Cal Shakes Selected as Recipient of Prestigious Hewlett 50 Arts Commission


    California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) announced it has been selected as a recipient of a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission, a program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Cal Shakes is among a group of 10 Bay Area-based non-profit organizations that will receive $150,000 to create important and unique work that facilitates discussions around the most pressing local issues. 
    “We are thrilled to have been selected for this significant and meaningful commission,” commented Cal Shakes Artistic Director Eric Ting. “Since the launch of Cal Shakes’ New Classics Initiative (NCI) with Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey in 2017, we’ve sought to elevate classic works through the voices of writers living.”
    The money will be used to commission Gardley to write A Thousand Ships, based on the women of the Richmond Shipyards.
    “To have the opportunity to create another play with Cal Shakes and to tell another Bay Area story is truly an incredible gift,” says Gardley. “I do not take it lightly.”
    With A Thousand Ships, Gardley returns to a subject he first explored more than a decade ago in This World in a Woman’s Hands, the lives of the women like his two great-grandmothers who came to the Bay Area during World War II to work in the Richmond Shipyards. Eager to revisit these “Rosie the Riveters” and their stories, he plans to integrate their friendships, tragedies, loves and enduring spirit into a larger narrative of the region’s history, fused with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
    A Thousand Ships will explore themes of migration, community and the notion of making home and family among strangers in a new land. Along with choreography, media design and special effects, the music of the period such as Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrew Sisters, and blues and folk songs will be integral to evoking the world of the shipyards. The play will also spotlight the Bay Area’s role in gospel music. The project reunites key artistic collaborators from both black odyssey and This World in a Woman’s Hands, Linda Tillery and Molly Holm, to create a vocal score that weaves this musical heritage into the story’s telling. A Thousand Ships is slated to premiere at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Amphitheater as part of the 2021 season.
    For more information, go to

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