A visit to the newly completed Grove at DeLaveaga Park promises a great first season for Santa Cruz Shakespeare.
By Eric Johnson
JULY 15, 2016—I do not yet love Santa Cruz Shakespeare's Grove at DeLaveaga Park more than I loved the company's old theater in the Stanley-Sinsheimer Glen, but I am pretty certain that I will. And even if you loved the Glen as much as I did, I’d bet many of you will also agree that the new theater is better.
For one thing, the location is awesome. I’ll admit that this is a personal preference, but I enjoy being perched on a hillside, looking out toward an expansive view, even more than I enjoy sitting under the redwoods. In the Grove, looking toward the stage, one catches glimpses through the trees of the vast view across the Bay. It immediately makes the place feel extra special.
The facility itself is also far superior to the lovable, funky Glen. It's way, way more comfortable. The slope, the angles to the stage and the sight lines are much better. This may be hard to believe, but the place feels more intimate than the Glen.
Visiting the Grove for the first time on Wednesday I was simply blown away. It is hard to imagine that the Santa Cruz Shakespeare team pulled this off in such a short amount of time. Chris Frost, now-board member and longtime tech volunteer with the company and its predecessor, had told me about how much had been accomplished, and still it was almost a shock to see.
I was one of the first civilians to see this location back when Santa Cruz Shakespeare was beginning its negotiations with the city. My friend Bill Richter, founding president of the SCS board of directors, invited me, Traci, and fellow board member Renée Winter to the spot for a picnic lunch.
What was then a scraggly hillside bordering a weedy, steep ravine was at the time kind of scary. Comparing that raw landscape to our beloved Glen was, frankly, a little horrifying. But after spending an hour wondering around before and after lunch, the place started to grow on me. Returning a couple of times over the next few weeks, just for fun, I became convinced that this could be a great place for a theater. With a lot of work.
A few weeks later Bill and I had lunch with Rick Wright, who had taken over as board president. Rick showed us some drawings that fueled my optimism. His plan for the place was extraordinarily ambitious. If SCS could pull it off, Santa Cruz would have a new treasure of an outdoor theater.
They did it. On Wednesday Rick was up there helping get the theater ready for its first preview when I ran into him in the parking lot. He had supervised the project. His wife, Tamara Santos, had run the capital campaign. The SCS “family” had contributed time, expertise, money and passion. And the Santa Cruz community had stepped up to the tune of $1.1 million and counting.
My visit Wednesday happened to coincide with the beginning of rehearsal for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Suddenly fairies appeared on the stage, in the aisles, in the rigging—even, it seemed like, in the trees. The pretend audience was invited in Shakespearean language to silence cell phones. I listened to the familiar opening lines of this play I've seen more times than I can remember. And I saw Mike Ryan, longtime beloved actor in the company and now its artistic director, walking toward the stage.
This weekend is the beginning of something really cool.
For more information or to buy tickets or donate, follow this link to the Santa Cruz Shakespeare webpage.