Sentinel: SCS looks ahead to new season

By Wallace Baine, Sentinel Entertainment Editor  POSTED: 03/29/17, 12:01 PM PDT

The future begins in 2017 for Santa Cruz Shakespeare. After a historic 2016 season in which SCS unveiled its new venue, the Grove at Delaveaga Park, the upcoming summer season marks a new normal — three new productions in a fully constructed (and paid for) new home.

The ’17 summer season officially opens on July 8 at the Grove with “The 39 Steps,” a stage adaptation of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film. Later in the season, SCS will stage two Shakespeare plays, “Measure for Measure” and “The Two Gentleman of Verona.” The season will also include an intern “fringe” production.

Though it was adapted from a film, “The 39 Steps” is a celebration of the inventiveness of theater, said SCS artistic director Mike Ryan.

“It’s extremely funny and joyfully theatrical. The whole thing is performed by four actors, so you have four people trying to re-create scenes that include a bi-plane chase and climbing on the outside of a train car that’s going over a bridge.”

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In 2016, Santa Cruz Shakespeare debuted its new venue the Grove at Delaveaga Park with a new production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jana Marcus — Contributed

Ryan, a well-known actor at SCS and its predecessor Shakespeare Santa Cruz, will play one of the four characters in a play “designed for the wheels to fall off.”

Staging “The 39 Steps,” said Ryan, is also a way for Santa Cruz Shakespeare to present material of particular interest to Santa Cruz County audiences. For years, Hitchcock and his family had an estate near Scotts Valley and, said Ryan, “this part of the California coast provided a lot of inspiration for his films.”

“Measure for Measure” is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-performed comedies, but, said Ryan, carries a particular relevance to the supercharged political moment. “I think regardless of who had been elected president in November, ‘Measure’ was going to be a particularly relevant piece of theater. (SCS is) interested in what the play has to say about what it means to govern and what it means to be governed, particularly the relationship of government to women and women’s bodies, and the often hypocritical role of moral law, given that governments are comprised of people who all have moral failings.”

“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is one of the earliest of Shakespeare’s plays, which deals with friendship and infidelity. “It celebrates male friendship as the ultimate love in the world,” said Ryan. “But I think for a contemporary audience, we all have a little bit of trouble with the ending.”

Last year, SCS produced two plays amid concerns that a three-play schedule would be difficult to assimilate with ongoing construction. This year, said Ryan, is a time to improve on the audience experience from lessons learned in 2016, including upgrades in sound, sight lines and food/concessions.

The company’s fundraising successful attracted the donations to pay off loans for last year’s construction of the new venue.

“The really wonderful thing about the Grove is that we can now continue to take input to make it better every single year,” said Ryan.

Tickets for Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s 2017 season will be on sale beginning May 15 (for SCS members, May 1).

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