Shakespeare Santa Cruz to end 32-year run due to budget problems

Santa Cruz, CA…UC Santa Cruz announced that this will be the final season for Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC), the professional repertory company in residence at the campus.

The current season, the 32nd since the festival debuted on campus in 1981, will conclude this year following the annual holiday show in December.

“The campus has provided Shakespeare Santa Cruz with a large amount of financial support in hopes that the company could become more financially self-sustaining,” said David Yager, UCSC dean of the arts. “Unfortunately, with each passing season, it has become clearer that this goal is not attainable.”

“Many talented, dedicated, and generous people have made Shakespeare Santa Cruz a theater company to be proud of,” Yager added. “Despite their considerable efforts and generous support from the campus, it has become obvious that ticket sales, sponsorships, and private support are just insufficient to keep the company going.”

The decision comes almost five years after SSC raised $419,000 in emergency donations in December 2008 — support from the public that guaranteed at least a 2009 season. Despite that one-time emergency patch and a push for ongoing private support in the years that followed, the company’s dependence on campus funds has not declined.

In fact, it has grown. Campus contributions to the company over the past 10 years have totaled $2.13 million. Almost $1.5 million of that has come since 2009, the year after the fundraising drive.

Even with an initial campus contribution of $250,000 during the most recent full fiscal year, revenues still fell short of planned expenditures by nearly $500,000 — effectively making the total shortfall $750,000 for 2012-13.

The end-of-year $500,000 shortfall took the company’s cumulative debt from $1.48 million to $1.98 million.

Alison Galloway, the campus’s executive vice chancellor, said the campus’s overall budget challenges—caused by years of reduced state support — have made it harder each year to support SSC. “We have had to make very tough decisions about the budget — including making cuts to academic programs,” she said. “We care deeply about SSC and very much appreciate the program and its value. But we also have to be accountable to our students, who are paying more than ever and need courses to graduate on time.”

Yager said the closure of Shakespeare Santa Cruz after the current season doesn’t necessarily mean that UCSC cannot be home to a theater company — and he anticipates creating a blue-ribbon committee to “reimagine how our campus could host a company that is financially stable, academically relevant, and closely aligned with the activities of a major research university.”

“It is sad to see Shakespeare Santa Cruz end, and we are very appreciative of the many people who have supported the company — through their contributions, sponsorships, and ticket purchases,” said Yager.

He also thanked the people responsible for the company’s artistic achievements. “Over the past three decades, we’ve had incredible actors, designers, and directors who have been a part of this extraordinary theater company, and we want to recognize all of them.”

“I also want to thank the countless dedicated staff and volunteers who have supported those artists and made all those shows possible over the past 32 years,” said Yager.

“But I believe the time is right to take a new look at how to create a sustainable model for theater at UCSC.”

Yager added that “Shakespeare to Go” — a program that currently brings Shakespeare to nearly 8,000 students (grades 5 and up) throughout the Central Coast each spring — will be retained.

“The plans are to integrate Shakespeare to Go into our Theater Arts Department and continue to raise private money to make sure it can operate,” said Yager.