Cal Shakes Envisions Bruns as Multi-Disciplined Performance Center

(Jim McCambridge, Photographer)
California Shakespeare Festival isn’t producing a play this season, but envisions opening the Bruns Amphitheater to a wide variety of events, including weddings this year. The company plans to perform its own theatrical productions in 2024.

    Marking the first time since 1974, (COVID-19 excepted), Cal Shakes will not produce its own theatrical productions in 2023. The company will open the Amphitheatre to outside groups and events while its board of directors revamps the organization for a return in 2024 and a celebration of its 50th anniversary.
    The long-range goal is to turn the Bruns Amphitheatre into a multi-disciplined performing art center, a cultural community resource with Cal Shakes as the resident theater company.
    “The board came to the realization they’d been dancing around for years – the model we were operating under was just not tenable anymore,” said Executive Director Clive Worsley. “Producing four theatrical productions of the scale we were used to that always lost money was not sustainable.”
    In its most popular seasons, revenue from tickets and subscriptions covered 60% of the cost of producing a show, with the company relying on grants and fundraising to fund the rest.
    Cal Shakes, like many companies in the Bay Area and across the country, faces increasing costs, reduced ticket sales and fewer donors. According to the company’s statistics, ticket revenue in this post-pandemic era will only cover 45% of costs.
    While the company reorganizes and looks at options for a return next year, it hopes to have a mix of live music, dance, opera, family programming, civic and cultural events, as well as educational activities this summer. Some events will be announced this month, followed by monthly rollouts of additional presentations. An open-community event is also planned at the Bruns this summer.
    Registration is currently underway for Cal Shakes’ 2023 Summer Conservatory. A three-week (June 12 -30) and a two-week session (July 17 – 28) for grades 6-12 will develop and improve skills in acting, voice, movement, text analysis and more while rehearsing one of Shakespeare’s plays.
    For older students, Cal Shakes’ highly regarded dramaturg, Dr. Philippa Kelly, continues her six-week series Shakespeare and the Modern Mind, which explores Shakespeare’s 

relationship to contemporary theories of psychology and ecology. Students may sign up for individual classes May 2 and 9. Kelly’s lecture is pre-recorded with the study group classes live-streamed on Zoom.
    For more information on the Summer Conservatory or Kelly’s lecture series, visit
    The company will also allow private events such as weddings to take place at the Bruns.
    “We want to get more and more people up to the Bruns. It’s a safe place for people to come and enjoy themselves in a beautiful outdoor setting,” said Worsley. “If people come and have that magical Bruns experience under the stars with the coyotes howling in the background, they’re likely to come back and maybe even come back for something they wouldn’t normally be drawn to.”

Sally Hogarty can be reached at

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