Announcing a new Marcus Gardley commission!

We’ve received a prestigious Hewlett 50 Arts Commission! 

A program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission awards 10 Bay Area-based non-profit organizations. Each will receive $150,000 to create important and unique work that facilitates discussions around the most pressing local issues.

For this commission, Playwright Marcus Gardley will seeks inspiration from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to write A Thousand Ships, based on the women of the Richmond Shipyards.

Playwright Marcus Gardley

“We are thrilled to have been selected for this significant and meaningful commission,” commented Cal Shakes Artistic Director Eric Ting. “Since the launch of Cal Shakes’ New Classics Initiative (NCI) with Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey in 2017, we’ve sought to elevate classic works through the voices of writers living and engaging with our contemporary moment. The Hewlett 50 affords us one of our first full commissions for a New Classic, allowing us the sort of timeline to build meaningful and deeply rooted engagement between our artists and the larger Bay Area.”

“I am deeply honored to receive this commission,” added playwright Marcus Gardley. “To have the opportunity to create another play with Cal Shakes and to tell another Bay Area Story is truly an incredible gift. I do not take it lightly. I am extremely grateful to have Hewlett’s support, and I look forward to sharing our next story with the community and the world beyond. Time to start writing!”

With A Thousand Ships, Gardley returns to a subject he first explored more than a decade ago in This World in a Woman’s Hands, the lives of the women like his two great-grandmothers who came to the Bay Area during World War II to work in the Richmond Shipyards. Eager to revisit these “Rosie the Riveters” and their stories, he plans to integrate their friendships, tragedies, loves and enduring spirit into a larger narrative of the region’s history, fused with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. A Thousand Ships will explore themes of migration, community, and the notion of making home and family among strangers in a new land. Along with choreography, media design and special effects, the music of the period such as Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrew Sisters, and blues and folk songs will be integral to evoking the world of the shipyards. The play will also spotlight the Bay Area’s role in gospel music. The project reunites key artistic collaborators from both black odyssey and This World in a Woman’s Hands, Linda Tillery and Molly Holm, to create a vocal score that weaves this musical heritage into the story’s telling. A Thousand Ships is slated to premiere at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Amphitheater as part of the 2021 season.

Marcus Gardley, Molly Holm &  Linda Tillery during black odyssey 2017 music workshops.

As with previous NCI projects, Cal Shakes will provide opportunities for Bay Area residents, and in particular, Richmond residents, to engage with A Thousand Ships. Cal Shakes will host intergenerational Story Circles to bring community voices into the developmental orbit of the work at key points in its journey towards its world premiere. Story Circles will include women who worked in the shipyards, as well as their descendants, to help them connect to each other and connect their stories to the larger historical and social context. Additional programming includes residencies in schools and community settings, on-site audience enrichment programs, and Community Night previews. Cal Shakes also offer discounted tickets to community partners and subsidized ticket options for the general public as well as seniors, students, and teachers.

Exploring what it means to be a classical theater in the 21st century, Cal Shakes’ New Classics Initiative engages living writers in dialogue with our classical canon to see old stories through new eyes, challenging, expanding, and revitalizing our very notions of universal. Previous New Classics include black odyssey and Octavio Solis’ Quixote Nuevo (2018); upcoming projects include the world premiere of Madhuri Shekar’s House of Joy in 2019.

Launched in 2017 to celebrate the foundation’s 50th anniversary, the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions is a five-year, $8 million initiative supporting the creation and premiere of 50 new works by world-class performing artists working in five disciplines.  The largest commissioning initiative of its kind in the country, the program is a symbol of the Hewlett Foundation’s longstanding commitment to sustaining artistic expression and encouraging public engagement in the arts across diverse communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

More information about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission can be found at:


Announcing the 2019 Season!

A note from Artistic Director Eric Ting:

“Our Epic 2018 Season was one of our most exciting yet! I’ve never felt so inspired, so revitalized, as I was this past year watching our staff and guest artists rise to meet the ambitions of our shows. It’s the sort of effort that one grows into and steps out the other side wiser, stronger, fuller.

We are still finalizing many of the details, but those that are falling into place have been delightful and compelling. It promises to be a season of courage, of enchantment, of desire, of valor. We look forward to you joining us for our 2019 season under the stars—it wouldn’t be the same without you!”

The 2019 Season:

First up, Shakespeare’s delightfully charming comedy of desire, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Four lovers escape into the woods and find themselves entangled in the royal politics of a magical world. When it comes to love, what’s fantasy and what’s reality? Tricks abound and wires cross as we all seek escape from (or surrender to) the clutches of love.

Next, Cal Shakes presents for the very first time a play by Bertolt Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan. In a city of “haves” and “have-nots,” can a good person stay good even as their fortunes rise? The Good Person of Szechwan is a fable for our times exploring the lengths to which one must go to keep clean in a dirty world.

The season continues with the World Premiere of House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar. House of Joy is being produced as part of Cal Shakes’ New Classics Initiative, which engages living writers in dialogue with our classical canon to see old stories through new eyes, challenging, expanding, and revitalizing our very notions of universal. Set in a place and time something like 17th century Delhi, House of Joy is a tale of adventure and intrigue drawn from Indian legends and history. An elite bodyguard must choose between protecting the empire and protecting her vulnerable charge, but who will she betray?

Finally, Cal Shakes presents Macbeth, Shakespeare’s cautionary tale of unbridled ambition. Determined to fulfill a prophecy of greatness, Macbeth’s hunger for power consumes all he holds dear. How far would you go to take what you’ve been told you deserve? And who will rise up to stop you?

Season packages for the four-play season are available now; single and group tickets go on sale to the public spring 2019. Prices start at $132 for a four-play subscription, with discounts available for seniors, youth, and full-time K-12 educators.


Announcing our 2018 Season!

Dear friends,

It’s always such a pleasure standing in front of you, looking out at the sea of faces that make up our Cal Shakes family, inviting you into our theater, into our stories. Stories, in their way, teach us how to be human. They teach us our morality, our sense of right and wrong, how to love, how to hate, how to live. And as we come to our final show in a season that saw box office records broken, I’m excited to reaffirm our commitment to telling vital stories for these interesting times.

Since I arrived at Cal Shakes, we’ve taken a good hard look at what it means to be a classical theater for the 21st Century. We’ve considered the fiscal challenges of producing professional theater in the Bay Area. We’ve listened to many of your concerns over increasingly hectic summers and the erratic weather of spring and autumn. We’ve heard from many of our most ardent supporters that Cal Shakes should always be BOLD theater—big enough to fill the vast outdoors. We wanted new ways to celebrate the unique experience of the Bruns, be they return engagements of popular productions or extraordinary events that we couldn’t pass up (more on all that later). I’m excited to share that for 2018 we’ll be creating a concentrated subscription season filled with the epic and eventful work so many of you crave, of scale and scope and audacious, uncompromising vision—a true summer at the Bruns, anchored by three plays from June to September, each a vital story that speaks as much to who we are as to who we’ve been.

• First up, a literary classic re-imagined: Quixote, a sparkling new adaptation by Octavio Solis based on Cervantes’ Spanish Golden Age masterpiece but conceived anew, setting La Mancha along the modern-day Texas-Mexico border and filled with flights of fancy and Tejano tunes.

• Next up, a contemporary riff on the medieval morality play: Everybody, by acclaimed playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon), plumbing the depths of the human condition with surprising humor, heart, grace, and dancing skeletons.

• Our season closes with a Shakespearean event of epic proportions: our take on The War of the Roses, a monumental evening of theater spanning four of Shakespeare’s histories—Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3, and Richard III—a fast-paced, far-ranging, vividly theatrical depiction of two powerful families—the Lancasters and the York—and their decades-long fight for the English throne.

Whether you’ve been with us for decades or are joining us for the very first time, thank you for being with us this summer—for the shared laughter and tears and song and celebration, creating community with our artists under the sky. Join us for our 2018 season. We’ve set a big table, and it wouldn’t be the same without you.

See you next season,

Eric Ting


2018 Season: Frequently Asked Questions

It’s true, we’ve announced our 2018 Subscription Season, with two new classics and an epic Shakepeare event. We’ve enjoyed talking to people as they learn about next year’s plans, and have noticed there are a few questions we’re getting a lot, so here they are in one quick FAQ:

Why is the subscription season only three plays next year?
Several reasons!

  • • FLEXIBILITY: We wanted to carve out time in the season to be able to take advantage of unique opportunities—such as bringing back popular shows from past seasonor producing short-run events at the Bruns. (Stay tuned for more information about that as it unfolds!)
  • COSTS: The costs of producing theater in the Bay Area continue to rise. We are opting to produce three plays more fully rather than having to cut corners to produce four.
  • WEATHER: We are hopeful that producing a season during the true summer months will provide a more pleasant (i.e. less cold) experience for our patrons.

Will you always produce only one Shakespeare play?
No; each season is unique. This season we are especially excited by our Shakespeare event, The War of the Roses. Act 1 spans Henry VI parts 1, 2, and 3 (the first time the trilogy will be presented in the history of Cal Shakes) and will give new facets and depth to the characters in Act 2, which covers Richard III. The War of the Roses is epic Shakespeare!

Do 3-play subscriptions cost the same as last year’s 4-play subscription?
Absolutely not! You will notice subscriptions cost significantly less this year because subscribers are only paying for three plays, not four.



2017 Season Announcement letter from Eric

Greetings, friends,

As we look forward to 2017, I want to share with you my thoughts on our next season’s plays, one I’m confident you’ll find as dynamic and exhilarating a theatrical ride as this summer has been.

We’ll begin our season with As You Like It,that most classic of Shakespearean journeys; from city to forest, director Desdemona Chiang (who most recently directed A Winter’s Tale in Ashland) invites us into her Arden—a place both familiar and wildly unexpected, where everyone is so much more than they seem. We continue our celebration of modern American classics with Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie—a play you think you know, but in the dynamic hands of Chicago-based director Lisa Portes, a comedy of family that’s sure to feel gloriously new. I’m honored to be directing the West Coast premiere of black odyssey, Oakland-native Marcus Gardley’s adaptation of one of Western civilization’s earliest epics, a vividly theatrical tale of homecoming set right here in the East Bay. And finally, Measure for Measure completes our summer with that indelibly funny and simultaneously chilling examination of the body politic and the body personal.

These four plays will form the core of a season rich with opportunities to dive deeply into the issues of our moment, continuing our efforts to build bridges between our art and our communities, between our past and our present, as we forge a classical theater for our 21st century. By subscribing, you’ll be showing your support for this vision, and joining a community of theater-makers committed to celebrating the transformational power of this art, here under the sky and stars, in our classrooms, and in our communities. Won’t you join us next summer? And always feel free to drop me a note——I’d love to hear from you.

Eric Ting, Artistic Director


Read All About It: California Shakespeare Theater in the News

Above artistic director Eric Ting, Tanachie Rodriguez staples part of a set in the theater. The Cal Shakes season opens this weekend with performances of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photo: Brian Feulner, Special To The Chronicle

Artistic Director Eric Ting and California Shakespeare Theater were on the front page (A1) of the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, May 29. Eric discussed Shakespeare’s role as a political writer, our initiatives to bring the voices of the community onto our stage, and some ideas for future work at the Bruns and beyond.

“People come to the Bruns for the picnic and the wine,” he said, “but they also come to be exposed to the human condition. Cal Shakes recognizes that there’s a lot of different voices and perspectives that make up the human experience.”

Read the whole piece here.


Artistic Director Eric Ting announces Othello as the fourth show of our 2016 Season!

TK as Iago and Billy Eugene Jones as Othello in Cal Shakes' 2005 production of Othello.

Bruce McKenzie as Iago and Billy Eugene Jones as Othello in Cal Shakes’ 2005 production of Othello. Photo by Kevin Berne.

By Eric Ting

Change is in the air.

I certainly felt it, walking into the Cal Shakes’ offices for the first time as Artistic Director. I’ve felt it with each new patron I’ve met; all of you filled with a passionate sense of why you join us at the Bruns every summer. I feel it when I imagine picnicking in the groves with my wife and new daughter amongst friends like you. Change is in the air and I am exhilarated by all the possibilities that lie ahead of us.

And yet: Some things remain the same. This is what we count on in the theater—that stories centuries old should ring as true today as they did when the words were first uttered. We trust in that truth. It lives in Much Ado’s breathless battle of wits between Beatrice and Benedick; in the aching sense of what might have been that haunts Fences’ Troy Maxson; in the joyous comedy of You Never Can Tell that leaps from the accidental Clandon family reunion; and in the timely, immediate, essential tale of Shakespeare’s most famous Moor.

I am thrilled to announce Othello as our final Main Stage production of the Cal Shakes 2016 season and my directorial debut at the Bruns. My vision for Cal Shakes reveres the old plays; but makes room for—not so much the new, but rather—the now. As with many of you I’m sure, I’ve been disturbed by the extreme rhetoric flooding our airwaves, our social media, and our communities, as the ever-present fear of the other—the outsider—grows more manifest by the day. In choosing to represent our Othello as not just Black but Muslim, we hope to confront the rising atmosphere of Islamophobia in our communities, both through the production and aligned with a series of civic dialogues across the Bay Area.

Stripped down to the barest elements of the live theater – actors, audience, magnificent language – we hope the play will reverberate anew with urgency in today’s political climate. We have big plans in mind for the 25th anniversary of Cal Shakes at the Bruns. I look forward to meeting you!


Our 2015 Bucket Brigade Raises More than $85,000!

The cast of Twelfth Night at curtain call. Photo by Jay Yamada.

The cast of Twelfth Night at curtain call. Photo by Jay Yamada.

If you’ve been to a Cal Shakes production, you know that audience members reach into their pockets at the end of each show and donate what they can to the Bucket Brigade. This year, our Bucket Brigade had record-setting results, with audiences contributing $86,358 to support Cal Shakes artistic and education programs! Board members and other donors contributed an additional $57,731 in matching gifts, along with $15,000 from McRoskey Mattress Company during the run of The Mystery of Irma Vep.

Thank you to all of you who contributed to the Bucket Brigade. Your support—whether $1, $20, or $200—makes a difference in the lives of so many who are touched by Cal Shakes’ work. We also want to give special recognition to the matching donors (below) who stepped forward with larger gifts to match the generosity of our audiences.

Didn’t get the chance to donate to the Bucket Brigade? You can still make a difference by making a donation here. Thank you!

2015 Bucket Brigade Matching Donors

Megan Barton & Brian Huse

Barbara & Rick Bennett

Jamie Buschbaum

Michael & Phyllis Cedars

Josh & Janet Cohen

Chapin Cole

Ellen & Joffa Dale

Joe Di Prisco & Patti James

Patrick Golden & Susan Overhauser

Maureen & Calvin Knight

Blake & Shelly Larkin

Drs. Hilary Lerner & Yuriria Lobato

Janet Magleby

Craig & Kathy Moody

Susan Morris & Kathy Morris

Nancy Olson

Shelly Osborne & Steve Tirrell

Noralee & Tom Rockwell

Jim & Nita Roethe

Michael & Virginia Ross

Claire, Dean, & Will Ruskin

Michele & John Ruskin

Maureen Shea & Allen Ergo

Jean Simpson

Sharon Simpson

Lawrence & Patty Siskind

Frank & Carey Starn

Alexandra & Peter Starr

Kate Stechschulte & David Cost

Betsy Streeter & Robert McFarlane

Mark Toney

Mark & Rosie Traylor

Buddy & Jodi Warner

Jay Yamada

 Plus our friends at:


City National Bank

McRoskey Mattress Company


Announcing our 2016 Season!

James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in the 1985 world premiere of Fences at Yale Rep.

2016 at Cal Shakes will be filled with sharp wit, “will they or won’t they” couples, tragic heroes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, New York Times-heralded directors, and plenty of excitement, with our new Artistic Director, Eric Ting, starting this fall. Ting will choose the fourth show—a Shakespeare play as is our tradition—which will be announced later this year. Below are the first three titles of our 2016 Season, selected by our former artistic director Jonathan Moscone. To ensure premium seating, big savings, and flexible dates, subscribe or renew your subscription here. Single tickets will be available this spring. Until then, check out our production of King Lear, which runs through October 11th.

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare/ Directed by Jackson Gay / May 25–June 19

She’s a witty, independent woman and he’s a pompous, misogynistic man, making Beatrice and Benedick a match made in entertainment heaven. This dynamic duo at the center of Shakespeare’s sharpest comedy about the thin line between love and hate, has become the archetype for “will they or won’t they” couples. Jackson Gay, who has been named one of the “power players of off-Broadway,” by the New York Times, directs.


By August Wilson/ Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges/ July 6–July 31

This powerful drama about a middle-class family’s disillusion with the American dream marks two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s Cal Shakes’ debut. Set in the 1950s, Troy Maxson is a charismatic former baseball player-turned-sanitation worker. With his solid paycheck and lessons in tough love, he is the de facto captain of his own house, but when an affair is exposed and his son lashes out, this tragic hero fights to keep his family together and his strong beliefs intact.

You Never Can Tell

By George Bernard Shaw /Directed by Lisa Peterson/August 10–September 4

Let the battle of the sexes begin, in George Bernard Shaw’s sharply witty take on marriage and the modern woman. Mrs. Clandon, a famed feminist author and lecturer, fled, with her three children, to the island of Madeira to escape her unhappy marriage. When they return to England 18 years later, she is accidentally reunited with her husband at a seaside resort, while her daughter, raised in her mother’s mirror image, fights against falling in love with a devoted dentist. What will happen? As a wise waiter continuously, and hilariously, observes, “You never can tell.”

Fourth Show, TBD

By William Shakespeare/September 14–October 9

The final play of the Main Stage season—written by Shakespeare as is our Cal Shakes’ tradition—will be announced by Artistic Director Designate Eric Ting at a later date.

Renew your subscription online now or call the Box Office at 510.548.9666, and you’ll receive a complimentary box of gourmet cookies from Holly Baking Company, which will be available for you to pickup at the Welcome Center when you visit the Bruns for your scheduled performance of King Lear. The Welcome Center will also have forms ready to fill out if you’d rather renew or subscribe in person.


Cal Shakes at the Theatre Bay Area 2014 Awards

It was a wonderful 40th Anniversary surprise to wake up on Tuesday and find that shows from Cal Shakes’ 2014 Season had received accolades at the Theatre Bay Area Awards, held Monday night in San Francisco. While 3 of our 4 main stage shows had cast or staff nominated for awards, we emerged with five awards to five different actors and creative staff:

James Carpenter as Alfred Doolittle. Photo by Jay Yamada.

James Carpenter won “Best Featured Male Actor in a Play” for his role as Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion. (Read an interview with James Carpenter about his role in Pygmalion, including how he rehearsed.)

Danny Scheie won “Best Principal Male Actor in a Play” for his role as the Dromios in The Comedy of Errors.

Andre Pluess won “Best Sound Design” for The Comedy of Errors.

Beaver Bauer won “Best Costume Design” for The Comedy of Errors. (Read our interview with Bauer about her inspiration for the Comedy costume design).

Danny Scheie and Adrian Danzig in The Comedy of Errors. Cal Shakes' Comedy of Errors won awards for direction (Aaron Posner), costumes (Beaver Bauer), sound design (Andre Pluess) and lead actor (Danny Scheie).

Aaron Posner, who won “Outstanding Direction of a Play” for directing The Comedy of Errors.

And as a bonus, our PR and Marketing Manager Marilyn Langbehn won an award for “Outstanding Direction of a Play” for directing August: Osage County at Contra Costa Civic Theater.


Congratulations to all the wonderful theater-makers in the Bay Area for coming together and making such wonderful work. (69 awards were given last night). And thanks to all our staff for such a great 40th Anniversary Season! We can’t wait to see what fun 2015 will bring.