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Shakespeare Orange County

Driven from Its Longtime Garden Grove Home,
SOC Gets “Stunning” Santa Ana College

Shakespeare/Summerfest Orange County logoAfter the city of Garden Grove, California, signed an agreement with concert promoter LFA Group to operate the open-air arena in Village Green Park for the next decade, Shakespeare Orange County (SOC) lost the amphitheater for staging its annual summer Shakespeare festivals. The new lease agreement displaced a previous arrangement SOC had with Garden Grove, and then the new landlords squeezed the company's dates to use the facility, ending a 38-year tradition of Shakespeare at the amphitheater.

However, the Department of Theatre at Santa Ana College (SAC) stepped in, offering what SOC Artistic Director John Walcutt calls “a stunningly generous and inspiring” proposal to not only host SOC's annual Shakespeare/Summerfest but forge a close relationship with the theater department.

“We just want you here,” Chris Cannon, head of the theater department said in SOC's press release. “We love what you do, and we want SOC here in the summer.” Cannon, a professional actor and director himself, was joined by colleagues Amberly Chamberlain, and SAC Technical Director Sean Small, in presenting a proposal to SOC. The SOC board toured SAC's facilities and met with Cannon and Small.

“Their enthusiasm, desire, preparation, and the scope of their offer brought us all from ‘maybe we're done' to ‘we have to pursue this,'” Walcutt said in the press release. “It's just too good to pass up.”

The proposal reportedly includes use of rehearsal rooms, the scene shop, the costume shop and years of stored costumes, the staff, and three theatres: 400-seat Phillips Hall, a new 300-seat amphitheater, and a 58-seat black box. Most exciting for the SOC Board was the idea that SAC will provide repeatable, transferable college credit for the SOC season, available to all high school and college students.

“This is a very exciting possibility for us, that our students and young people could get free college credit for being a part of our professional season. A real step up in developing our program,” said Walcutt. Also included in the proposal was the use of Small and SAC faculty, which would be another tremendous boon for the company.

The Board voted to move forward with investigating and formulating the agreement. Walcutt also cited the possibility, as a result of a generous flood of incoming interest from cities and parks throughout Orange County, including Fullerton, Irvine, Anaheim, Newport, Balboa, Huntington, and Westminster, as well as Garden Grove, that SOC might also develop a “touring arm” based at the college. Both SAC and SOC stressed that any new agreement would not make SOC “a college company,” but that SOC would retain its integrity and independence as a professional theater company.

“We think this will be great for our summer enrollment and our profile as a theater program,” Cannon said. Small said: “We really want this to happen. It seems like now is the perfect time.”

SOC has announced a 2019 season, with William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra as well as Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

“We'll formalize the offer and work out the details. Our Board will go over it and we will see if our audience and our community will support us… if there is sufficient support and enthusiasm, we'll do it,” says Walcutt.

December 11, 2018

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