By Samantha Wilson
City on a Hill Press Reporter

If “all the world is a stage,” then in Santa Cruz theaters, Shakespeare Santa Cruz is headlining the show.

Founded in 1981, Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) is a local theater repertory, which has been hailed by USA Today as “one of the nation’s top 10 most influential Shakespeare companies.”

A much-beloved Santa Cruz institution, SSC has been experiencing great financial hardships and now lacks the necessary funding to continue its run in the 2009 season. Fortunately, with the help of many Santa Cruz groups, SSC is back on its feet and is ready to take the stage for 2009.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz received unfortunate news from UC Santa Cruz last year: The company would have to raise $300,000 itself to keep the shows running. UCSC could no longer contribute to its funding, due to the burden of the university’s own struggles in the downtrodden economy, but would continue to support it in any way possible. One main way is allowing use of theater facilities such as the main stage and outdoor stage.

“When we’re all faced with any different economic climate people will scale back,” Mike Ryan, SSC director and UCSC lecturer in theater arts. “The nonessentials — and in this case theater — start to go and begin to get affected.”

In light of this news, SSC turned to the local community for support, and it readily obliged. The plight of Shakespeare Santa Cruz reached the pages of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News, sparking interest and earnest attempts to get SSC its needed funding. Soon, support sprouted up in unforeseen places.

“There were a lot of large community meetings,” Ryan said. “Groups began popping up and it just became this grassroots effort to help us.”

Some such groups even appeared on Facebook, including the 300-member “Save Shakespeare Santa Cruz,” which employs a plea for theater patrons, fans and UCSC students to join and spread awareness for the cause. Members of all groups, on Facebook and beyond, pledged time and money to save SSC.

Saving the theater company is well worth the cost, said first-year Danielle Goldsmith, a member of the Facebook group.

“I just loved everything I’ve seen so far, especially with ‘Wind in the Willows,’” Goldsmith said. “I couldn’t imagine not having [SSC] around anymore, so I needed to help as much as I could.”

First-year Allison Nishimura has participated in Shakespeare Santa Cruz performances.

“‘Wind in the Willows’ was an amazing experience,” Nishimura said, “and I wanted the opportunity to take part in that again. I know a lot of SSC kids, including myself, donated money to do just that.”

Shakespeare Santa Cruz has surpassed its goal of $300,000. According to the most recent tally, it has raised about $400,000, which confirms the 2009 season and preps it for production. SSC will also continue with its “Shakespeare to Go” educational theater outreach program during the summer repertory season.

“It’s the arts — it’s just necessary,” Nishimura said. “What could be more important for our community?”