To Be, or Not To Be

SSC's 2010 production of Loves Labour's Lost.
SSC’s 2010 production of Loves Labour’s Lost on their beautiful outdoor stage.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz, a popular local theatre troupe based at UC Santa Cruz, had announced that it might be closing its doors in December after over three decades of productions.  Over the last few seasons, the troupe has been on the brink of bankruptcy and was almost shut down in 2008 before being saved by emergency fundraising. “There’s this merry-go-round of money, and it’s a real mess,” says Mike Ryan, a Shakespeare Santa Cruz actor (via Good Times Weekly). The company announced on August 26th that it would cease production after the Holiday Show due to financial un-sustainability.

The troupe is known for performing many popular comedies, tragedies, and historical plays written by well-known playwrights such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Alexandre Dumas, and Molière as well as the troupe’s namesake, William Shakespeare. Since debuting in 1981, the company has successfully produced hits such as Othello, The Three Musketeers, Romeo and Juliet, and Cinderella.

Henry V
Henry V

A favorite with both locals and tourists, Shakespeare Santa Cruz also introduced two educational programs to give back to the community. “Every student I’ve spoken to who has come to UCSC to study theatre comes because of Shakespeare Santa Cruz,” says Conan Mcarthy, an actor and deputy for the production’s Actors’ Equity Association (via Good Times Weekly).

Shakespeare Santa Cruz also brings the famous playwright’s works to students through their traveling program, “Shakespeare To Go.” The program features UCSC theatre students presenting abridged versions of plays to be performed later in the season to other students. Even if the company ends up closing its doors, the “Shakespeare To Go” program will continue to bring the art of theatre to students as it has since 1988.

The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew

If you haven’t had a chance to make it down to a Shakespeare Santa Cruz production it’s not too late. Although there are no more scheduled performances in the Festival Glen, an outdoor stage where patrons can watch the plays under the redwoods, the Fall Benefit and Holiday Show are still set to show in the Mainstage theatre on the UCSC campus. The Fall Benefit, “Shakespeare Unscripted,” features improvised acting done in the Shakespearian style following audience suggestions. The show benefits the outreach programs put on by the company and is held on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm. The Holiday Show will end the season with a production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, performed as a 1940’s radio broadcast live in front of the audience. The Holiday Show will bring a close to the theatre productions for good, running from November 15th-December 8th.

With these two productions, the company may bid a final farewell to the community that it has entertained for 32 years. But will the community accept this huge loss to its cultural value? Long time theatre fans are heartened by the news that there may be new life for the company. “At this point, we’re open to all possibilities,” says Jean Shimoguchi SSSC board president via Santa Cruz Sentinel. The troupe may yet have another act in them. Shakespeare Santa Cruz is attempting to live on as a non-profit, independent group. “‘The play’s the thing.’ It must go on and it will. Long live Shakespeare Santa Cruz!” said Audrey Stanley, Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz (via

Comments or questions? Write to and put “SSC-New-Life” in the subject line.

-Katie Maxwell

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