Susie Falk’s Final Bow at Cal Shakes

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Cal Shakes Managing Director Susie Falk, pictured with Artistic Director Eric Ting, will step down from her position at the end of the 2018 season.

    When the final curtain falls for Managing Director Susie Falk this season, she will, as always, bow out gracefully following her 14-year tenure at California Shakespeare Theater. On the stage, the energetic powerhouse has led thousands of Cal Shakes attendees each year to appreciate the hundreds of community contributors while always ending with a signature riff, a thank you, with the help of the audience, for Peet’s Coffee. 
    Falk grew up with ties to the Cal Shakes theater community. As a teenager, the Berkeley native studied at Cal Shakes (then called Berkeley Shakespeare Festival), then performing at John Hinkel Park in Comedy of Errors.
    Falk reminisces, “I remember being thrilled about getting to perform on the same stage Jim Carpenter and Michael McShane performed on, even if I was cast in a non-speaking part.” Falk still lives in Berkeley with her husband, lighting designer York Kennedy, and their daughter Pippa.
    Falk began her Cal Shakes career with a four-year stint as the company’s marketing director.  In 2009, she was promoted to managing director, a position charged with overseeing all marketing, sales, and public relations efforts for the theater while also tasking her with taking charge of the box office and the front of house operations.  A leader on the team responsible for the company’s successful rebranding, she patricipated in the effort that resulted in an increase of ticket revenue by 24 percent.
    Falk notes that her work at Cal Shakes has taught her to find her authentic style and voice as a leader. Because of its unpredictability, Falk claims outdoor theatre is “not for the faint of heart.” She intimates, “The added factors of rain, heat, and smoke from wild fires as well as disruptions from wild life making impromptu stage debuts can be challenging. Yet, those moments – like when it starts to rain during King Lear or a cow moos loudly and an actor manages to incorporate it into her or his next line – these are moments I’ll never forget.”
    Falk, who refused to play it safe in theatre, notes that some of Cal Shakes biggest successes during her tenure (including The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and black odyssey) felt like the company’s biggest risks. She enthuses, “When the right piece of theater lands at the right place and the right time, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
    The company’s current General Manager Tirzah Tyler, an eight-year veteran of Cal Shakes, will step into Falk’s role as the company’s interim managing director, partnering with Artistic Director Eric Ting to lead the company into and during the 2019 Cal Shakes season.
    For now, Falk is happy taking a new place on the other side of the spotlight by joining the audience for the upcoming season which will include William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and MacBeth as well as The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht and The House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar.
    Falk concludes by pointing to the future she’s helped envision: “Having worked with Artistic Director Eric Ting for three years now, I can say I’m incredibly excited to see how the theater will continue to redefine itself under his direction, and how the audience will continue to grow and evolve.”

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