Published February 18, 2003
Volume 11, Number 2

SF Shakespeare Festival Brings Programs to Tri-Valley

Though the author himself has been gone for centuries, the works of William Shakespeare have an enduring quality unequalled by that of any other playwright. Many believe that the reason for this is that the subjects addressed in Shakespeare’s work are every bit as relevant today as they were when they were first produced. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is an organization that seeks to preserve the Bard’s works by continuing to perform them and to expose as many people as possible to the plays to cultivate an appreciation for both Shakespeare and dramatic performance.

Shakespeare FestivalThe Shakespeare Festival employs over 200 educators, artists, actors, directors, designers, and technicians, as well as a year-round staff of nine. The Festival began in 1983, with Free Shakespeare in the Park's debut production of The Tempest in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Despite its name, the Festival puts on performances throughout the Bay Area and the state, and offers a number of programs that specifically benefit the Bay Area’s youth. “We have one program that reaches kids in schools, one program that reaches kids after school, and another program that reaches kids during the summer,” says Phil Kohlmetz, development director for the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival “We really feel like we’ve got the bases covered as far as doing outreach and education and kind of filling gaps that public schools are having a hard time filling.”

Programs offered by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival include Shakespeare On Tour, which brings a live hour-long Shakespeare performance to students statewide; Bay Area Shakespeare Camps, which allow students age 8 to 18 to study Shakespeare and learn the necessary skills to perform his work; and a program called Midnight Shakespeare, which offers at-risk youth the opportunity to learn communication skills, performance skills, discipline, and teamwork through Shakespeare.

To many, the most recognizable program presented by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is Free Shakespeare in the Park, one of the major free Shakespeare programs in the nation. Produced every year in San Francisco, Oakland, Pleasanton, and Cupertino from July to October, Free Shakespeare in the Park provides an opportunity for everyone to see high quality, professional theater free of charge. Last year, the program included a performance of Shakespeare’s The Winter's Tale, and the 2003 program will present a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. “We were invited by the city of Pleasanton in 2002 to come back and perform in 2003,” Kohlmetz says. For companies that would like to be more actively involved, corporate sponsorship opportunities are available to help support the Festival’s performance season and special programs. For more information about the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, visit the organization’s web site at www.sfshakes.org or call Phil Kohlmetz at 415-422-2222.

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