with him; and when they were discovered, he insisted, despite threats of impalement, that all blame for the breakout be placed on his shoulders alone. The Algerian governor executed some of his companions but held onto Cervantes, feeling that there was something special in his bravery and resourcefulness. Although restrained in irons, Cervantes remained unbroken in spirit and ventured another escape, for which he was sentenced to 2000 blows to the back, which would have killed him had not some unknown powerful people interceded to save him. He was kept under even further confinement (how was this even possible?!), but two years later attempted another escape, trying to save sixty of his fellow-prisoners with him. An informant, jealous of the love and admiration that Cervantes inspired in his fellows, revealed his plot to the governor, and Cervantes’ plan was again foiled. No threat of torture could compel him to name any of his accomplices, and he was sent back to prison heavily ironed as before.

Portrait of Cervantes credited to Juan de Jáuregui. Like Shakespeare, there is no official likeness of Cervantes.

All this time Cervantes’ family never ceased its efforts to raise sufficient ransom money to get him released. Finally the governor, planning his own retirement, accepted a sum, releasing the 33-year-old prisoner five years almost to the day after his first captivity. But Cervantes’ trials were not yet over. A jealous functionary, claiming to be an officer of the Inquisition, concocted false evidence against him, claiming that he was guilty of misconduct while in prison. Cervantes checkmated him by drawing up a list of 25 questions that covered the period of his captivity, and he asked that credible witnesses he deposed to answer them. All of them attested to his bravery and to his selfless concern for others while in prison, and he returned to Spain a free man.

But not for long. He was penniless, and felt compelled, for the sake of his own survival, to rejoin his old regiment. Pushing 40 and with a useless left hand, however, he could expect no promotion, and he finally left the army, married a woman of sufficient means to feed them both as well as his infant daughter (conceived with someone else before his marriage), and wrote 30 or 40 plays in an attempt to earn a living as a writer. The plays were not admired, and at the close of the century, at the age of 50, he accepted a position as tax collector. It was as he traveled from town to town collecting the king’s taxes that he noted down scenes that would eventually end up in his remarkable novel, Don Quixote. He was again imprisoned because a merchant to whom he entrusted the taxation revenue absconded with the money—and although this imprisonment was brief, it appears that Cervantes was not reinstated to his former position. But he did appear, in this last prison stint, to have begun transcribing Don Quixote from his notes. The novel was first published in 1605 when Cervantes was almost 60, and was immediately successful (although Cervantes himself still had to work at various jobs for the Council, trying to make up the money with which the merchant had absconded.)

Despite Don Quixote’s immediate success, Cervantes didn’t continue with his anti-hero’s comic adventures. He wrote several other works, mainly plays, continuing to believe that he could make a great career as a playwright. The fact that Don Quixote has a second volume is due to a disciple of the great writer Lope de Vega, who loathed Cervantes. This disciple, Avallenada, wrote his own “second volume” of Don Quixote, to which he attached a preface attacking Cervantes with such vile descriptions that our literary hero was provoked to write his own second part to Don Quixote, eventually killing off the famous knight errant to ensure that he had final control of his character.

Cervantes died at the age of 69, on April 23 1616, the same day as Shakespeare.

Share
Posted in 2017 Season, By Philippa Kelly (dramaturg), Quixote | 1 Comment