In 2017, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival celebrated 35 years as the Bay Area’s acclaimed producer of Free Shakespeare in the Park and powerful education programs for children and communities. SF Shakes’ first season as a non-profit organization was 1983. More than 35 years later, the company is still renowned for its signature summer productions as well as high-quality educational programming such as Bay Area Shakespeare Camps, Shakespeare On Tour , and Midnight Shakespeare .
For this historic year, SF Shakes presented Hamlet for the first time for Free Shakespeare in the Park. The play, about the questionable succession of King Claudius to the throne of Denmark over his nephew Prince Hamlet, speaks strongly about disenfranchisement, frustration, and the need for action during troubled times. Hamlet is torn between revenging his father’s murder and going along quietly with the new regime, including his mother Queen Gertrude. Finding an ally in the audience, he shares his inner turmoil in a series of soliloquies which have become familiar all over the world – from “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I” to “To be or not to be” to “How all occasions do inform against me.”
For 35 years, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival delivered on the Bay Area’s promise of inclusion and accessibility, bringing the works and words of William Shakespeare to audiences through the Bay Area and beyond, regardless of their age, ethnicity, financial status, or level of education.
We carved a niche in the Bay Area’s arts ecology for our long history of quality performances and for authentic engagement. We found ourselves at an inflection point, poised to expand and improve, if we could garner the necessary resources.
What’s needed was expanded financial support from the community to provide the “fuel” that would enable us to put our well-developed plans into action. To that end, we launched a campaign to raise $200,000 to underwrite four unique 35th Anniversary programs and further solidify our financial foundation for the future of the five core artistic programs, including Free Shakespeare in the Park.
Our supporters invested over $220,000 in our future, ensuring our ability to continue to deliver on our promises of accessibility, inclusiveness, engagement, and artistic quality.
35 FAMOUS SPEECHES IN 35 FAMOUS PLACES
SF Shakes presented a series of free, short site-specific performances called “35 Famous Speeches in 35 Famous Places” celebrating the Festival’s history in San Francisco. From February to December 2017, SF Shakes artists performed familiar and beloved speeches from Shakespeare’s plays in venues throughout the city, in "pop-up" style.
THE PORTABLE GLOBE: A NEW SET FOR FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
We began the process of designing durable modern reusable set elements that will foster a deeper connection with our audiences, improve brand recognition, and reduce time and expenses for installation.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF RESIDENT ARTIST AND INTERN COMPANIES
Strengthening the artistic resources of the Festival helps us achieve further excellence by underwriting scholarships, stipends, and advanced professional training for our Resident Artists and intern company .
NEW FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK MUSICAL: AS YOU LIKE IT
Music has always been an important element of Free Shakespeare in the Park. In 2019, we will achieve a new standard of excellence and “up our game” by engaging renowned composers and our Resident Artists in a robust artistic development process. Using Shakespeare's original text and newly created original music, our 2019 Free Shakespeare in the Park production will incorporate themes central to contemporary living in the Bay Area: income disparity and our relationship to nature.