In Our Quest for Our New Home: A Call to Action!, Mike Ryan has requested that supporters of Santa Cruz Shakespeare write letters to the Santa Cruz City Council:
This summer from the stage in the Glen, I told all of you to make sure to follow us so that I could let you know when the time was right to reach out to the City Council in support of our move to DeLaveaga. I am extremely excited to announce that now is that time. A few of you have already written to the Council or spoken at our community meetings, and for that I am grateful. It would be wonderful, however, if everyone who read this blog took a moment to do the same. The letters need not be long; a few simple sentences requesting the City Council approve the use of DeLaveaga by Santa Cruz Shakespeare is all that is needed. There is a single email address that will reach everyone on the City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested and have the time to write a more detailed letter, all of us at Santa Cruz Shakespeare would be extremely grateful. Below, I have listed a number of questions that might help with crafting such a letter:
- Why do you believe the city should provide space for arts organizations, and to Santa Cruz Shakespeare, specifically?
- Why do you believe DeLaveaga is a great location for Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s performances?
- DeLaveaga is designated a ‘community park.’ Would the Festival’s presence bring new faces to an old community space?
- What has Santa Cruz Shakespeare meant to you or your family over the years?
- Why does Santa Cruz Shakespeare improve the quality of life in Santa Cruz?
- Do you believe that Santa Cruz Shakespeare provides other benefits to the city besides the obvious cultural/artistic ones?
These are, of course, merely jump-start questions. I’m sure each and every one of you has unique and articulate reasons for asking the City Council to support our move. Whether you use these questions, or write your own thoughts, or whether you write a long letter or a short one, please write! It is very easy to assume that someone else will write a letter, and it is sometimes more difficult to write in support of projects we love than against those we oppose. A groundswell of support for the festival and the move to DeLaveaga will remind the Council just how valuable Santa Cruz Shakespeare is to our entire Santa Cruz community.
I will write such a letter, and this blog post will be a rough draft for the letter.
I’ve been attending summer Shakespeare performances in Santa Cruz for about 30 years, and I regard the festival’s productions as one of the high points of the summer. Santa Cruz Shakespeare (and its predecessor, Shakespeare Santa Cruz) have been an important part of my family’s life, and an important cultural event for much of the community. Shakespeare Santa Cruz provides one of the most family-friendly theater events in the area—the average age of the audience at their performances is significantly lower than at most of the other theater troupes in the area (excepting the numerous groups that provide theater classes for children—theater is a very popular activity in Santa Cruz).
The liveliness and diversity of cultural attractions in Santa Cruz are largely what account for Santa Cruz being such a desirable place to live (compared to other cities in the area that share the climate), but that desirability drives real estate prices up, which makes it difficult for the artists, actors, and musicians who provide the culture to continue to do so—performance spaces are in short supply, housing even more so. In the past the City Council has recognized the value of supporting various cultural events and organizations, including some pretty big projects like the Tannery. Providing unused space in DeLaveaga Park at a reasonable rent to Santa Cruz Shakespeare would continue this tradition of supporting the arts, without a major expense to the taxpayers.
For several years, the festival has partnered with West Performing Arts to provide a summer Shakespeare conservatory for training teenage actors, using the professional actors, dramaturges, and other festival staff to pass on the knowledge and love of theater to the next generation. My son has participated in this conservatory for six years running—it has helped enormously to cement his love of Shakespearean drama (not to mention the improvements in his acting skill). This conservatory is the highest level of actor training that West provides (their other classes cover grades 1–4 through grades 8–12). Although West would survive the loss of the Shakespeare conservatory, it would diminish them.
The Festival Glen at UCSC was an ideal location for the festival, but since UCSC has short-sightedly cut themselves off from one of the best cultural events in Santa Cruz by refusing to allow the Festival to rent the Glen any more, it has become important for Santa Cruz to find an alternative site or risk losing one of the best theatrical events on the West Coast.
Although the proposed site in DeLaveaga Park (approximately 36.994386, -121.995820) is not as conveniently located as the old site at UCSC, particularly for those who use public transportation or bicycle, it is probably the best site available within the City limits—or even within several miles of the city. I’ve not been out to the park to look at the site in person, but I’ve looked at the site with Google Maps and Google Earth—it seems to be space that is currently idle in the park (since the Stroke Center was moved to Cabrillo College) and that would work for Santa Cruz Shakespeare. If they can solve the problem of inadequate transportation (perhaps by having low-cost shuttles from downtown Santa Cruz), it should work well as a performance site. It is certainly a better use of the space than expanding the already under-utilized and water-hungry golf course.
Of the various uses one could imagine for this piece of the park, I can think of no better one than an outdoor theater, and of the organizations that could build and maintain the theater, I can think of no better one than Santa Cruz Shakespeare.