ORINDA, CALIF.: The board of California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) has announced that artistic director Eric Ting will depart the Bay Area nonprofit theatre organization following the conclusion of the 2022 season, after serving in the role for seven years. The board has formed a transition committee to begin the work of overseeing the artistic leadership evolution.
“The pandemic shifted the circumstances of so many lives. Mine was no exception,” said Ting in a statement. “Amid the move to remote work, my family relocated back to New York City, and as so many of our theatres now slowly return to the vital work of live and in-person performance, the time has come for me to step down so I can be with them full-time.” Pausing to acknowledge the support of co-board presidents Kate Stechschulte and Tracey Walthall and the theatre’s managing director, Sarah Williams, Ting added: “The real testament to any endeavor is not how much you change a thing, but how much you are changed by it. I leave Cal Shakes reshaped by its artists, staff, board, community and civic partners, patrons and funders, and above all, our audiences, who I’ve had the great honor of being in company with these past seven years. I’ve learned what it means to truly serve a community through art, to listen through complexity and resist urgency, to create spaces where we can exist in the glory of our full selves. And through it all, I’ve held close the unwavering faith in the power of stories to unite us not in our common experience, but in the strength of our differences.”
In a statement, board co-leaders Stechshulte and Walthall praised Ting “his many years of service and his dedication to Cal Shakes and the community it serves. Throughout his tenure, Eric has been a fierce advocate of furthering the mission and values of Cal Shakes, and has played a critical role in elevating the organization to the global stage. We wish him continued success as he begins the next chapter in his career.”
“I am overflowing with gratitude that I had the opportunity to partner with Eric Ting these past three years,” said Cal Shakes managing director Sarah Williams in a statement. “Running a theatre in a pandemic is no small feat, but it was made all the more bearable alongside Eric’s compassion, wisdom, grace, and care. Eric’s visionary leadership and unparalleled artistry has made a lasting impact on Cal Shakes and the Bay Area theatre community. He inspires me—and so many others—to use the power of theatre to challenge our preconceived notions so that we might imagine a more equitable world.”
Ting is a recognized Obie Award-winning director whose work has been seen around the country. His directorial debut at Cal Shakes was a Brechtian production of Othello. The following season, Ting helmed the regional premiere of Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, which featured a new score by local music legend Linda Tillery with Molly Holm and a significant rewrite that placed the action of the play in Gardley’s hometown of Oakland. The play was nominated for 12 Theatre Bay Area Awards and won seven, including Best Direction.
In 2018, inspired by the success of that production and with the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, Ting launched the New Classics Initiative, built on the premise that for “the classics” to remain relevant in the modern era, these old stories needed to be told anew through the voices and experiences of artists who reflect our 21st Century society. Cal Shakes produced its first New Classic world premiere Quixote Nuevo, by Octavio Solis. Other New Classics included the West Coast premiere of Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar, this year’s Romeo y Juliet, a bilingual adaptation by KJ Sanchez and Karen Zacarías, and a new version of Lear from Gardley, which will close out Ting’s tenure.
Throughout his time at Cal Shakes, Ting remained deeply committed to the development of new and diverse voices for the theatre. His seasons were notable for featuring majority BIPOC (and largely Bay Area-based) directors, designers and actors. Under his leadership, Cal Shakes integrated community engagement with its productions, continued the organization’s EDI work, which, as Cal Shakes continues to deepen its learning and practice, now includes the principles of belonging and justice in support of a more anti-racist theatre. In 2018, Cal Shakes partnered with transformative justice activist and educator Mia Mingus to create a yearlong program for Bay Area theatremakers grounded in the study of transformative justice principles.
As a response to the pandemic, Ting announced the Shared Light Initiative, an effort rooted in the principles of shared resources and a set of values that center relationship over transaction. Under the umbrella of Shared Light, Cal Shakes has reimagined the outdoor Bruns Memorial Amphitheater as a community resource featuring organizations such as Destiny Arts Center, AlterTheater, Bay Area Children’s Theater, as well as making space for cultural curators such as local producer Jackie Keliiaa and her night of Native stand-up, Good Medicine. Additionally, the Shared Light initiative includes the Artist Circle—a multi-year guaranteed income pilot program for five Bay Area artist/activists whose work has had a meaningful impact on Cal Shakes.
Cal Shakes, now in its 48th season, serves more than 43,000 people annually from all walks of life through its work onstage, in schools, and with people in non-traditional settings throughout the Bay Area with little or no access to theatre. As of 2020, its budget was close to $2.9 million.
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