McRoskey and Cal Shakes

Today I would like to share with you two of my favorite things to do: going to the theater and supporting great causes! Put your head on your pillow, get comfortable and allow me to tell you a bit about California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) and how McRoskey San Francisco has partnered with them to make a difference in the lives of local school-age children.

Cal Shakes History

Founded as the Emeryville Shakespeare Company, the company began performances in 1974, with productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at John Hinkel Park in Berkeley. A few years later the name changed to the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival and started a schedule of four plays per year that continues to this day. In 1991, the Festival built its current outdoor performance venue, the 545-seat Bruns Memorial Amphitheater nestled in the environmentally protected Siesta Valley of the Berkeley/Orinda Hills, and changed its name to California Shakespeare Theater—or Cal Shakes. 

Cal Shakes in the Community

In 2001, Cal Shakes launched its Student Discovery Matinee program. These are performances of Shakespeare productions during the school day with pre-show educational activities and a post-show Q&A with the actors. They are a totally unique school field trip for Elementary, Middle and Highschool students. More than 2,880 students from 62 schools came to live performances of either Macbeth or A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the last (2019) season.

Of these, 1,186 students were from Title 1 schools or schools in low-income neighborhoods that have little or no other arts programming. In addition, many schools had workshops before the show with actors or teaching artists visiting students in their classrooms to introduce the plays’ plots and characters as well as share the creative vision behind Cal Shakes’ specific production.

Also in that year, 2001, Cal Shakes launched its classroom residency program. That first year had playwright Karen Hartman in residence at two schools teaching creative writing. As of 2019/2020 (the last school year artists were able to be in classrooms),

Cal Shakes’ teaching artists engaged 1,386 students in 42 classrooms through extended (10-hour) residencies that get students acting, learning about history, working collaboratively, and being creative – all while meeting CA Core curriculum requirements. More than half of these students attended schools in low-income neighborhoods.


How McRoskey San Francisco Contributes

Since 2012 McRoskey San Francisco has supported Cal Shakes with matching audience challenges supporting Cal Shakes programs that introduce Shakespeare and other plays to Bay Area adults and children. Last year, for the first time since 1974, Cal Shakes was not able to produce a season or engage Bay Area students through these programs.

To rebuild all this programming and more, Cal Shakes has launched their Audience Circle. In addition to sponsoring Cal Shakes’ production of The Winter’s Tale, this year McRoskey San Francisco is offering a challenge match incentive for 75 new members to sign up for the Audience Circle.

Upcoming Production

McRoskey San Francisco is proud to be a sponsor of Cal Shake’s upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale adapted by Eric Ting and Philippa Kelly with performances from September 1st through September 26th.

How You Can Help

Big or small, your donations help. You can sponsor a kid’s ticket to a Student Discovery Matinee or finance an entire show from start to finish.

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