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of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

Toby Leavitt headshotTOBY LEAVITT
Toby oversees all aspects of the Shakespeare Festival’s programs. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago, and received her Masters from the University of Chicago Business School in 1997. Prior to joining the Festival in 1998, she served as General Manager for Chicago’s Court Theatre. She oversaw their financial growth from a $1.6 million to $2.8 million annual budget, guided the theatre in developing a 5-year strategic plan to become the National Center for Classic Theatre, and managed the ensuing strategic growth of the organization. Prior to her four years with the Court, she worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as Senior Editor and Director of Marketing Communications. Her accomplishments in audience development have been recognized by the Arts Marketing Center of Chicago and the Marshall Fields Foundation. She has served as a management consultant for Chicago Opera Theater, the Piven Theater Workshop, and Roadworks Theater Company, and has served as a panelist for the San Francisco Art Commission’s Cultural Equity Initiatives Grant program.

Carla, born and raised in the South Bay, is an actor, fight director, teaching artist, intimacy director, and mom of two. She has been a Resident Artist of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival since 2014 and recently served as Director of Vision for the 2021 Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directing episodes 2 and 4. In 2020, she was in the acting company at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, returning in 2022 as the festival’s first female fight director. Carla is an associate instructor for Dueling Arts International and serves on their governing body as Vice President. She is also a proud member of Making Good Trouble, an anti-racist training cohort based in the Bay Area. Carla has directed SF Shakes’ Shakespeare on Tour production of Romeo and Juliet and Comedy of Errors and Assistant Directed the 2017 Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet. She played Paulina in Free Shakespeare in the Park’s The Winter’s Tale, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew. She’s performed with Cal Shakes, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire, Playground, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, and the SF Mime Troupe in the Bay Area to name a few.

John Western headshotJOHN WESTERN
John has been a fan of Free Shakespeare in the Park since its inception in 1983 with The Tempest. He is responsible for the marketing and advertising of all Festival programs. He received his B.A. from Cleveland State University and continuing education credits from the advertising program at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Extended Learning. Mr. Western has been on the Festival staff since 1998, and has ten years of experience in theater advertising and promotion, plus two years of management experience in the public relations field.

Neal has been the Technical Director of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival since 2017, serving also as webmaster, graphic designer, scenic designer, master carpenter, and managing infrastructure and venue logistics. A 2001 graduate of Stanford University, he subsequently founded NAO Design and spent the next decade expanding into the realms of web, graphic, product, sound, scenic, and automotive design, lighting, furniture, signage, pyrotechnics, robotics, and architecture. From there he spent four years as Manager of Art and Technology at the advertising conglomerate Publicis. Upon joining the ranks of SF Shakes, Neal found it to be a tremendous match for all these miscellaneous skills!  At the onset of the COVID pandemic he developed SF Shakes’ “Unified Virtual Space” method of compositing more than a dozen live, remote actors into a shared virtual space onscreen, the first such undertaking worldwide. Future plans include the first-ever production of Free Shakes in Space.

Meredith Eldred headshotMEREDITH ELDRED
A graduate of San Francisco State University, Meredith is a long time member of the San Francisco arts community who has worked extensively with EXIT Theater and the SF Fringe festival as a director and producer, was a founding member of Misery/Loves Co. and has staged works at Theater Rhino, Mission Cultural Center and Brava. Through her work as an Arts and Parent Engagement Coordinator at SFUSD she guided innovative partnerships between arts organizations, school staff and families to strengthen relationships and support student achievement. In her role as Development Associate she is able to continue her work in supporting equitable arts access in the Bay Area.

Pratiksha Shah headshotPRATIKSHA SHAH
Pratiksha Shah is not just a production manager but a true visionary genius behind the scenes. This means balancing a million tasks while staying on top of everything that’s going on – rehearsal schedules, hiring crews and designers, contracts, and payrolls to name a few. Pratiksha graduated from Foothill Theater Conservatory and has been an active part of the theater world for the past 10 years. She fell in love with Shakespeare during school and joined San Francisco Shakespeare Festival at the onset of the pandemic in January 2020. In her short tenure of 3 years with SF Shakes she has supported and mastered: fully virtual productions (King Lear), episodic virtual hybrid productions (Pericles), and in-person productions in three different park locations (Much Ado). In her spare time, she produces shorts, commercials, web series, features and so much more!

Maryssa is an actor, director, and educator, with an emphasis on social justice and classical theatre. A long-time Resident Artist at SF Shakes, Wanlass has appeared on the mainstage in multiple shows and taught in nearly every program. Notable roles with SF Shakes include Jaques in As You Like It, Horatio in Hamlet, and Hermione in Winter’s Tale. Other Bay Area stage appearances include CalShakes (As You Like It), San Jose Stage (Persuasion), Livermore Shakespeare Festival (As You Like It, Hamlet, Merry Wives of Windsor), Center REPertory Company (Enchanted April, Witness for the Prosecution), Woman’s Will (Much Ado About Nothing, Good Person of Szechuan). She has directed locally for Utopia Theatre Project, PlayGroundSF, Shotz, and regionally for Advice to the Players. Wanlass’ social justice work includes directing at-risk young adults in Shakespeare plays via SF Shakes’ Midnight Shakespeare program, and working with Red Ladder Theatre to deliver improv workshops in California’s correctional system. As Engagement Director for SF Shakes, they are spearheading a new curriculum that encourages participants to share their own creative storytelling with inspiration from William Shakespeare.

Joshua (he/him) works in marketing/communications with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. In addition to marketing he has worked with SF Shakes as a teaching artist, education workgroup member, and performer as Romeo/Nurse & Oberon/Lysander in Takes On Shakes. Joshua works in theatre and film as a director, performer, producer/ digital producer, fight choreographer, film maker and educator. In the Bay Area Joshua was an ensemble member with both FoolsFURY and Ragged Wing Ensemble. Directed/Fight Choreographed with PlayGround, Ragged Wing, FoolsFURY, New Century Symphony, San Francisco Youth Theatre and is a Digital Artist with the International Theatre Company and Podcast The Theatre of Others. Joshua has also worked with Georgia Shakespeare, Fly By Theatre, Essential Theatre, Yat/Bentley Centre, Fuse, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre, Georgia Mountain Theatre, Push-Push Theatre and Film, Jewish Theatre of the South, Georgia Ensemble Theatre, PlayMakers, Cal Shakes, Berkeley Repertory School of Theatre, ACT, The Alliance Theatre, Dragon Theatre and Shakespearience. Joshua holds an MFA in Directing for Stage and Screen and teaches theatre at Foothill College and was the Program/Artistic Leader of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts Theatre at Guilford Tech College. An associate member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers a member of the Society of American Fight Directors and an Actor-Combatant.