Professional theater accessible to everyone
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’s Cymbeline and ahead to the 2024 production of The Tempest, support Free Shakes, join the production, and see 41 years of Free Shakes history.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s summer 2024 Free Shakespeare in the Park production will be The Tempest.
Director Rotimi Agbabiaka is thrilled to be conjuring this Tempest. Directing credits include the world premieres of The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera (Z Space) and VS. (TheatreFIRST), Seeing Red: The Radio Play (San Francisco Mime Troupe), Ben Okri’s The Secret Source (Word for Word), and Wole Soyinka’s Madmen and Specialists (Cutting Ball). As an actor, Rotimi most recently played Oberon and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Folger Theatre, Washington D.C.) and originated the roles of William Craft in The N****r Lovers (Magic Theatre), James Baldwin in In the Evening By The Moonlight (Lorraine Hansberry Theatre), and Cellphone/Narrator in If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka (Playwrights Horizons, Off-Broadway). Rotimi penned the solo shows Type/Caste (TBA award), and MANIFESTO; co-wrote the musical, Seeing Red; dazzles nightlife stages (as alter-ego Miss Cleo Patois); and teaches acting and solo performance at Stanford University. Rotimi is eternally grateful to Dr. James Loehlin and Dr. James “Doc” Ayres of Shakespeare at Winedale for teaching him to love the Bard.
Assistant Director Ely Sonny Orquiza (he/him), a 2023 YBCA 100 Honoree, is a multidisciplinary Queer Filipino artistic director, stage director, and arts educator native to San Francisco Bay Area, the unceded territory of the Ramaytush Ohlone People. Through theater and the performing arts Orquiza illuminates the experiences of the Asian diaspora, explores the politics of Queer/ness, and amplifies the voices and narratives of People from the Global Majority. As an artist, Orquiza draws on his heritage and lived experiences to create stunning theatrical productions that captivate audiences and spark meaningful conversations about equity and representation. Through his art and advocacy, he is breaking down barriers and elevating marginalized voices for the American Theatre. For extended bio: elysonnyorquiza.org
The 2024 Free Shakespeare in the Park schedule will be published soon! Visit the Cymbeline page to review the summer 2023 schedule, see the program, photos, and more.
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 2024 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?