In 2017, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival celebrates 35 years as the Bay Area’s acclaimed producer of Free Shakespeare in the Park and powerful education programs for children and communities. SF Shakes’ first season as a non-profit organization was 1983. 35 years later, the company is still renowned for its signature summer productions as well as high-quality educational programming such as Bay Area Shakespeare Camps, Shakespeare On Tour, and Midnight Shakespeare.
For this historic year, SF Shakes will present Hamlet for the first time for Free Shakespeare in the Park. The play, about the questionable succession of King Claudius to the throne of Denmark over his nephew Prince Hamlet, speaks strongly about disenfranchisement, frustration, and the need for action during troubled times. Hamlet is torn between revenging his father’s murder and going along quietly with the new regime, including his mother Queen Gertrude. Finding an ally in the audience, he shares his inner turmoil in a series of soliloquies which have become familiar all over the world – from “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I” to “To be or not to be” to “How all occasions do inform against me.”
In addition to Free Shakespeare in the Park, SF Shakes will present a series of free, short, site-specific performances called “35 Famous Speeches in 35 Famous Places” celebrating the Festival’s history in San Francisco. From February to August 2017, culminating in the opening performances of Hamlet in San Francisco, SF Shakes artists will perform familiar and beloved speeches from Shakespeare’s plays in venues throughout the city. There will be a kick-off event on February 16 at 6 pm at the Presidio Officers’ Club, sharing the first five speeches and a look back at 35 years of performing Shakespeare free in the parks.
The Festival’s annual Gala at the Marines Memorial Theatre on April 22, 2017 will also celebrate the past 35 years and look forward to the future, with opportunities to support the “35 Famous Speeches” project, the development of a new musical of As You Like It for 2018, a modular repertory set for future seasons, and Resident Artists and interns.