Our Quest for Our New Home: Origins

mike_headshotNew Home 2016 Update from Mike Ryan, Artistic Director, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Posted August 20, 2015

If you had told me a year and a half ago that becoming an Artistic Director would involve learning about storm drainage plans, electrical conduits, biotic reports, soil grading, and all of the other details that are currently swirling in my brain, I would have said you were crazy. They don’t teach these things in Acting MFA programs. Imagine my surprise, then, that, during those hours when I am not performing in Much Ado About Nothing in the Glen, I am tackling just such topics. Even more strange? They are pretty fascinating. One of the reasons I was drawn to theatre as a young man was the variety that it offered: the idea that I would never be doing that same thing day in and day out, that I might play a slave one month, but a king the next. I have also come to love the research involved in acting and the knowledge that has accumulated in the dusty corners of my brain. So, in that sense, these new areas of study are a continuing part of what I love about what I do. Never a dull moment.

Mike Ryan and Greta Wohlrabe as 'Benedick' and 'Beatrice' in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Photo by rr jones.

Mike Ryan and Greta Wohlrabe as ‘Benedick’ and ‘Beatrice’ in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Photo by rr jones.

The catalyst for this new knowledge is, of course, the quest for a new home for Santa Cruz Shakespeare at Upper DeLaveaga Park. As most of you know, one of our core values here at SCS is transparency, and so we thought it might be a good idea to start a blog that tracks our efforts to secure our new performance space. To kick things off, I thought it would be a good idea to recap how we came to be on this quest, and how we found the site we are now pursuing. Next week, I’ll discuss the studies and plans that we have undertaken to put our package together for the Santa Cruz City Council.

In the early part of 2015, Bill Richter, our board president, reached out to UCSC and expressed our interest in extending the two-year lease we secured in 2014. In a letter dated March 16, 2015, Alison Galloway, UCSC’s Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor wrote: “…the Chancellor and I are unwilling to consider extending the lease past this summer because of the projected need of the campus for use of the Glen in future summers.”

click to enlarge

Letter from Alison Galloway, UCSC’s Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor (click to enlarge)

For those who are interested, the full version of this letter can be found here on our website. The arrival of that letter gave us a little over fourteen months to find and develop a new space for performance in 2016.

Our board of directors met and created a sub-committee devoted to the discovery and development of a new site and appointed Rick Wright as its chair. Rick has been absolutely fantastic, and with a background in software project management, has kept us all on task. He manages to juggle all of the incredibly intricate moving pieces of the project with both grace and good humor. Rick and I approached the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department, meeting with Dannettee Shoemaker and Mauro Garcia. They both felt like the idea of moving Santa Cruz Shakespeare into the parks system was a good one, provided the right space could be found and, over the next couple of months we visited, and discussed, numerous sites, chief among them: Pogonip, San Lorenzo Park, Friendship Grove, and DeLaveaga. We also looked outside of the city park system, at Antonelli Pond and some privately held land along Carbonara Creek.

The search was extremely interesting. We realized, early on, that the space of our dreams was something of a paradox: a pristinely beautiful outdoor space, remote enough to be quiet, but that still had all of the necessary infrastructure for hosting our audiences, including, parking, electricity, water, and sewer access. Initially, we found spaces that were one or the other, but not both. Pogonip, while beautiful, had no potable water, no real on-site parking, and a kind of sacred, pristine quality that we felt would make it a difficult sell to many in the community. San Lorenzo is convenient, right in the heart of downtown, but completely flat, too narrow, very noisy, and too difficult to manage for security concerns. Friendship Grove is too close to noisy baseball games. Antonelli Pond is surrounded by land that is earmarked for commercial and residential development. The land we looked at around Carbonara Creek, though beautiful, didn’t even have road access, much less electricity and water. Finally, we learned from the Parks Department that they were releasing an RFP (Request for Proposals) for use of an area of land around the site of the old Cabrillo Stroke Center on Upper DeLaveaga Park.

Rick and I jumped into Mauro Garcia’s truck and he drove us out to the site. The location of the Stroke Center is now a level dirt field, where the buildings once stood. It is not the best site; there is a lot of Highway One road noise, an unsightly cell-tower, and no shade. I was heart-broken because so many other things about the site were promising. It had parking, water, electricity, and sewer access, thanks to being the site of the Stroke Center. We started to drive away, and as we did, I glanced off to the east.

santa_cruz_shakespeare_delaveaga1There, between the site of the Stroke Center and the 911-call center was a beautiful, sun-dappled field with a natural slope where two canyons meet. Towering eucalyptus trees reached toward the sky and, between the trunks, glimpses of the bay could be seen. I asked Mauro to pull over and we got out. There, just a hundred yards from the Stroke Center, the noise from the highway was much less noticeable. Best of all, it was still located within striking distance of all the infrastructure that had been put in place for the old Stroke Center. I got that trusty feeling in my gut. Afterwards, at lunch with Rick, I expressed my interest in the site, and he confirmed that he had liked it, too. We weighed it against Pogonip, the leading contender at the time, and decided to recommend to the board that SCS submit a proposal in response to the Parks Department’s RFP.

The SCS Board agreed with our recommendation and we hired Charles Eadie, of Hamilton Swift, land-use consultants, to advise us on the submission. We worked closely with Charlie, and submitted the proposal to the Parks Department on the day of their RFP deadline, on June 16th. We learned shortly thereafter that we were the only organization to respond. On June 23rd, the Parks Department requested permission from the City Council to work on an agreement with Santa Cruz Shakespeare for review by Council in the Fall, and permission was granted. Then, the real work began…