The festival is created by a village of people who are dedicated to the pursuit of exceptional theatre. Take a minute to meet them.
The Sacramento Shakespeare Festival, which is produced by City Theatre at Sacramento City College, strives to provide top-quality Shakespeare performances and training to the Sacramento community, utilizing the resources, teachers, and students of the Theatre Department, and utilizing the most experienced and professional artists in the Sacramento area. We do this with full-length plays on campus at Sacramento City College, shorter versions of Shakespeare’s plays in various locations throughout the Sacramento area, traveling scenes and workshops to classes, community centers, and an on-site High School Internship program.
A Brief History of the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival
Sacramento City College first produced plays by Shakespeare in the William Carroll Amphitheatre in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. These productions included Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Merry Wives of Windsor. However, the social climate of the times and its inherent problems forced a return to SCC’s Art Court Theatre. There, the college continued to produce classic plays during the summer months. The “Classics Back to Back” program was active from 1980 to 1985 and included works by Moilere, Wycherly, and Sheridan along with the plays of William Shakespeare.
In 1985, Larry Hendrick, then Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, and Theatre Professors J.D. Sutherland and Donna J. Sparks began exploring the possibilities of returning to the amphitheatre in William Land Park. They were joined by associate Professor Kim McCann and a long year of meetings with the College, the City of Sacramento, Parks and Rec, and others commenced. A season of Romeo and Juliet and Taming of the Shrew was set with McCann and Sparks designated to direct. Robert Musser was hired as the scenic and lighting designer and technical director and Margaret Wooten-Dennett was tabbed to design the costumes. The directors cast a company of approximately 26 actors who appeared in both shows, in true repertory fashion. The venture was called “Shakespeare in the Park” and despite working under very rudimentary conditions (minimal lighting, the most basic of sound systems), the team felt that the venture was quite successful.
The Festival has continued to evolve and grow since that first summer and we are always looking for ways to improve the overall experience for both the audience and the company of technicians, designers, actors, and directors. The Festival’s name was changed to “Sacramento Shakespeare Festival” in the late 90s in order to better reflect the area in which we work and the community we serve. Since its inception in 1986, we have expanded our “playlist” to include the works of other authors that we believe still have the scope of the Shakespearean canon. This allowed us to produce Cyrano de Bergerac in 1997 (the play’s 100-year anniversary) and to produce Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. We worked with Musketeers playwrights Douglas Langworthy and Linda Alper from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and were gratified that they took time out from their own busy production schedules to come to Sacramento and see our production. We have added the Shakespeare Lite outreach program, which takes plays to outlying areas that might not otherwise experience our Festival. We have started the High School Intern Program, which enables high school students to work alongside the Festival’s staff in all aspects of production, from scene shop to performance. The Festival staff teach master classes in their particular areas of expertise, allowing the students to receive further training in all of the disciplines involved in the art of Theatre.
The Festival is proud that many of its former members have gone on to professional theatre careers as members of Actor’s Equity Association (as actors, directors, and stage managers) and/or as theatre educators. Some of these individuals include Katherine Miller, Brett Williams, John Lamb, Karyn Casl, Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski, Jerry Montoya, Mark Hales, Gary Wright, Michael Fitzpatrick, James Farmer, Theresa Y. Hegji, Barry Hubbard, Kelley Weir, Drea Konomos, John Rambo, Gillen Morrison, Jenni Stephenson, Lars Tatom, Andrew Sutherland, Nick Minas, Petra O’Rourke, David Stickler, Stephanie Gularte, Peter Mohrmann, Shpritz Anthony, Stephen Vargo, and Brian Rivera. We are proud to say they have graced our stage or worked in some other aspect of our productions. We appreciate the contributions they have made to the Festival and continue to make to theatre in their professional lives.
As we move into our next years of producing quality theatre, we hope that you, our faithful audience members, will continue the journey with us. We embrace the challenges that lie ahead and we will continue to do our utmost to serve the community of Sacramento and the works of the great playwrights, never forgetting that “the play’s the thing”.