After 32 years, one of Santa Cruz’s most beloved theater companies is closing down indefinitely, evoking a strong reaction from a community that has come to love the festival as an annual tradition.
Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s (SSC) final show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” will be performed until Dec. 8.
The play follows the story of a deeply troubled George Bailey who gets the chance to see what the world would be like without his presence with the help of an angel. The performance is in the style of a 1940s radio broadcast.
SSC’s closing was announced in the midst of its season on Aug. 26 in a press release from UC Santa Cruz’s arts dean David Yager. The company is closing because UCSC is no longer funding the program.
UCSC consistently assisted the company, while hoping it would become a self-sustaining organization, said SSC’s artistic director Marco Barricelli.
“In various ways there was a lot of incoming support from the university, such as office space for SSC staff, IT support, human resources support and payroll support,” Barricelli said.
Barricelli said there are many complicated reasons as to why UCSC could no longer support SSC financially.
“There are many reasons [SSC can’t become self-sustainable] as much as they’d like it to,” Barricelli said. “It was just costing them too much money. That was their perspective on it so they decided it was no longer worth it.”
This is disappointing news for a community associated with SSC for many years. The artistic community in Santa Cruz has been fun to perform for because of its creativity and ability to think outside of the box, Barricelli said.
“There are seasonal ticket buyers for SSC who have been loyal patrons over the years,” Barricelli said. “SSC had been around just long enough now where local people who came as kids with their parents are now coming and bringing their kids — it integrated into the fabric of people’s lives. That was pretty exciting, so it’s pretty tragic that it has to stop.”
The question of whether the tradition of SSC is coming to a definite stop or not is now up in the air. The SSC board of directors quickly became interested in recreating the theater program as an independent, non-profit organization. Although it is still in the process of discussion and negotiation, this outcome would allow the artistic mission of SSC to continue.
One of the artistic traits making SSC stand out is its repertory company. In repertory companies, the majority of actors play diverse roles in multiple plays alternating between different nights. This is the most exciting form for performing theater, Barricelli said.
“SSC was the only true repertory theater in the state of California,” Barricelli said. “I was so happy it was still happening here, but maybe it’ll happen again in the future. We’ll see.”