Cal Shakes Conservatory Performances 2014

It’s that time of year again, when Cal Shakes Conservatory students, kids and teens, put together all they’ve learned from their Teaching Artists to create a wonderful production. Come out and support our campers by coming to see their shows on July 25th and 26th, in Orinda and Oakland. All the information you need is on the flyers below.

Click here to learn more about Cal Shakes’ work in schools.


The Tempest Brings Out the Best in Student Audience … and Local Cows



Pictured: The cast of The Tempest takes a bow for the Student Discovery Matinee audience; photo by Jay Yamada.

Director of Artistic Learning Trish Tillman gives us an inside look at the first Student Matinee of The Tempest.

We had our first Tempest matinee today, with a brand new group of Artistic Learning interns, and a really excited, well-prepared audience of students.  They came from many schools, including Willard Middle and The Academy in Berkeley, Oakland Charter and Joaquin Moraga from Oakland, and several private school groups.  We saw familiar residency teachers, some conservatory students, students who reeled off ALL the student matinees they had been to since 2009, plus students brand new to our theater.

The whole audience was admirably attentive, even when tempted to shriek as the clown Trinculo dove headfirst under the monstrous Caliban’s smelly cloak, and when the young lovers swooned over each other. I talked to several students I knew at intermission and several that I didn’t, and all were enjoying it very much.  There was a full forest of hands up when Clive Worsley, our inimitable Moderator, asked after the show what their favorite moments were.  The marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda, the creation of the tempest itself (with only sound effects, actors in raingear, a rope and a stick) and the Trinculo-under-the-cloak moment won out for favorites.

The Question and Answer time after the show was attended by actors Nicholas Pelczar (Trinculo, Ferdinand), Catherine Castellanos (Antonio, Caliban), Erika Chong Shuch (Ariel), as well as sprites Travis Santell Rowland and Aaron Moreland.  They were ALL spectacularly articulate and respectfully serious in answering every question, ranging from “Is it hard to memorize Shakespearian language?” to “Was it weird being under the cloak?” to “How did you all decide to be actors/dancers?”  There was also a seriously playful moment when a student asked if Aaron was really singing the song when the marriage dance occurs, and he said no, but that he could sing and that it was a famous song by Nat King Cole.  He asked the kids if they knew Nat King Cole and (interestingly) a lot of hands went up (besides chaperones and teachers!).  Then they asked him to sing the song, and he sang the first two lines, very nicely, to thunderous applause.  They then asked him to sing a pop song (anyone know “One Direction?”) which he didn’t know, so an entire girls’ chorus from Willard sang a verse to him.  (Also to thunderous applause.)

Catherine ended the Q&A session by saying that being an actor really helped her as a person who is full of feeling to be able to deal with life by learning to express powerful emotions on stage.  There was a little hush in the theater after she said that it was a blessing to her to be an actor.  (And then more thunderous applause!)

The only rather sad note was that a very large group of students from one public high school were not able to attend due to their inability to get their school administration’s authorization in time, even though the teacher had reserved seats with us weeks in advance.  So the audience was somewhat smaller than what we’d like, to be able to serve as many students as possible.  If you are anyone who is close to an underserved school or want to build a relationship with such a school, I’d love to talk to you about becoming a special liaison.  Relationships are crucial to what we do and what keeps us going.  Sometimes just an extra bit of attention can keep schools feeling connected and excited to be with us, and that is a commodity that is really lacking in those communities.  And then they can keep their commitments and the students benefit so, so much.

A final note: the beautiful rolling hills behind the theater stage are home to a few groups of wandering cows, and for some reason during the Q & A today they were especially vocal.  Loud MOOs punctuated almost every sentence said by an actor; so much so that it seemed like the cows wished to answer the questions themselves.  There was a special round of applause for the newly named Cal Shakes Cow Chorus, after which a collective MOOOOO rose from the students and reverberated back into the hills. A Tempest remember.


The Tempest  opens at the stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA, Saturday, June  2, and continues until Sunday, June 24.



Auctioneering: More than Just a Breathless, Speedy-speaking Production

Quiroga in auctioneering action.

Marketing Intern Katie McGee gets to know our One Great Party auctioneer extraordinaire.

“I’d be lying if I said I really don’t enjoy being an auctioneer. I really do enjoy getting a crowd whipped up into a frenzy to support a place like Cal Shakes or whatever charity I work with. I love being an auctioneer that helps make good things happen in the world.” —Greg Quiroga, auctioneer for Cal Shakes’ gala.

Auctioneering is more than just a breathless, speedy-speaking production.  The role of an auctioneer, especially one in fundraising, is much like the role of an actor.  Each performance has strategy, a clear message, and is meant to evoke audience emotion.  Greg Quiroga has been in the business for a solid decade.  It is clear that he excels at his profession, because he takes a sincere interest in each client’s story and purpose.  Quiroga spends hours getting to know his clients and planning and strategizing his performance.

Quiroga is constantly working on perfecting his stage presence and performance technique.  For instance, he took improv classes for years to strengthen and fine-tune his ability to “keep everything positive react and live in the moment.”  His hard work and dedication has paid off immensely.

Quiroga is currently working for Reynolds & Buckley and works on average 50 or more fundraising events each year.  Over the years he has auctioned a wide array of items, ranging from extravagant world touring cruises to a day in the recording studio with  Once he even sold cuts in an event’s food line for $2,500 a pop.

Quiroga looks forward to Cal Shakes’ gala for many reasons. “Cal Shakes’ event bridges all of the gaps between visceral, social, and emotional experiences… it always manages to be one of the most visually demanding events you can see. I mean, it’s just beautiful. It’s a good crowd of supporters. The event is always very on-message and extremely emotionally rewarding.”  Quiroga has been working Cal Shakes’ gala’s live auction for the last five years and he is always awed with how the “crowd consistently comes together to support Cal Shakes’ education outreach programs.” Thanks to the efforts of Quiroga, the Cal Shakes staff and ever-supportive patrons of Cal Shakes continue to be pivotal players in the effort to bring the arts to the stage, to classrooms, and to communities.

The 2012 gala is just about sold out, but the auction catalog will be online shortly. Click for updates.


California Shakespeare Theater Teen Night

The following was written by Bristol Glass, Artistic Learning intern.

As an intern, about to see the bloody glory that is Titus Andronicus, I hadn’t quite anticipated my own excitement combining with that of the group that attended Teen Night. It was a blood bath of enthusiasm—ha! What exactly is Teen Night, you ask? Well, aside from it being the most fun you’ll ever have, it’s a pre-show event for students ages 13-18, this time including delicious pizza and soda (which flew out of the coolers—thanks to the Professional Immersion Program crew) in the Upper Grove. A mesh of California Shakespeare Theater staff, parents, students, and my fellow interns created a rowdy groundling-esque bunch. Clearly, there was a love for Shakespeare all around! Our fun, interactive pre-show activity for the night was a “32 Second Titus Andronicus” competition between, of course, the Romans and the Goths. Brevity was key in successfully completing the ultra-abridged version of our Teen Night Titus. It’s very telling that the Romans won, but thankfully all character participants remained alive and well to continue eating their pizza after the activity. Highlights of each teams’ run included a lot of blind gender casting—specifically the roles of Lavina and Tamora, which provided our cast with some interesting dynamics. Getting to see involved teens in their element was my favorite part.

I’ll even say that watching that night’s Titus performance with this group in the audience was a theatrical experience all on its own, as the teens were deeply engrossed in the show; in awe of the skillful fight scenes or even surprised at the comedic moments-jaws dropped to the ground and snickers were shared between amused friends. It was an entertaining time with an uproarious, artistic, eager group of under-30 folks. It was an opportunity like no other to have experienced Titus Andronicus with such a unique, eager crowd in the seats.

For more details about the event, click on


An Artistic Learning Valentine: R&J in Suburbia

Last week we heard from Eli Wirtschafter, a former Cal Shakes Conservatory student—that’s him on the right, playing Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2009, the summer after his senior year of high school. Eli is now studying at UC Berkeley, and he wrote us to tell us about the production of Romeo and Juliet that he’s directing.

We’ll let Eli take it from here.
It’s a Cal Shakes’ Artistic Learning success story!

Everything I know about Shakespeare I learned from my six summers at Cal Shakes, and the program inspired me to direct my own show. It’s with BareStage, a student-run theater group at UC Berkeley and it opens March 4. Susannah Martin, who I was lucky to have as my director four times, would always set Shakespeare’s plays in a specific period; as we engaged with the text we were also engaging with recent history and how we saw ourselves. It was a continuation of Cal Shakes’ mission of “reimagining the classics.” I’m directing my own production Cal Shakes-style, transposing Verona to an American suburb in 1953. I could go on endlessly, but it’s about disempowered youth, strict ideas about family, and distrust of people who aren’t so different after all.

Here’s some information about the show (and here’s the link to its Facebook event)
Location: Caesar Chavez Student Center
Friday March 4 at 8pm
Saturday March 5 at 8pm
Sunday March 6 at 7pm
Friday March 11 at 8pm
Saturday March 12 at 8pm
Sunday March 13 at 2pm
Students $8, General $10

Tickets available at the door and at
I am constantly grateful to Cal Shakes, and I wanted to tell you what I was up to!