Meet Our New House Manager Betsy Ruck

Cal Shakes Marketing & Communications Director Janet Magleby introduces you to the woman who will ensure the excellence of your visit up at the Bruns Amphitheater this season.


Photo of Betsy Ruck by Jamie Buschbaum.

When Betsy Ruck and her husband, Terry, moved back to the Bay Area at the end of last summer, she was looking for something to keep her busy until she found a permanent position in Bay Area theater. Cal Shakes Box Office Manager Robin Dolan introduced us to Betsy, and it wasn’t too long after that she joined Cal Shakes as one of the hard-working house associates up at the Bruns. Betsy worked through our season-ending production of Hamlet; during the off-season, we enticed her to return as our House Manager. Betsy has worked for several Tony Award-winning regional theaters, including Actors Theatre of Louisville and South Coast Repertory. Locally, she’s worked in ticketing for the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera, ticketing and house management for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and development for the California Symphony.  A little more about Betsy:

Tell us about where you grew up, and what kept you busy as a child? I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and spent a lot of time doing craft projects and teaching myself to sew.

How many siblings do you have? One younger brother, Tom.

Childhood pets and names? A couple of cats and a beagle with the obligatory name of Snoopy. But she did get on top of her doghouse.

Where did you attend college, and what was your major? University of Louisville with a major in Theatre Arts and Speech.  Go Cards!

Movie you could watch over and over again? My Favorite Year

Book on your nightstand right now?  How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto by Eric Asimov

Who is your hero and why? I’ve always admired women like Hallie Flanagan and Margo Jones, who paved the way for regional theater.

How did you meet your husband? We both worked at a movie theater.

What you love about outdoor theater?  How wonderful it is too look up and see the stars during the show.

Best advice you’ve received, and who did you receive it from? It wasn’t so much advice but learning by example: I’ve always admired the way both of my grandmothers lived their lives, not necessarily doing what society expected of them.  One of them owned and operated a candy store in the 1930s.

Favorite thing to enjoy at the Bruns Café? Hot Chocolate

Other House Associates at the Bruns Amphitheater this summer will be: Jordan Battle, Erika Budrovich, Samantha Cook, Carolyn Day, Jamie Harkin, Patricia Kelley, Skyler Larkin, Carol Marshall, Cashua Spellman, Scott Tignor, Junior Viernes, and Deborah Woods.


What Does It Take to Awaken Your Faith? A Note from the Director of A WINTER’S TALE

Director Patricia McGregor’s early thoughts on her fall 2013 production of A Winter’s Tale.

Patricia McGregor_by Matt Holliday

Patricia McGregor by Matt Holliday.

What does it take to awaken your faith?

At some point in our lives, each one of us is sure to have suffered from the diseased itch of jealousy or paranoia; perhaps we’ve endured the consequences of succumbing to the scratch, as well. A Winter’s Tale plunges us deep into our personal dark corners, where insecurity and fear battle against logic and love. As Leontes unleashes his irrational wrath, the strength of Hermione’s grace is put to the ultimate test.

My production—told as a fable by Paulina and her traveling group of gypsies—will enliven the muscular and miraculous natures of forgiveness and faith: Bohemia and Sicilia will be drawn to emphasize the correlating restraint and playfulness of the literal and psychological landscapes of the “twinned lambs” (Leontes and Polixinies). Using the simple magic of traveling storytellers and the natural beauty of the Orinda hills, we will evoke the elements that draw us toward and away from our best natures.

While this is a tale that, on the surface, has clear markers between good and bad actions, I’m interested in digging deeper in order to explore how each character holds both iconic attributes and also their opposite. Is Leontes driven to exert his power due to his fragility? Is jovial Polixines a tyrant when crossed? Part tale of warning against the decayed mind or heart, part celebration of the triumph of hope and love, A Winter’s Tale is all magical realism and rugged theatricality.

This timeless fairytale has a truth and power that resonates with all ages.

Read all about our 2013 season here.


Brutal beauty and genuine, pure theater. (Or, hey, look, it’s a picture of the set!!)


The latest and in a series of dispatches from inside the rehearsal process for Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, written by the show’s director (and Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director) Jonathan Moscone.

Friday, August 8, 2009


Well, what do you know.


We put the show together at the Bruns today. I have to say that Todd Rosenthal is kind of a genius of a set designer. The mound is epic and intimate, authentic (thanks to our great scenery team led by Dave Nowakowski), and, when lit by York Kennedy, it is a thing of beauty. Brutal beauty.

And Patty takes to it like moths to a flame. She fills the mound with energy and life that makes it compelling, utterly compelling to watch. Then Dan appeared with a bloody head (she throws a medicine bottle carelessly in his direction), and it looks like a painting. A surreal painting. It’s quite amazing. This play is genuine, pure theater. Beckett is a genius.

Here’s a pic. Come see.



First day of tech

Another in a series of dispatches from inside the rehearsal process for Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, written by the show’s director (and Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director) Jonathan Moscone.

Friday August 7, 2009

Today we start technical rehearsals, going up to the Theater to fit Winnie and Willie into their mound and figure out the play in space. Always a nervous-making, excitement-inducing transition. Saying goodbye to the rehearsal hall is always a mixed bag for me. It means I am now bringing the show to its next level, scaling it to the size of the Bruns, worrying if the subtle moves of emotion will read.

But all in all it’s great to be there, to be making theater in the outdoors. It’s invigorating. I love our space. It’s epic AND intimate. Actors can really connect to an audience while the scope of the external imagery—those burnt hills of the Siesta Valley—recalls early Greek theater-going. The muscles I have developed directing at the Bruns. Physically and imaginatively.

Our Resident Dramaturg has not been with us this week, the inimitable Phillipa Kelly. Many of you know her from when she delivers our Grove Talks. Seemingly a proper Australian academic, she is a fierce thinker of theater, a great supporter and colleague, and loves connecting our work to audiences. I think we do a pretty good job of that, through our Audience Enrichment activities, on our website, which I think is pretty innovative, and in our entire energy—even our house management staff, who make you feel at home when you come to our Theater. It’s genuine community up there. To me the Theater is artists, audiences, and staff—all of them together. We’re all in this together. Making theater requires all of us, experience it, all of us. That’s why I do it. I’m kind of a “it takes a village” kind of guy—I rely on the collaboration, the relationships, to make the work happen, and to make it matter.

I think the politics of my father instilled that in me.

If I am not too pooped after tech, which goes to 12:30 followed by a production meeting, I’ll post tonight/early next morning.

See ya.



Finding how to play the darkness lightly.

Another in the ongoing series of dispatches from inside the rehearsal process for Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, written by the show’s director (and Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director) Jonathan Moscone.

Saturday July 25, 2009

So I was on my way to our rehearsal hall to work on the play with Marsha and Dan, and my left front tire blows on Highway 24. Luckily, no one was hurt. I was towed to Big O Tires in Lafayette and was picked up by one of our assistant directors, the great Nara, and I made it back only 10 minutes late.

The piece made some great strides today. Marsha is finding so much. And the first five minutes, which we all like to call “cement” (due to all these fragmented little thoughts, so many of them nearly repetitive, matched with all this business for Winnie) is coming loose and finding its way. Phew. We delved back into the rest of Act One and so much was found, again, and again, and again. Beckett is endless in his meanings and so tricky in his tonal shifts, and it’s all on Dan and Marsha to make it happen. And it’s fascinating, funny, moving stuff. We ended a little early—Marsha was ready to call it a day after so much had been achieved and she wanted to get home to keep working on the script, putting it all together in her amazing head. I remain astounded by her talent and wits, her instinct and her sheer talent. And Dan, with seemingly little to do, adds so significantly to the room, to the experience, to this whole piece, that I cannot imagine doing it with another pair of actors.

This is tough stuff, but we are trying to find how to play the darkness lightly, funny through the sadness, light over the dark, ultimately life affirming even as it makes your eyes well up.

Tough stuff. Amazing stuff. More anon.



“Don’t Take Our Word for It!”(Or”Patrons on the Pavement”)

Before, during, and after the last preview performance of Romeo and Juliet, I wandered the Bruns Amphitheater grounds, camera in hand and Artistic intern extraordinaire Grace Vincent in tow, harassing patrons for their assessment of the current production. This video contains just a few of those assessments—the overwhelming response from our “man on the street” (or, as I like to think of them “patron on the pavement”) interviews was positive, enthusiastic, and occasionally even hilarious.

Coming soon: Notes from today’s Meet & Greet for Noël Coward’s Private Lives. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video.


Box Office Help Needed–PASS IT AROUND

We’re looking for 3-4 people to work up at the beee-auuuutiful Bruns Amphitheater (Orinda), and possibly fill in here at our Heinz office (West Berkeley) during our June-October summer season. Hours vary, but generally it’s 4-8pm or 4:30-8:30pm Mon.-Sat., or 1-5pm on Sundays. Person must have a car; box office or customer service experience is preferred, and sound computer skills are required.

For more information, drop a line to or call 510.548.9666.

To apply, fax cover letter and resume to 510.843.9921, Attn: Box Office Manager, or mail hard copies to:
Box Office Manager
California Shakespeare Theater
701 Heinz Ave
Berkeley CA 94710