SANTA CRUZ, CALIF.: When we last spoke to Shakespeare Santa Cruz artistic director Marco Barricelli (AT, Nov. ’13), he was dejected about the fate of the 32-year-old company, which the University of California╨Santa Cruz had decided to shut down last fall over an ongoing budget shortfall. But, in a heartening turnaround, longtime company actor Mike Ryan has teamed with Barricelli as co-artistic director of a subtly renamed, non-university-affiliated new “spiritual successor” of the old company—Santa Cruz Shakespeare. The pair has announced a two-show season that will open July 4 with a repertory of The Merry Wives of Windsor (directed by Kirsten Brandt)and As You Like It (with Mark Rucker at the helm). The near-term plan is for Barricelli to hand over the reins to Ryan at the end of the year, and the longer-term plan is to increase production levels to the company’s former slate of three and even four summer shows at its beloved outdoor space among the redwoods.
“It’s a testament to that community—that they really want that company as part of their cultural life,” says Barricelli. “I think the damn university was surprised.”
The key, says Ryan, was “throwing away the credit card and breaking out the debit card”—the new company raised enough money to fund the 2014 season, setting a goal of $885,000 and topping $1 million. Going forward, the idea is to meet the old company’s fundraising goal of nearly $400,000 in annual contributed income and make up the rest in ticket sales. For now, the company is renting the old venue from the university and striving to continue its internship programs with UC–Santa Cruz theatre students. To the casual observer, the new company “should look and feel exactly the same as the old one,” except for one detail: The freedom to rehearse off-site has allowed SSC to start its season three weeks earlier
Behind the scenes, things aren’t much different, either. Ryan says that 90 percent of the previously laid-off staff has been rehired. The key backstage change is that the company now has an independent board. “It was the university’s job to approve the budget; they were holding all the cards, and so the board couldn’t maneuver in the way a board usually does.” The new board goes back to the company’s roots: Two of its members are company co-founders Audrey Stanley and Karen Sinsheimer. Also on board as an adviser is longtime company friend Sir Patrick Stewart. Thus does the whirligig of time bring in its revenges. Go to www.santacruzshakespeare.org.
PHILADELPHIA, ATLANTA, ST. PAUL: One heartening sign of spring is the proliferation of children’s theatre festivals, many of them outdoors. Philadelphia has one of the oldest, with its International Children’s Festival hitting the 30-year mark this year. ICF anticipates six productions over six days, as well as an all-day “Fun Zone” at the Annenberg Center for the Arts, where families can gather before, after and between shows. This year’s festivities include new versions of The Ugly Duckling and The Tortoise and the Hare employing electrolumi-nescent puppetry; We Shall Not Be Moved, a “hip h’opera” collaboration between Art Sanctuary and Opera Philadelphia, led by Marc Bamuthi Joseph; imported productions from Australia’s Patch Theatre Company (Me and My Shadow) and London’s Tall Stories (The Snail and the Whale); the Cashore Marionettes’ choreographed puppet show Simple Gifts; and Gale LaJoy’s solo silent comedy Snowflake. Most of the shows, says the Annenberg Center’s director of marketing, Dawn Frisby Byers, are styled for kids between the ages of 4 and 9—“that bridge age” between toddler and tween.
The intended age range is right there in the name of Atlanta’s Toddler Takeover, May 31–June 2. This “arts festival for the very young” will kick off at the Alliance Theatre’s Woodruff Arts Center with performances of some of the Alliance’s new work for this audience, including Barry Kornhauser’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson poetry, A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Tortuga and the Hare,an interactive adaptation of the Aesop classic by Lauri Stallings and Rosemary Newcott; a twist on Beckett by TMarq called Waiting for Balloon, in which to hobo clowns wait near the railroad tracks for the mysterious title figure; and an anthology of Woody Guthrie Americana, Songs to Grow On. Meanwhile, partner organizations the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art get in on the act, with the former offering concerts and an instrument “petting zoo,” and the latter offering both a “stroller gallery tour” and an art-making workshop. In addition to the performances there will be several professional development workshops for early childhood educators.
Finally, at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Arts, the 14th annual Flint Hills International Children’s Festival (May 27–June 1), supported by an NEA grant, presents a series of “global arts workshops” for grade-school kids, alongside public performances of Step Afrika!, a musical dance piece introducing youngsters to “body music”; an appearance by the Québécois music trio De Temps Antan; an ambitious promenade-style new take on Alice in Wonderland by the percussive dance and theatre company Flying Foot Forum; and Love, a soulful mother/son drama from Australia’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre. Visit www.annenbergcenter.org/tickets/childfest.php, www.alliancetheatre.org/production/toddler-takeover and www.ordway.org/festival.