Community Partner Spotlight – Cal Shakes

logo blueCalifornia Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) is a 41-year-old nonprofit theater company with programming on stage, in classrooms, and with communities throughout the East Bay.

Cal Shakes attracts 45,000 audience members annually to its season of 100+ performances of Shakespeare, other classics, and new plays offered May through October at its outdoor amphitheater located in Orinda.

Through its bold, contemporary productions, and casual outdoor environment, Cal Shakes strives to defy preconceptions of Shakespeare and theater.

  • It’s an experience: Whether you are there for the play or for the picnic, Cal Shakes is an experience to remember. People come to the Bruns amphitheater up to two hours in advance with picnic baskets and blankets in tow. The guests can wander the grounds and enjoy the art sculptures. As the sun sets, the audience then settles  into their seats to witness the play with a talented and highly diverse cast.
  • It’s outdoors: Possibly one of the most unique characteristics of Cal Shakes is the parkland backdrop to the theater stage, which inspires environmental friendliness at Cal Shakes. Upon arrival, guests stroll up a short wooded path to the open air reception area. After enjoying the pre-show entertainment, guests migrate into the Amphitheater which boasts a breathtaking view of the Orinda hills.
  • It’s inclusive: Cal Shakes welcomes all individuals no matter your age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. You can feel comfortable coming to Cal Shakes because it is where theater is truly for everyone.

Cal Shakes’ mission is to build character and community through authentic, inclusive, and joyful theater experiences. Last year, Cal Shakes was selected by the James Irvine Foundation as one of only 10 organizations to participate in the New California Arts Fund, a three-year funding and cohort-learning opportunity designed to increase the capacity of arts organizations to better serve the shifting demographics of our state. As part of this effort, Cal Shakes entered into a consulting engagement with Social Sector Solutions to focus on increasing the diversity of its audience base to better reflect the demographics of the Bay Area.


Involvement with the Center


The cast of Cal Shakes 2014 production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Aaron Posner. Photo credit: Jay Yamada.

Cal Shakes was matched with a diverse team of student consultants – Brigid Warmerdam (team lead), Amy Chou, Bheem Bhatia Gagan Mac, and Jeremy Ramirez. With the help of Haas instructors and McKinsey consultants, Cal Shakes and the S3 team are working together to develop a strategic marketing plan and set of recommendations to engage diverse Bay Area communities.

“The most exciting part of consulting for Cal Shakes is uprooting the widely held misconception that the theater is only for a certain type of person,” S3 team lead Brigid Warmerdam said. “That simply isn’t true. No matter your age, ethnicity or sexual orientation – you can come and enjoy a play at Cal Shakes. I think it’s important that we all do our part to create change by questioning stereotypes and welcoming differences. When you add up all the efforts we are making to be more inclusive, we experience huge impact.”

“Participating in Social Sector Solutions program is allowing Cal Shakes to tap into expertise we don’t typically have access to, from demographic research to focus groups, helping Cal Shakes serve our mission and grow our audience,” Managing Director Susie Falk said. “With the changing demographics of our region, our state, and our nation, we believe that the long-term health of the arts requires that arts organizations find new ways to engage their broader communities.”


Upcoming productions:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare: May 27–June 21

Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca: July 8–August 2

The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam: August 12–September 6

King Lear by William Shakespeare: September 16–October 11


One thought on “Community Partner Spotlight – Cal Shakes

  1. Pingback: Social Sector Solutions: Experiential Learning with a Social Purpose | impactmba

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