On Oct. 13, Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) announced that the company will be returning to produce another season. Students and organizers are relieved, but the long-term fiscal health of the program remains undetermined and a few aspects of the program have already become extinct.
“In reality, we have got the green light to go forward but haven’t worked out the details,” said Marco Barricelli, artistic director of SCC. “I’m not even sure what the budget is going to be for next year.”
With an unknown path to the future, SSC is doing its best to stay afloat. This means placing an even greater emphasis on the importance of the performing arts.
SCC had to raise $300,000 in under two weeks last December — and raise they did. After about 10 days of non-stop fundraising, the theater company gathered over $400,000.
While fundraising was able to save SSC for this coming season, similar emergency fundraising tactics will not be an option in the future.
“We were in a very, very desperate situation,” Barricelli said. “There was an imminent threat of closure of this theater.”
The program now hopes to place greater focus on sustaining the interest of students and community to ensure its continued success.
“I’m constantly looking for ways to integrate [SSC] ideas with the [UCSC] Theater Arts Department,” Barricelli said.
Although there have been reductions to a few student-based aspects of the company, the representatives of SSC regard their work with students as essential.
“We are absolutely committed to working with Theater Arts,” said Sara Wilbourne, the administrative and education coordinator for SSC.
Barricelli stressed the advantages of the opportunities offered to students by SSC.
“There aren’t a lot of UC’s with professional theaters under their auspices,” said Barricelli of UCSC’s unique feature. “It’s attractive to potential [UCSC] students.”
SSC also goes to great lengths to involve faculty, as well as bringing in outside talent for their productions.
“Students have an opportunity to see their teachers in action,” Barricelli said.
In addition, each summer the company takes on over 30 student interns. The opportunities range from acting, to stage managing to costume design and more.
“In a normal season we have roughly 12 [acting] interns, one-third from UCSC,” Barricelli said. “This past year it was actually more than one-third.”
Boris Volkov, a third-year theater arts student, was a 2009 summer intern.
“The [professional] actors treated us so well,” Volkov said. “[They] knew how hard the interns were working. I would absolutely do [SSC] again.”
Barricelli said by working with professionals, students can gain a better understanding of the business on a scale they would not in an academic setting.
“Watching their process every day, watching [the professional actors] fail and succeed every day, they are standing side by side on a stage,” Barricelli said. “You will never get that knowledge in a classroom.”
Although the company itself survived the financial threat, many well-known attributes of SSC did not. SSC’s annual holiday show has been cut due to the decrease in the University’s budget. While SSC is able to bring in enough funds to pay its employees, the university can no longer afford to make up the deficit the company has been incurring each year.
“In order for the University to be comfortable, we needed not to have a holiday show,” Wilbourne said. “Although the show pays for itself, it does not pay for the staff.”
Currently many SSC employees, including Wilbourne, are working reduced hours. Wilbourne said that she does not know whether or not the holiday show will return in coming years.
Stage readings were cut as well, disappointing Barricelli and many theater arts students.
“We are UC students who pay exorbitant sums of money to receive not just education and a diploma, but also to have access to…performance opportunities,” said fourth-year theater arts student Guy Zachary Gardner.
The staged readings, which began in early 2009, were a way for students and faculty to join forces with SSC and produce shows without spending the money necessary for a full production. These readings were designed so that the program could accrue revenue without dedicating the immense amounts of time a full-scale play requires. The readings were rehearsed a few times and then shown on stage without costumes or sets — just actors with scripts.
Although these programs have been cut, SSC will continue its community outreach and student programs for now. Wilbourne calls for community members, including students, to continue to pay attention to theater arts and to support the company so the Santa Cruz community does not lose this resource.
“Be an ambassador for the performing arts,” Wilbourne said. “If you think theater is something important to people, try to get people to take a chance — go see something live.”