The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, which this year celebrated its 30th year of producing Free Shakespeare in the Park in San Francisco, has announced that Rebecca J. Ennals will assume the newly created position of artistic director. She will guide the company’s artistic growth and enhance the connections between its multiple programs.
Ennals supports Executive Director Toby Leavitt in shepherding SF Shakes’ mission to make the words and stories of Shakespeare accessible to all. Both are deeply committed to the idea that Shakespeare’s plays are currently and universally relevant to people across the globe and in our own communities, and that everyone should have the opportunity to experience quality theatre.
Ennals joined the company in 2002 as the marketing and outreach associate and moved into the position of education and outreach director in 2003. She was named artistic director of education programs in 2011. During her tenure with the company, she has directed eight of the company’s Shakespeare On Tour productions, managed the Bay Area Shakespeare Camps, cast every Free Shakespeare in the Park production since 2004, and served as the Artistic Director of Civic Arts Stage Company, a partnership with the City of Pleasanton presenting literature-based youth theater. Ennals’ freelance directing work has been seen at the Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare at Stinson, the Pear Ave Theatre, CCT-San Leandro, Los Altos Youth Theatre, Peninsula Youth Theatre, and PlayGround.
During the summer of 2012, Ennals directed “30 Days of Free Shakespeare in the Parklet” to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary, featuring 30 scenes from 30 of Shakespeare’s plays, performed free of charge as site-specific “pop-up theatre” in various parks and parklets all over the city. On Oct. 13, the company performed its hour-long touring version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of Litcrawl, in the ‘Deepistan National Parklet at 937 Valencia.
Ennals, who currently serves as chairwoman of the Education and Training Committee for the Shakespeare Theatre Association, earned a master of fine arts from the University of California-Davis and a bachelor of arts in theatre from Scripps College.
During her 10-year tenure with the company, Ennals has worked with Leavitt to develop the company’s growing roster of education programs: Shakespeare On Tour, which brings a short version of a Shakespeare play to schools, libraries, and community centers all over the state; Bay Area Shakespeare Camps, which allow children ages 4–18 to perform the plays themselves; Midnight Shakespeare, which gives children and young adults in low-income schools and communities the opportunity to experience the joy of collaboration and performance; Civic Arts Stage Company, which presents literature-based youth theater featuring local kids and adults in Pleasanton; Tailor-Made Shakespeare, which unites SFSF’s Resident Teaching Artists with schools and home-school groups to bring active, project-based Shakespeare instruction into the classroom; and Shakespeare for All, which takes SFSF directors and actors into rural communities to engage with citizens of all ages and help them express themselves through productions of Shakespeare. Shakespeare for All was made possible through a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.
“I’m delighted to have someone with not only Rebecca’s talent, but her values, as the artistic leader of the company,” Leavitt said in a press release. “We both feel passionately that education and outreach are at the core of our company, and that theater and Shakespeare belong to and resonate with all people.”
Said Ennals in the release: “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to increase SF Shakes’ impact here in the Bay Area and throughout the state. I feel that what we do is unique in the theater community and wonderfully, deeply San Franciscan, and I want to celebrate that and share it with as many people as possible. I love that our audience members bring their dogs and kids and bottles of wine to the park and make their own kind of theater experience. I love the die-hard fans who followed us from parklet to parklet all over the city. I love that at our touring shows, the kids talk back to the actors. I believe Shakespeare wrote for these kinds of audiences.”
Ennals will work with Resident Director Kenneth Kelleher, who has directed Free Shakespeare in the Park since 2003, to guide the company’s flagship production. For the company’s 31st season, Kelleher will direct Macbeth. In 2014, Ennals will direct The Taming of the Shrew. Her 2006 production of Shrew at Shakespeare at Stinson was named one of the top ten Bay Area shows of the year by the Pacific Sun. Ennals’ production will use cross-gender and non-traditional casting to explore the gender dynamics of the play. She also will preserve the Christopher Sly framing device.
Free Shakespeare in the Park begins in Pleasanton’s Amador Valley Community Park, with performances in the month of July, before moving to Cupertino’s Memorial Park. The company will then return to Redwood City after its successful debut there last summer, before finishing its run in the Presidio of San Francisco in September. Exact dates will be announced in early 2013. Admission is free. For more information, call the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival at 415-558-0888 or visit www.sfshakes.org
November 24, 2012