Professional theater accessible to everyone
For more than 40 seasons since the founding of SF Shakes in 1983, our signature Free Shakespeare in the Park program has helped to make the words and themes of Shakespeare accessible to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, financial status, or level of education. Every summer we bring a new production to outdoor venues across the San Francisco Bay Area and invite the community to join us in the park – no reservations, tickets, or prior Shakespeare experience required – for a fresh reimagining of Shakespeare’s timeless tales. Scroll down to look back at last season and ahead to next season, support Free Shakes, join the production, and see 40 years of Free Shakes history.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that its summer 2023 Free Shakespeare in the Park production will be Cymbeline . The play will be directed by Festival Resident Artist Maryssa Wanlass (pictured).
Cymbeline, Shakespeare’s epic romantic adventure, is believed to be one of his final plays and is widely considered to be one of his greatest achievements. It features a dazzling mix of comedy, tragedy, and fairy tale that concludes with inventive scenes of revelation and joyous reconciliation. The play was selected by the company’s Resident Artists, who felt that this play’s sweeping story would help remind us of the power of live theater and the joy of coming together to share an epic experience.
In this tale King Cymbeline of Britain has banished Posthumus who has secretly married his daughter, Princess Imogen. A series of unimaginable misadventures ensue that test the strength of their commitment to each other. This will be the company’s second production of Cymbeline, having previously staged it in 2011.
Director Maryssa Wanlass is interested in the fairytale quality of this story, and wants to lean in to the archetypal characters and set the play in an alternate universe fantasy realm. Casting will reflect the many communities for which SF Shakes performs, and the main love story between Imogen and Posthumus will be told with a queer lens. Expect big performances, music, delicious villains and ultimately a family-friendly coming-of-age story.
Free Shakes in the Park will visit the following locations:
Cupertino’s Memorial Park, July 22-August 6 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 6pm.
Redwood City’s Red Morton Park, August 12-27 on Saturdays and Sundays at 6pm.
San Francisco’s McLaren Park, September 2-10 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day Monday at 2pm.
Although it is free to attend, it’s not free to produce! If you have the means to do so, then please, take action today and donate. Our work is made possible by donations from organizations and individuals like you.
Free Shakes in the Park employs around 40 seasonal actors, directors, designers, technicians, and interns. We believe that a diverse organization is a better organization and that the art itself is greatly improved by collaboration among people with different backgrounds and perspectives. If you’re interested in being a part of our 2023 production, keep an eye on the following pages:
Free Shakes casts consist of around ten Equity and non-Equity actors.
Our seasonal Free Shakes staffing includes directors, designers, managers, builders, and movers.
We offer paid internships in performance, stage management, wardrobe, props, sound, and dramaturgy.
As the story goes, it all began back in the summer of 1983, on or around a picnic table in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Newly incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit organization, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s first official show was a production of The Tempest. For fifteen years prior, director Margrit Roma and husband-producer Clarence Rickfiels had been managing a company called New Shakespeare Company, but a lack of federal funding split the group in two in 1983, with one part becoming San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Since then we’ve presented the annual Free Shakespeare program continuously for 40 seasons. Over time we expanded from Golden Gate Park to numerous additional venues around the Bay Area including Oakland, San Mateo, Pleasanton, Cupertino, Redwood City, and San Francisco’s Presidio and McLaren parks. Even during the pandemic we looked to our mission and our values and innovated an amazing way to pivot to the virtual world- developing and using our Unified Virtual Space method, our Free Shakespeare at Home productions of King Lear and Pericles enabled us to convene community online and continue our arts programming without interruption. Only time will tell where this program evolves to next. Shakespeare on Mars?