Santa Cruz Shakespeare Announces Our 2021 Season!

For the past few months Santa Cruz Shakespeare staff and board have been examining what a 2021 season might look like.  We believe that even in a best-case scenario we will not be able to produce a ‘business as usual season’ that sees 15,000 visits to The Grove.  That said, we have a few things going for us: the Audrey Stanley Grove is an outdoor venue; it is large enough that we can easily seat non-affiliated audience members more than six feet apart; vaccine rollout is ramping up with open access anticipated by June, and we have all become accustomed to masks.  Consequently, as of this moment, we are working toward a small, safe, socially-distant, outdoor and live repertory season.  In order to keep everyone safe, we are working on a plan that will require approval from the City and our professional unions to include masking, rigorous cleaning, and limited seating, among other protocols.  We anticipate this plan will see a reduction in capacity of the Grove from 425 to around 175.

When our Managing Director, Larry Mabrey and I looked at what that reduction meant for our earned income, it became apparent that we would not be able to produce large cast Shakespeare plays without significant losses.  Consequently, we have chosen two very small cast plays to perform in repertory, starting late in July and running through the month of August.  In addition to live performances, these shows will also be recorded and made available virtually on a paid streaming platform for those who are not vaccinated or who otherwise do not yet feel safe returning to the theatre this summer.

I want to be absolutely clear that your safety, and the safety of our staff, artisans and artists remains our highest priority, and we will be taking a hard look at the COVID situation starting at the end of March and continuing through May.  If it seems at any point that the outlook for July and August will not be significantly better than it is currently, or if the City and our unions should not approve of our safety guidelines, we will pivot to an entirely virtual season with the same lineup of plays made available to you in the comfort of your home.

I remain optimistic that we will be able to gather once more this summer and celebrate the living, vibrating, shared-space storytelling experience that only live theatre can provide. With that hope in mind, here is the season we have planned:

First, in June, we will bring back the wildly successful Undiscovered Shakespeare series we started with The Wars of the Roses last summer.  This year, along with UCSC’s Shakespeare Workshop and Humanities Institute, we will be tackling one of Shakespeare most fascinating and vexing plays: Troilus & Cressida.  Join us for free as we read through this play episodically on Zoom, and dig into the text with lectures from scholars and conversations with the cast.  Swinging wildly between bawdy comedy, epic history, and tragic romance, Troilus and Cressida plays out against the backdrop of the Trojan War.  Its examinations of honor, fidelity, pretension, romance, and war, led Joyce Carol Oates to describe this play as an “implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential.” Undiscovered Shakespeare: Troilus & Cressida is being directed by Susan Dalian.

Then, beginning in late July in the Grove:

The first play of our live season will be “The Agitators” by Mat Smart, telling the story of Fredrick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.  Over the forty-five volatile years that they knew one another, they were friends, allies, and adversaries.  As agitators, they were not content to let themselves, our nation, or each other rest in complacency, and their respective fights for racial justice and gender equity continue to this day.  A two-person play that spans decades, The Agitators will be directed by Paul Mullins, and will star Santa Cruz Shakespeare favorites Patty Gallagher as Susan B. Anthony, and Allen Gilmore as Frederick Douglass.

In repertory with “The Agitators” out in the Grove will be “RII”.  Conceived and adapted by Jessica Kubzansky, “RII” is William Shakespeare’s King Richard II performed by three actors.  Fast paced and nail-biting, this exploration of divine right, capricious leadership, and bloody insurrection is packed with contemporary political relevance.  A Critic’s Choice pick when it premiered at the Boston Court theatre in Los Angeles, Charles McNulty, of the LA Times called the play a “feat of ingenious stagecraft”.  This will be the first production of this play since its world premier, and will be directed by Melissa Rain Anderson.

After a live season is confirmed, you can expect a series of blog posts about what changes to expect to your audience experience this summer.  As always, members will enjoy ticket discounts, early access into The Grove, and more.  If you have not yet renewed your membership for 2021, now would be a great time to do that.  You can renew online through our website, or by contacting our Development team: Alexi ( or Vivian (

In the meanwhile, stay healthy, happy, and safe.  If we all do our part, I know I’ll see you in The Grove this summer.


Mike Ryan