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2014 February 3

More theater

Saturday night, my son and I went to see “the Best of the Rest”, which was a staged reading of the 8 runner-up one-act plays for “8 tens at 8” done earlier in the month by Actors Theatre.  We thought that there was one awful play (bad script, bad directing, bad costumes, bad voice work), and one so-so play, but that the other 6 were better than four of the eight chosen for the main performance. It must be very difficult to select new plays based just on reading the scripts, trying to guess what will work on stage and what will fall flat when the parts haven’t been cast—I’m surprised that they do as well as they do at selecting them.

Last night wrapped up the end of my son’s performances that I listed in Theater month, with a Dinosaur Prom Improv performance.  The troupe was not at full strength with only 6 of the 10 troupe members performing—two were away for JSA (Junior State of America, which I keep wanting to call by its old name, Junior Statesmen of America), one had a broken ankle, and one had not been able to rehearse for several weeks, so just worked tech.  The smaller troupe resulted in a somewhat shorter and less varied show than usual, though my perceptions of the show may have been colored by the bad cold I’ve picked up this weekend.

I must be getting old—I think was close to the median age of the audience at the Best of the Rest performance, and I may have been the oldest at the Dinosaur Prom performance. My wife and I had gotten used to being among the youngest audience members at most theater performances (other than Shakespeare Santa Cruz and shows by kids), looking out over a sea of white hair. So it was a bit strange seeing so many people at the Best of the Rest who were younger than me.

Dinosaur Prom has a loyal following of teens (mostly ones involved in acting themselves), and the audience was almost sorted by age from front to back.  Well over half the audience was under 20. It is good to see youngsters enthusiastic about live theater—it makes me feel that the cultural tradition will not die out.

I spoke too soon in Theater month, though, when I said

Things should quiet down after next week, with just “Much Ado” rehearsals (3 hours a week) and Dinosaur Prom (1.5 hours a week), though there will be a workshop on doing auditions sometime this spring.

All the theater things I listed in the post did happen, but it turns out that WEST is having teen auditioning workshops twice a week for the next three weeks (not later in the Spring), so my son will mostly likely be doing four theater things a week, not just two. I’m one of the parents who has been advocating for an auditioning workshop (WEST doesn’t do traditional auditions for their classes, so the kids don’t have much experience with it), so I’m certainly supportive of my son taking the workshops. WEST has gotten John Pasha to teach the workshops, and he’s done a fantastic job with the summer teen conservatory that WEST and Shakespeare Santa Cruz have co-operated on for the past few years.

There are actually two separate workshop series that John Pasha will be teaching: one for traditional theater auditions, the other for commercial and video auditions, which are done differently.  I think my son should probably do both, but if he’s feeling overwhelmed with theater after his whirlwind month of performances, I could see him opting to do only the traditional audition workshop.

Community-wide the big theater news is that Shakespeare Play On has raised enough money to have a summer season in Santa Cruz.  They’ve not announced the plays yet, but my wife is betting on Hamlet and Merry Wives of Windsor, because Cabrillo College Extension is having a course on understanding those two plays, and the teacher is on the board of Shakespeare Play On.  One further clue: Shakespeare To Go, which usually tours a condensed version of one of the summer plays to local schools, is doing Hamlet this year.

2014 January 30

Shakespeare Santa Cruz donors informed

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UCSC finally got around to informing the Shakespeare Santa Cruz donors about the existence of Shakespeare Play On (a day or two before the Shakespeare Play On fundraising deadline, with over $100,000 still needed):

Thank you for supporting Shakespeare Santa Cruz

As many of you may know, Shakespeare Santa Cruz—at least as a campus-sponsored activity—ended last month with the holiday production of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. The decision that the campus could no longer afford to provide ongoing financial support to Shakespeare Santa Cruz was one of the most difficult of my tenure as chancellor.

However, as you may have heard, a community-based nonprofit group—Shakespeare Play On—is spearheading a drive to establish a more financially viable company and relaunch the popular festival in time for a Summer 2014 season. Their representatives and the campus are actively discussing the possible use of the Stanley-Sinsheimer Glen and other facilities on campus.

The new company has already received tremendous donor support for this ambitious undertaking. Yet, representatives of Shakespeare Play On have told me that this remains a critical time for the organization—and they asked that I write to you and other past supporters of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, letting you know that help is still needed.

If you are interested in Shakespeare Play On, please take a few minutes to learn more about the organization and its financial needs. You may do so by visiting

On behalf of the campus, please also accept my heartfelt thanks for your past support of Shakespeare Santa Cruz. The performances, the designs, the staging—literally everything about the productions—would not have been possible without the support of people like you.

I am sure Shakespeare Play On would be as appreciative of your generosity as the campus was during the festival’s first 32 years.


George Blumenthal
Chancellor, UC Santa Cruz

This letter is gracious, but a bit late (mid-December would have been much more valuable).  I hope it comes in time to do some good.

2014 January 25

Shakespeare Play On video

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Bill Richter of Shakespeare Play On sent out e-mail today with an update on the fund-raising progress. They need to raise another $160,000 in 6 days, but it looks like they might make it if more people  contribute:

Dear Friends,

It’s been a really busy week, and with only 6 days to go, I wanted to give you a few updates, share a video with you, and ask you to help make sure our revels are not ended.  But first, I want to make sure each of you knows that your gift(s) to us at year-end and this month are enormously appreciated.  Thank You!

By  now, I’m sure you all know about our Advisory Board, but if not, check out our website,, and click on the “who are we?” tab.  You probably saw our announcement that within 50 hours of announcing the Advisory Board, we raised over $300,000 (doubling the funds to date)!

I hope you’ve been following our progress on our website every morning.  Scroll down and you’ll find a ticker that allows you to monitor our progress each day—we are a bit over the $725,000 mark, which means we are about 80% to the goal—not out of the woods yet, but a whole lot closer to the Glen!

On the subject of the Glen, we have received a detailed term sheet from UCSC for the Glen lease and we are working with the UCSC real estate team to get the details down.  It’s looking quite good, and the dates Mike and Marco would want for a season are available.   Of course, there is still a lot to be done, but progress is being made on this front as well.

As we head into our last week and the final push to fund the 2014 season, we find ourselves still needing to dig deep.  $160k deep.  Deep into our pockets, deep into our communities and deep into ourselves.  I know that you’ve all made generous gifts, so asking you to make a follow on investment so soon is hard—but you didn’t really expect us to back off now, did you?  After all, the theater the community has dreamed of is within reach:  there is no limit to the art Play On can create, no limit to what Play On can become, and there’s no role it can’t play in our lives, community and the American Theater that is not within our control.  We’ve waited a long time for this opportunity, so go for it!  If you can help cap off Play On’s fundraising for the 2014 season with an additional gift, now is the time to do so.  Please donate by going to: 

Our friends at the Nickelodeon Theaters here in Santa Cruz have offered to run a 30-second Play On spot for free on all screens, all shows, through our deadline.  I thought you would enjoy being among the first to see Play On’s video before it hits the big screen.  Produced by our web and social media volunteer and guru Steve Boyle, with a message from Mike Ryan, and a vocal track by Marion Adler, it’s really quite good.  Enjoy and share:

Again, to donate, please go to

If our request catches you at a bad time, we understand.  But we’d ask you to send this note to a few of your close friends, people you know are our fans.  Invite them to learn about us, watch our video, and if the spirit moves them to play on, to donate a bit at

Please also be sure to ask your employer to match your donation, if you work at a company with a corporate giving program.  That’s a great way to double your gift.

Keep those dedications coming along with your gifts – “sweets to the sweet”.  Play On is glad to deliver your messages to friends and loved ones!

On behalf of the Board, Mike, Marco, our Advisory Board, theater artists and our community, thank you so much for your stalwart support.

If you have questions, please be in touch.








Donations: Or send a check, payable to Arts Council (with “Shakespeare Play On” on the memo line), to Arts Council, 1070 River Street, Santa Cruz, CA  95060

Here is the advertising video that they’ll be running at the Nickelodeon:

2014 January 24

Theater month

This has been a busy month for theater in our household:

  • 21–22 December 2013. My son performed in “Inspecting Carol” as Sidney Carlton (hence, Jacob Marley and Fezziwig) with WEST Ensemble Players at West End Studio Theatre.
  • 30 Dec 2013–3 Jan 2014. My son had a 3-day workshop with West Performing Arts on “site-specific theater” which included street performances downtown.
  • 10 Jan 2014. We went to see “8 tens at 8”, a collection of new one-act plays performed by Actors’ Theatre at Center Stage.
  • 18–19 Jan 2014. My son performed in “Call of the Wild” at West End Studio Theatre as John Thornton, a husky, and a narrator.
  • 20–24 Jan 2014. Tech week for the AFE high school play with 3–6 hours of rehearsal a day.
  • 25–26 Jan 2104. Performance of the AFE high school play at West End Studio Theatre. They are doing 8 one-act plays, mostly from David Ives’ collection All in the Timing, so they’re calling the performance “Mostly in the Timing”. My son is in 5 of 8 one-acts, with one of them being a last-minute casting after another student dropped out of the production.
  • 1 Feb 2014. Going to see “Best of the Rest”, a staged reading of the 8 10-minute plays that did not quite make the “8 tens at 8” by Actors’ Theatre at Center Stage.
  • 2 Feb 2014. My son will be performing with Dinosaur Prom Improv at Broadway Playhouse.

There was one serious conflict this week, with auditions for “Much Ado About Nothing” (the Spring play for the WEST Ensemble Players) at the same time last night as one of the “Mostly in the Timing” tech rehearsals.  My son really wants to play Benedict in “Much Ado” (he’s never gotten a romantic lead, and Benedict is probably the best-fitting romantic lead for him), so missing the auditions was painful.  Luckily the director for “Much Ado” was at the “Mostly in the Timing” rehearsal the day before, so was able to propose an alternative way for him to audition.

Today he has 6 hours of dress rehearsal for “Mostly in the Timing” plus an hour an half of practice with Dinosaur Prom—I don’t know when he’ll have time to do his AP chem homework. At least the college application essays are over with. One of the big advantages of home schooling is the ability to adjust schedules so that intense weeks mostly dedicated to one activity are possible.

Things should quiet down after next week, with just “Much Ado” rehearsals (3 hours a week) and Dinosaur Prom (1.5 hours a week), though there will be a workshop on doing auditions sometime this spring.

Community-wide the big theater news is that Shakespeare Play On has raised pledges of $697k in a month and only needs to raise another $188k (in the next week) to keep the summer Shakespeare tradition in Santa Cruz alive.  I really hope they make it, as Shakespeare performances have been one of the big highlights of the summers here for as long as I’ve lived here.


2014 January 19

Shakespeare Play On update

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The Shakespeare Play On campaign to keep alive the summer Shakespeare in Santa Cruz is going strong.  They’ve got two weeks to raise the remainder of what they  need to put on a summer season in 2014.  It looks much more feasible than it did two weeks ago.  You can go to their website—Shakespeare Play On—to see the progress of their fund raising or to contribute.  Here is how it starts this afternoon:

$248,113 to Go!

Dear Play On Nation,

Extraordinary news … We’ve crossed the $600,000 mark! That’s right, in the last 50 hours, Play On has raised $300,000!!!! That leaves only $285,000 to meet our goal. Over the past month, the Board of Shakespeare Play On has challenged our community and theatre-lovers everywhere to rally to the cause of saving Shakespeare in Santa Cruz. And amazing people indeed have answered the call! Sir Patrick Stewart, Emily Mann, James Bundy, Rowland Rebele, Christa Stiner, David Haussler and Darrin Caddes have engaged by joining our Advisory Board. Over 400 of you have made generous donations.

Having famous actors like Patrick Stewart saying that it is important to support Shakespeare in Santa Cruz undoubtedly helps a lot with the fund raising (I understand that he was a regular attendee years ago).

On a more local level, West End Studio Theatre included a plea for Shakespeare Play On donations on the back of the programs for this weekend’s performances of “Call of the Wild” by middle-school and high-school students. Somewhat surprisingly, this was news to a lot of the audience. Even people who care enough about theater to pay for acting classes for their kids are often unaware of what’s going on to revive summer Shakespeare in Santa Cruz—the media coverage has been tiny and easily missed.

I understand that UCSC has still not let Shakespeare Play On send any information to the subscribers and donors of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, which seems very petty of the UCSC administration.  Giving them a one-time license to send a mailing costs the university nothing, and refusing to do so probably costs them the goodwill of a lot of donors.

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