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San Francisco Shakespeare Festival



San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
PO Box 460937
San Francisco, CA 94146-0937


1560 Davidson Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94124

Fed Tax ID




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We believe that Shakespeare experienced in a communal setting – whether it be outdoors, in a classroom or in a theater – elates the soul, inspires the mind and unifies those who sit beside each other. For the majority of our audiences, we are the first point of contact with Shakespeare and the performing arts. Our programming represents the plays in their finest light, demonstrates their relevance to today’s society, and inspires our students and audiences to seek out additional theatrical experiences. By lowering practical and perceptual barriers, the Festival encourages broad participation in the arts and makes these artistic activities an active part of community life.

The Festival plays a vital role in the Bay Area arts community, serving as a catalyst for audience development by reaching thousands of people who otherwise do not attend live theater or may have never experienced it at all. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to arts education, using its programs to foster a life-long appreciation of learning and the arts.

The Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to make the words and themes of Shakespeare accessible to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, financial status or level of education.


  • We believe that art is a public good, and should be available to all.
  • We are an educational organization that promotes lifelong learning. We are often our audience’s first contact with Shakespeare and the performing arts, and we take that responsibility seriously.
  • We strive to be an anti-racist, social justice organization. We hope to create a culture of equity and inclusion, recognizing that we are working within longstanding systems that have traditionally privileged white, cisgender, able-bodied, upper-class, straight males. We work to evaluate those systems and what we might do to destroy them.
  • We recognize that as a company with “Shakespeare” in our name and mission, we are part of a dominant tradition that has privileged European male playwrights over all others. While we value the artistry of Shakespeare’s work, we also problematize his hegemonic place in our culture.
  • We believe that representation matters, on and offstage. We actively recruit under-represented candidates for all roles and positions within the organization. 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.
  • Our current policy is to cast each production with at least 60% artists of color and at least 60% artists who identify as female, non-binary, genderqueer or trans. We recognize that these policies are not inclusive of all types of difference among people and continue to work toward wider representation.
  • We strive to create a “brave space,” free from harassment, in which all can expect physical safety. We challenge the notion of “safe space” because we believe expectations of comfort by those who traditionally experience privilege should be challenged. We also believe that when disagreements arise, we should lean into conflict and attempt to find common ground and resolution rather than disengage completely.
  • We seek to create a timeful mindset rather than a mindset of scarcity or sense of urgency. We strive to fit the task to the time and not push ourselves beyond our capacity. We will regularly revisit our goals and the time allotted to achieve them with a sense of flexibility during this new, iterative process, while also remaining accountable to our external partners and each other.

Land Acknowledgement

We, the board, staff, and artists of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, gratefully acknowledge that the home office of SF Shakes sits on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples who are the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula. As the indigenous stewards of this land and in accordance with their traditions, the Ramaytush Ohlone have never ceded, lost nor forgotten their responsibilities as the caretakers of this place, as well as for all peoples who reside in their traditional territory. We recognize that we have benefited from living and working on  their traditional homeland, and we affirm their sovereign rights as first peoples. We encourage all who live and work on this land to educate ourselves about the Ramaytush Ohlone via their website,, and to support their ongoing decolonizing and re-indigenization efforts.

As a Shakespeare company, we also recognize that the works of Shakespeare have been used to cause harm to indigenous nations and to eradicate and replace their native languages. We have a particular responsibility to address and repair this harm by naming it in our educational and performance work, and lifting up  the voices that the dominance of Shakespeare’s work has displaced from our stages and our classrooms.


Updates on our ongoing efforts to be a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization:

We extended the date of this update from December 2023 to allow more time for its drafting.

Since our last update in June, 2023, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.


Supporting BIPOC Leadership

Supporting BIPOC leaders is not neutral, and we are here naming several dynamics at SF Shakes that are undermining our BIPOC leaders. While these dynamics also occur among white people at SF Shakes, we are highlighting their disparate impact on BIPOC leaders, which can drain their energy, satisfaction and joy:

  • application of patriarchal and white supremacist standards, including disparagement of nonwhite people as being unprofessional or incompetent. 
  • characterizing communication from BIPOC leaders as “aggressive” and “all about race”.
  • interruption and talking over BIPOC people.
  • withholding trust from BIPOC leadership, questioning decisions made by BIPOC leaders; not implementing decisions made in consultation with BIPOC leaders  

In part to begin to address the above, we implemented several tools from ArtEquity’s training, Strategies for Change, including:

  • revising job postings to highlight SF Shakes’ commitment to equity, inclusion, and antiracism and revising job descriptions to include the importance of enacting EDI values.
  • expanding our interview process in order to better assess candidates through a lens of racial justice. Artistic Director Carla Pantoja conducted a post-audition, pre-hire interview for Shakespeare on Tour actors and designers.
  • documenting outlets for posting open positions, and creating an outreach plan for each open position.
  • providing ongoing training: two production team members took ArtEquity’s Everyday Justice, and in February, Strategies for Change will be taken by two Resident Artists, two board members, and an Education Workgroup member. 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Carla Pantoja’s assumption of the role of Artistic Director, we are navigating the plain fact that Carla is SF Shakes’ first BIPOC Artistic Director, and the significance of this for her and the organization without reducing her experience to that tokenization; SF Shakes is supportive of Carla’s decision to be self-protective, and of her choices to eschew some environments where she could primarily be viewed as, “SF Shakes’ first BIPOC Artistic Director.”

SF Shakes’ strategic planning process continues, and is currently framing its focus areas as 1) building strategic focus (building on SF Shakes’ mission & vision with a “big goal statement”, 2) growing and stabilizing income, and 3) developing leadership capacity.

EDI consultant Diedra Barber, of Filament Consulting continues to consult on the strategic plan, stressing that it’s not just what we do but how we are with each other. Diedra also continues to meet with Carla and Toby, and Carla will be meeting individually more consistently with Diedra beginning in February.

SF Shakes’ desire to uplift and uphold a more just pay and work environment has affected how much each program costs. By raising the price point for every program we offer to the public, it potentially places these programs out of reach. This is in direct conflict with our mission of making the words and themes of Shakespeare accessible to all. We are not the only company dealing with this, but we share this way in which our values are in tension with capitalistic structures.

We see collaboration with local artists and arts organizations as an essential way forward to continue to expand impact and transform the local theater ecology. To that end:

  • We partnered with Cal Shakes to perform Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Bruns.
  • We held group auditions with six local Shakespeare companies; this served 172 auditionees. We caused frustration by not having capacity to see additional actors. We amended our audition notice encouraging submissions from “actors of all abilities” to “disabled actors” after a member of the disabled community pointed out that this practice obscures the word “disabled” and undermines the intent of welcoming disabled actors to consider auditioning, for which we are appreciative.




What Worked

  • Based on previous feedback from the intern company, interns worked more directly with designers on props, costumes, etc; this was well received by interns. Designers and other intern supervisors recommended trainings on intern supervision for future, rather than assuming it as a skill set. We agree, and will also add this as a desirable skill for positions that supervise interns.
  • The script workshop is serving those with access needs by providing additional time with the script and the company. This makes our process more equitable for all types of learners, particularly those with neurodivergences and for those with social anxiety.
  • Tufts University Professor Stephan Pennington served as a cultural consultant to support the choice of Posthumus’ identity within the world of Cymbeline being transmasculine. Stephan met individually and in groups with the actors and understudies playing Posthumus and Imogen; Stephan was also featured in a talkback after an online watch party with a specific focus on gender in Shakespeare’s time and use of gender in this production of the play. 
  • Provided support for de-escalating conflict with our neighbors experiencing homelessness during rehearsals. 

What Didn’t Work

  • The time scarcity of tech week was exacerbated by – among many factors – high temperatures and the City of Cupertino’s double-booking of Memorial Park. To lessen urgency and impact on company members during tech week, we are considering extending the preview period. This extension could also challenge our internalized habits of neglecting our well being.
  • Full-time understudies felt insufficient rehearsals were scheduled, particularly on stage. Additional understudy rehearsals were scheduled, including on stage during the run. Before next season, we will examine how better to prepare understudies.
  • There was not clear and consistent direction for production crew and interns on when to take breaks; for summer 2024, we will align break schedules across all production teams. 
  • Pre-performance check-ins became a source of tension, welcomed by some and not others and sometimes impacting available time for other pre-performance activities; we will be more intentional about how we build check-ins to the pre-performance timetable for future productions.Check-ins have become a part of our daily program practice based on feedback from folks on how to show up in the room. This entails: name, pronouns, anything that may affect how that person is able to participate in the room. .
  • Communications about the new performance location were insufficient. As new performance venues are anticipated in future, we will pay particular attention to this going forward, providing more transparent, timely and complete information.
  • Performance interns were primarily interested in the aspects of the internship that related to performance; this unintentionally upheld a hierarchy of acting interns over production interns; in 2024, we will not offer performance internships, instead investing in our production internships by expanding the mentorship and portfolio development of these interns. 
  • There are varying levels of familiarity and comfort with the role of an intimacy director and a cultural consultant; we will invest in the definition and communication of these roles, and add structure to how they are utilized in the rehearsal process, including understudy put-ins and brush-ups when they are utilized. 
  • The ombuds process during Free Shakespeare in the Park did not provide its intended channel to support the company in conflict resolution and the raising of concerns; for Shakespeare on Tour, we are piloting different reporting and conflict resolution practices and will revisit the role of ombudspeople before the 2024 Free Shakespeare in the Park summer season.


We took another step toward acquiring more inclusive demographics; these self-identified demographics are shared below (please note that where people self-identified in multiple categories, all are reported):

Intern Company (out of 12 members)

  • Black/African American – 2 (16.66%)
  • Asian-American – 5 (41.66%)
  • Latinx – 3 (25%)
  • White – 2 (16.66%)
  • Female – 7 (58.33%)
  • Male – 4 (33.33%)
  • Trans/non-binary – 4 (33.33%)

Acting Company (out of 10 members)

  • Black/African American – 3 (30%)
  • Asian-American – 2 (20%)
  • White – 4 (40%)
  • Mixed Race – 1 (10%)
  • Female – 4 (40%)
  • Male – 6 (60%)
  • Trans/non-binary – 2 (20%)
  • Disabled – 0 (0%)

Production Team (Designers, stage management, crew / out of 10 members)

  • Black/African American – 0 (0%)
  • Asian-American – 5 (21.05%)
  • Lainx – 2 (10.52%)
  • Indigenous – 1 (5.26%)
  • White – 11 (57.89%)
  • Female – 12 (63.15%)
  • Male – 3 (15.78%)
  • Trans/non-binary – 4 (21.05%)
  • Disabled – 2 (10.52%)


In November, a reading of this script in development took place at the Women’s Building in San Francisco.


  • Completed a residency at North Bay Special Education school Star Academy with a hybrid model of residencies mixed with Shakespeare’s Heartbeat methodology.
  • Resumed teaching classes at College of Adaptive Arts.
  • Hired ten teaching artists to attend a January training, including five teaching artists who identify as BIPOC and three who openly identify as neurodivergent.


Participants performed a showcase in December.

Since our last update on December 20, 2022, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.


  • Carla Pantoja was hired as SF Shakes’ next Artistic Director in Feb, 2023. 
  • The Artistic Director Transition Team was in full support of Carla’s career and personal goals, and so she began working part-time (apx 24 hour/week) and had flexibility in her work schedule while concurrently employed as a fight director at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
  • Previous Artistic Director Rebecca J. Ennal’s part time contract was extended by mutual agreement to provide additional availability to support Carla’s onboarding. An exit interview was conducted by board chair Cynthia Francis.
  • Carla and Executive Director Toby Leavitt are meeting regularly with EDI consultant Diedra Barber, of Filament Consulting. Carla is also meeting individually with Diedra on a regular basis. 
  • Carla, Toby and Production Manager Pratiksha Shah took ArtEquity’s training, Strategies for Change. The training underscored the importance of supporting BIPOC leaders and highlighted dynamics that undermine them. We are seeing these dynamics at play throughout our theater community, and are recognizing and dismantling them within SF Shakes. The training provided tools to support BIPOC leadership, and we commit to reporting in Dec on the implementation of several of these tools.


  • Strategic planning team of Carla, Toby, board members Roshni Jain and Jonathan Palley, Education Workgroup Member Evan Held and Resident Artist Ron Chapman picked up where preplanning team left off
  • Continued input from Resident Artists, Education Workgroup, at staff, board and company meetings, in review & reflect process for seasonal staff; additionally feedback is being solicited from a sounding board team of Development Associate Meredith Eldred, Education Workgroup Member Charlie Lavaroni, Production Manager Pratisha Shah, Resident Artist Maryssa Wanlass, Communication Specialist Joshua Waterstone
  • Work to date has focussed on articulating purpose, impact, and resources; work is  continuing through November; an update will included in the next Accountability update.


  • The Resident Artist company hosted five community cold reads to narrow down the possible titles for Free Shakespeare in the Park 2023. This title was chosen for the epic quality of the story, one that had not recently been performed by the company, and a play not being currently produced in the greater Bay Area.
  • A director selection committee consisting of Production Manager Pratiksha Shah and Resident Artists Sydney Schwindt, Ron Chapman, Regina Morones, and Carla Pantoja interviewed five director candidates.
  • Auditions and callbacks were held in person this year, with director Maryssa Wanlass hosting group warm ups prior to individual warm ups which were received very well by actors. 
  • We are compiling demographics and will share them in the next update. 
  • An interaction with a person experiencing a mental health crisis at the audition site prompted the group to seek further de-escalation training and to update the list of supporting organizations available to help individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Through the Healing Well, six members of our Engagement, Education, and Free Shakespeare in the Park team received de-escalation training.
  • Interns received expanded orientation training prior to the start of Free Shakes rehearsal process.
  • To address the potential for overburden of ombudspeople, a training is scheduled with Diedra Barber (Filament Consulting) to help give tools of support. In addition, the creation of defined job descriptions and contracts for ombudspeople are currently being refined to help maintain clear boundaries.
  • An open invitation to directors was distributed this month in order to give prospective directors more agency and to create a more transparent director and season selection process. Accompanying that open call is a fact sheet of possible positions and pay scale in order for directors to make a choice in how they want to work with SF Shakes.


  • In 2023, Shakespeare on Tour performed at 16 Title 1 schools. We will maintain this statistic going forward (this was not tracked in prior years.)
  • Review and Reflect process gathered feedback, which is being processed at this time.
  • The tour performed at its two Shakespeare’sHeartbeat school partner sites (Francisco and Everett Middle School, and a prospective school partner site (Aptos Middle School); at each of these schools a playshop customized for neurodiverse students was conducted; this playshop was also conducted and Gianini and Marina Middle Schools (they preferred this to the whole play.) The tour also performed at Shakespeare for All Neighbors partner site the Healing Well, preceded by a community storytelling workshop.(no fee was charged in these instances.)


Job descriptions for the Director-Collaborator and Conductora were co-created, as was a project timeline; the goal was for these artists to feel supported and accountable.

Since our last update on June 30, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.


SF Shakes performed Free Shakespeare in the Park completely in person after a 2-year hiatus. We performed a fully virtual King Lear in 2020 and an episodic, hybrid Pericles in 2021 (with the final episode in the park).

What worked

  • 90 minute show: The shorter duration was appreciated by cast, crew as well as audience members.
  • Smaller footprint: No lighting and minimal set left a much smaller footprint and helped with the move to various locations.
  • 8 week season: The 8 week season felt like a good length for most of the cast and crew members.
  • Paid Internships: The second year of paid internships were appreciated and applauded by everyone.
  • Understudies: full-time understudies were appreciated and turned out to be very necessary.
  • Welcome guide: The literary Intern with support of the Engagement team created a welcome guide which had information about each location.
  • Individual dressing rooms: Still a favorite for the second year.
  • Crew: The new position of Master Carpenter, 3 returning sound crew, and having a 4-person sound crew at McLaren Park were also important to success.

What didn’t work

  • Carpools: They could have been more structured and some stipend should have been provided by SF Shakes.
  • Costume laundry: Wardrobe supervisor faced many challenges to do costume laundry at home/in laundromats.
  • Audition process: As per a previous report, the audition process had severe challenges and some harm was done to artists; immediate steps were taken to lessen the damage and harm. In addition, we concluded that in-person callbacks are a must for the in-park production.
  • Filming: Filming day needs more planning and clarity from the director team as well as the filming crew.
  • Community engagement: Director team and Engagement team weren’t able to connect and decide the course of engagement events this year. Hence there was a lack of community engagement events.

Other learnings

  • The hiring environment is very challenging and it is difficult to hire BIPOC crew members. Hiring a load crew is an ongoing challenge.
  • Hiring an AEA Stage manager is in a major crisis. It has been a problem for the past couple of years but it is becoming a more prominent issue now.(this and the above are industry crises that impact SF Shakes.)
  • We ended up re-casting three actors over the course of pre-production and rehearsals. This is not unusual and we need to build time for this.
  • Labor Day performance was successful for some and not for others – crew and interns found it very challenging, but cast in general enjoyed it and were glad we chose to perform a modified staged reading of the show in the heat wave.
  • Sound system requires regular maintenance, upgrade as well as update and cleaning.
  • For folks with disabilities, there could be more accessibility and support.
  • Artistic excellence – While we have adjusted the size of the set to be more manageable by a smaller crew in a shorter time, there’s some concern whether continuing to have minimal sets, no lighting, etc will continue to be artistically challenging and interesting. We need to work within capacity while also continuing to innovate and challenge ourselves.
  • Heat policy needs updating and the decision for not performing needs to be made earlier in the day, preferably before set-up.

We took another step toward acquiring more inclusive, self-identified demographics, below:

Intern company

  • Black/African-American – 2 (22%)
  • Asian-American- 5 (55%)
  • White – 2 (22%)
  • Female – 6 (66%)
  • Male – 1 (11%)
  • Trans/non-binary – 2 (22%)
  • Disabled – 1

Acting company

  • Black/African-American – 3
  • Asian-American – 3
  • Indigenous – 2
  • White – 4
  • Mixed-race – 1
  • Female – 6
  • Male – 5
  • Trans/non-binary – 2
  • Disabled – 1

Production team (stage management and crew)

  • Black/African-American – 1
  • Asian-American – 1
  • Latinx – 4
  • Indigenous – 1
  • White – 6
  • Female- 10
  • Male- 1
  • Trans/non-binary – 2
  • Disabled – 1

We did not collect demographic data from directors and designers.


The Education Workgroup wants to acknowledge that we are in a state of transition as workgroup membership changes, and in anticipation of the departure of Artistic Director Rebecca Ennals (who will be sorely missed.) These transitions are orienting our group towards restructuring and redistributing responsibilities.



The Residency Subgroup has partnered with Shakespeare on Tour in order to help reinforce both post-tour playshop curriculums and pre-tour curriculums sent ahead of time to classrooms. The groups are planning a joint training session to take place in January with both Teaching Artists and Tour Actors in order to best prepare our entire educational staff for work in the classrooms.



Shakespeare’s Heartbeat continues strong at Francisco Middle School, and is thrilled to be adding a new year-long course at another SFUSD location of Everett Middle School. In addition, the programming at the College of Adaptive Arts has shifted to a fully virtual environment, allowing us to reach a larger number of students. SF Shakes hosted a virtual watch party of our production of Much Ado About Nothing for the students of the College of Adaptive Arts in order to create a space for the students to have easier access to the production, and found the captioning to be exceptionally helpful for accessibility.



Bay Area Shakespeare Camps returned to in-person programming this summer for the first time in two years. We served 81 students among three camp venues, which required 15 SF Shakes staff.The Education Workgroup has made great progress experimenting with lateral leadership and creating a more equitable and creative working environment. Our summer camp curriculum and scripts have received much-needed updates, and a great deal of care and effort towards inclusion was taken in approaching hiring and teaching methods. There has been a nationwide staffing shortage for summer camps, and unfortunately SF Shakes was no exemption. However we did manage to engage several teaching artists and interns who were new to us and expand our teaching pool. Many new campers joined us this year as well. We had to re-establish relationships with many of the locations we previously held summer camps at and look for new ones due to staff turnover during the pandemic.After camps were over, the Education Workgroup conducted a thorough review of the summer and came up with some strategies to make the structure of the workgroup work more effectively for the in-person camp model. We also came to the conclusion that the camps are not financially sustainable on their own income. Paying teachers a fair wage and affording rent, while keeping the enrollment fees affordable, requires contributions/funding from elsewhere within the company to allow them to continue to function.



Free Shakespeare in the Park Literary Intern Violet Elisandre created a cast and crew welcome guide.We have reconnected with the Healing Well in San Francisco to deliver workshops to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. After establishing the relationship and beginning programming together in 2019 and 2020, the pandemic impacted our ability to collaborate. We reconnected at Free Shakespeare in the Park, with the Healing Well, bringing a group to see the performance. We then began to meet more regularly, learning that the Healing Well is building a new space for themselves and they are interested in adding “Shakespeare and Storytelling” workshop to their offerings. A 6-week pilot program of this workshop is being held Dec 9, 2022.



Season Planning

  • Hosted informal cold readings of five plays via Zoom with the SF Shakes community in order to be transparent about our exploratory script process. All who are invited to the Company meeting were invited to attend in order to read and discuss the play.
  • A challenge of communicating via multiple platforms (Slack and email blast) caused missed connections that will be addressed by sending out earlier and using those platforms everytime.
  • The informal cold readings were welcomed by those attending and the Resident Artist company plans to continue hosting these readings throughout the year.

Artistic Program Support

  • Regina Morones, David Moore, and Carla Pantoja have started the process of creating an Ombudsperson committee and identifying the training needed to support the ombuds folk.
  • There was an initial training prior to Free Shakes 2022 and BASC 2022 to help support the ombuds of those programs led by Diedra Barber.
  • Regina created a flow chart to help identify how and when to involve an ombuds during times of conflict and a flow chart for ombuds to identify next steps in conflict resolution.
  • Ron Chapman and David Moore researched future Transformative Justice training for the company.



  • Shakespeare on Tour is relaunching after an extended pandemic hiatus, during which the tour committee (see prior accountability update) examined work practices, compensation, and how to better support this program.
  • The Tour Committee selected two Resident Artists to lead the Spring 2023 tour, both with experience with past tours – Sydney Schwindt as director and Robyn Grahn as Assistant Director/Tour Production Manager.
  • While concerned about the price increase necessary to pay equitable wages to actors and provide sufficient support to the Tour team, the Tour Committee resisted reducing pre-production costs or labor costs, and set up guidelines for span of day.
  • The Marketing team adapted new processes to ensure that the cast is scheduled according to these guidelines, considering all travel, set-up, and tear-down time in the span of day, in line with the requirements of the AEA TYA contract.
  • Despite the higher price tag for the Tour and accompanying Playshops, the Marketing team has been able to successfully engage with schools and other tour clients. Future reports will share how the Spring 2023 tour compares to pre-pandemic bookings.
  • The team is currently considering ways to visit under-resourced schools and community partners this spring.


Overall the hiring/casting process for Tour has reflected the reality that this program has been on hiatus for 2 ½ years, with an uncertain re-start time.  Auditions were held in a hybrid mode with the director on zoom and auditioners either in person or on zoom. We were not able to fully realize the goal of having all actors at in-person callbacks.

Casting for the Tour proved to be particularly challenging this year, due to a shorter planning timeline (still recovering from pandemic schedule uncertainty) and ongoing issues with finding a diverse group of non-union actors.

  • Instead of the desired 60% BIPOC cast members, the cast (per self-identification) currently includes 2 full-time actors who identify as white European, one who identifies as Ashkenazi Jewish, one who identifies as South Asian-American, and one who identifies as African-American, and the Alternate company includes 3 white European actors, one Latinx actor, and one Iranian-American (MENA) actor.
  • Out of 32 actors who auditioned, 20 identify as white European, 4 as Black/African-American, 2 as Latinx, 2 as Asian-American, 0 as Indigenous, and 2 as Middle Eastern/North African (MENA). Some actors declined to state or did not complete the form.

The casting team (Schwindt, Grahn, Ennals, Morones) has identified the following ways to improve the diversity of those auditioning:

  • Casting team attends more productions at non-Equity theatres before auditions begin, to meet up-and-coming actors and personally invite them to audition.
  • Continue to add to list of places to post auditions so that they will be seen by a more diverse group of local actors.
  • Continue to have a Casting Associate in addition to the directing team. This position was added for the first time for Shakespeare on Tour, fulfilled by Regina Morones; this was crucial with an all-white directing team, and this practice will continue. The hours for this position will be expanded.
  • Continue to build deeper relationships with colleges and training programs. This year, we were unable due to a short runway to do in-person auditions at PCPA, but we will return to this practice and look for ways to expand.
  • Review language in audition postings and related communication; the language should emphasize why a diverse cast is crucial for Shakespeare on Tour, without being tokenistic.


Artist Carolina Morones and SF Shakes are partnering to develop and present a staged reading of Morones’ new play Querida Sor Juana/ Dear Sor Juana in May, 2023.

Originally conceived for the Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival (BAWTF) in March 2020 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Covid-19 led to the cancellation of this event. Morones preferred not to present the work virtually, and SFSF honored her choice.

This play represents Latin American characters of historical importance played by Latinx actors, and centers Latinx artists as writers/directors/collaborators.. We will explore how best to create a supportive writing and research process.

Querida Sor Juana offers the opportunity to expand the canonical expectations of a Shakespeare theater company and represents a step in decolonizing Shakespeare-centered theater companies by making discursive space for diverse voices from the same era.

In November, Morones and SFSF’s Artistic and Executive Directors, Rebecca Ennals and Toby Leavitt, followed guidance from a workshop hosted by Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to co-create an MOU.


The search for SFSF’s next artistic director is being conducted by an Artistic Director Transition Team. Team membership includes Board Chair Cynthia Francis, Education Workgroup member Evan Held, Executive Director Toby Leavitt, Resident Artist David Moore, and Production Manager Pratiksha Shah.
An open invitation was extended to each area of the Festival to self-nominate for team participation, and the diversity of the team – particularly gender and race/ethnicity – were also taken into account in team formation.

The choice to conduct the search via this team was informed by many conversations, both within SF Shakes, and with several search firms and artistic directors at other theaters, particularly those who were the first artistic directors of color at their theaters. After much consideration, SFSF decided to maintain the existing position and reporting structure, and to commit to a strategic planning process that looked at both in context of many other strategic questions. This was transparently disclosed in the position’s job description, to which many gave input, including a human resources professional and a DEI consultant. A detailed dissemination plan was also developed, with care to extend invitations to apply and requests for referrals from BIPOC individuals with whom the company has relationships.

Some statistics on the search, which remains ongoing:

  • Of 54 submissions received to date, 21 were recommended for initial screenings; all team members had access to all submission material, and all applications were reviewed by at least two team members
  • 21 initial screenings, consisting of 20-minute interviews via zoom, were conducted; (11 female; 10 male, no non-binary; 10 BIPOC; 11 white)
  • 7 panel interviews, consisting of 75-minute interviews via zoom, were conducted (5 female, 2 male; 5 BIPOC, 2 white)
  • The same questions, based on the job description, were posed during all screening & panel interviews
  • A series of individual candidate meetings were then conducted with the ED; the purpose of these conversations was to learn more deeply about the candidate and for them to learn more about the company, with a goal of transparency and trust, sharing knowledge so both the candidates and the organization could make an informed decision about the job opportunity; candidates were compensated for their time during this and the subsequent stage of inquiry.
  • 3 candidates have had introductory meetings via zoom to which all board, staff, resident artists and education workgroup members were invited (a recording was also made available to accommodate scheduling and other access needs.); feedback on the candidates was invited from each person who participated in these introductory meetings
  • Updates on the status of the search are being provided to those in the organization on a regular basis; additionally, team members are available to address individual questions and receive feedback.

We are learning from some issues we have encountered:

  • There have been lapses in communication with candidates; two candidates reached out to SFShakes staff members to ask for updates when timely information was not forthcoming.
  • A BIPOC candidate expressed concern about SFSF’s financial position, especially the conclusion of pandemic and other one-time funding; as expressed in this article, our field is asking whether we are setting BIPOC Artistic Directors up for failure and considering ways to support ADs and enable their success.
  • An SF Shakes board member resigned, citing dissatisfaction with the search process.

We had hoped to conclude the search process by October, and now believe January is a realistic goal. To facilitate onboarding, the current Artistic Director is being contracted for additional training time in early 2023.


Concurrent with the launch of the Artistic Director Transition Team, a Strategic Pre-planning Team was launched to prepare the organization to start a strategic planning process.
An open invitation was extended to each area of the Festival to self-nominate for team participation, and the diversity of the team – particularly gender and race/ethnicity – were also taken into account in team formation.
The Strategic Preplanning Team membership includes Artistic Director Rebecca Ennals, Board Co-Vice Chair Roshni Jain, Education Workgroup member Charlie Lavaroni, Executive Director Toby Leavitt, Resident Artist Carla Pantoja, and Production Manager Pratiksha Shah.

Activities of the team included:

  • Affirming the continued engagement of facilitator Robert Martin of Aquarius Consulting
  • Gathering input and encouraging participation by leading strategic planning exercises at various meetings of the staff, Resident Artists, Education Workgroup, board of directors) and at the November Company Meeting.
  • Gathering additional input from Free Shakespeare in the Park seasonal staff through the end-of-season review and reflect process.
  • Reviewing prior strategic plan and relevant data
  • Developing the objectives and scope of the strategic planning process, including an overall roadmap, a plan for engaging diverse members of the SF Shakes community (both internal and external folks who are invested in the company), and a timeline.
  • Putting out an open call for participation in the Strategic Planning team (anticipating membership change from the pre-planning team.)

Updates on the status of the strategic planning process are being provided to those in the organization on a regular basis; additionally, team members are available to address individual questions and receive feedback.

Since our last update on December 20, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.

Accountability Update Processes
The process for holding company meetings and publishing accountability updates has been updated, documented, and disseminated. In advance of the next update, expected in December 2022, we are planning a process that is more efficient while also being mindful of the appropriate amount of time that said process will need. We intend this process to allow for more communication and co-development among more teams, and be a step towards making accountability an active ongoing practice throughout the organization.

This update is more focused on accountability and less on programmatic activity. While programmatic updates are important, they are to be shared in different ways outside of this accountability update.

Resident Artists

  • In order to create more transparency, the Resident Artist company opened up the selection process of new Resident Artists by creating a self submission format.
  • Candidates who applied went through an interview process and offers went out shortly after.
  • A total of five candidates applied with one applicant accepted.
  • All candidates can re-apply for the RA company on a season-to-season basis.
  • As the addition of new Resident Artists are considered, racial equity among this group (specifically over 50% BIPOC members) will be maintained.

Free Shakespeare in the Park

  • Casting and hiring were completed in the week just prior to this report. We look forward to giving a more detailed report of our hiring demographics in the next update. We also recognize that our past demographics did not represent all aspects of identity that are important to our community members, and we are actively seeking more thoughtful and inclusive ways to report demographics. We are also considering the tokenizing effect of quotas versus the benefit of having concrete goals to work toward when it comes to diverse representation.
  • During the casting process, SF Shakes did not consistently communicate with actors in a timely fashion. While this unacceptable situation was rectified, harm was done. At least two BIPOC artists withdrew from the audition process because of the inconsistency in the process. SF Shakes apologized and the actors ended up auditioning. Going forward, we will streamline the process of scheduling auditions and are looking into scheduling apps that can make this easier and less time-consuming and subject to human error.Additionally, some artists received a generic, impersonal invitation that didn’t value their existing relationships with SF Shakes. This stemmed from gaps in SF Shakes’ internal knowledge bases and processes. SF Shakes apologized, and going forward these important pre-existing relationships will be acknowledged in audition invitations and related email communication.
  • As was the case in 2021, we will not be meeting our hiring goals of hiring 60% of BIPOC designers & production staff for this program in 2022. The current shortage of local designers and other theater work force members is exacerbating this situation.
  • As was identified in our last accountability update, we are actively planning for how to care for the caregivers (ombudspeople and staff) when they are holding space and dealing with issues as they arise. A training will be held for staff and ombudspeople early in the summer to help build capacity for this work.
  • The Engagement team and Literary Intern are creating a Welcome Guide with resources for all company members, including accessibility information (transit, food, exercise/recreation options). Over time, this guide will offer additional resources as well, with a goal of addressing as many needs as possible before they arise, rather than putting the onus on individuals to make individual requests.
  • In response to health effects experienced by company members last year, we are revising our AQI/Heat policy to require KN95s outdoors during moderately smoky rehearsal days in order to preserve long-term health for company members.

Shakespeare on Tour

  • In the interest of ensuring that the Shakespeare On Tour program maintains its sustainability, pays actors equitable wages, and no longer burdens one or two individuals with the entire load of production support, a group of Resident Artists and past Shakespeare On Tour artists formed a team to examine best practices for the program in advance of its return to in-person performances.
  • The team looked at current Actors’ Equity Association’s “Theatre for Young Audiences” contract requirements and how they might be implemented both now and in the future; the team also vetted the budget, including a pricing structure for the next tour.
  • The team is concerned that by raising the price of the tour in order to pay equitable wages, we are pricing out under-resourced schools. We are exploring how to support a sustainable and affordable tour.

Education Workgroup

  • As SF Shakes transitions to in-person programming, the Education Workgroup (EW) is grappling with the role of earned income and its conflict with our educational values. As with Shakespeare on Tour, the EW is having de-siloed conversations with both the fundraising and engagement teams to explore additional contributed revenue sources, as well as resources that could be provided through additional education-based partnerships.
  • The EW is a majority white workgroup. We identify this as reflective of SF Shakes’ history of racial inaccessibility, and the need for this to change. We recognize the history of predominantly white institutions employing BIPOC (an insufficient term that we lack a replacement for) in order to appear diverse, while refusing to change structurally or culturally, thereby remaining hostile and inaccessible. We are in conversation about how to shift in an intentional way that does not tokenize, perpetuate harm, or virtue signal.

Engagement Team
The Engagement Team is lacking diverse racial and ethnic representation, and recognizes that in order to attract and retain diverse team members, we must first take a look at our internal culture. The Engagement Director is currently engaged in several strategic listening sessions, and will strengthen the team’s onboarding and recruiting process thereafter.

SF Shakes’s next strategic planning process will begin at the end of the calendar year. It will examine, among other things, the organization’s leadership structure and how best to rebalance capacity as it transitions from covid-related government subsidies. A pre-planning team is being formed, with representation from its board, staff, EW, and RAs.

Since our last update on June 7th, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.


Hiring breakdown
• Intern Company: 85% BIPOC; 100% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Acting Company: 75% BIPOC; 55% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Designers and Directors: 40% BIPOC; 80% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Production team (stage management team and the crew): 44% BIPOC; 72% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying

We didn’t meet our 60% BIPOC goal in the hiring of the designers and crew. We are actively seeking to foster relationships with BIPOC artists through Facebook groups and other affinity spaces. We partnered with SF Youth Theatre to identify and welcome BIPOC interns.

Our demographics lack information about Disabled company members. We did invite folks to share access needs each day as a regular practice. We plan to address this in the future.

In 2021, SF Shakes offered paid internships for the first time, which led to greater access and inclusion. We were able to hire a total of 7 interns over the course of the production.

Because of the virtual aspect of our hybrid Pericles, we received over 400 audition submissions from across the country. This year, our acting company zoomed in from New York, Texas, New Hampshire, Oregon, and here in California. Each actor received a tech kit to be used during the entirety of the virtual performances.

For audiences unable to join us live in person, we filmed the last episode and ran all four episodes on YouTube for free until November 1, 2021. All recordings included closed-captioning for additional access.

Equitable practices
As is our practice, Company Culture training was held in the first week of virtual rehearsal in June, for all involved in Pericles. Company Culture training introduces the group to SF Shakes’ values, norms, policies, and establishes agreements for going forward in rehearsal. Part of the training is also going over conflict resolution and reporting structures. An anonymous feedback form was available to the entire company for the duration of Pericles, reviewed by two ombudspeople – one in cast, one outside of cast.

Additional Company Culture training was done in August as we transitioned from virtual to in-person rehearsals and performances, including in-person agreements, Covid safety, intimacy training, and a presentation by a mental health expert.

Review & Reflect process happened in October, including an anonymous survey & open Zoom meetings. The survey had solid participation but meetings were lightly attended.

Despite our intentions to do so, we did NOT do a midpoint survey; this is a goal for 2022.

Some of our learnings from the Review & Reflect process included:

• The addition of full-time paid understudies was enormously valuable and we will likely do this sooner and more extensively in the future.

• The decision to hire 3 sound crew instead of 1 for the in-person performances added capacity, reduced burnout, and led to success.

• The span of the day during virtual and in person rehearsals/performances was reduced, with a 8-hour maximum for crew and no 10 out of 12s. We continue to refine our humane scheduling practices to fewer hours per day and fewer days per week, acknowledging that if the cast is working 8 hours per day, the creative and production teams are still working 10 or 12.

• The smaller set and pared down storage required less strain on the production team and less of a footprint in local parks. Each actor had their own private dressing room built into the backstage area, which reduced the need for site services and increased equitable privacy for all cast members.

• The AQI/Heat policy wasn’t sufficient for coping with multiple consecutive days of moderate/unhealthy for sensitive groups AQI. In the future we need stronger mandates about all wearing N-95 masks on smoky days. On the plus side, we let go of the “show must go on” mentality and delayed opening in favor of caring for actors’ health.

• In the future, we need to look at how to care for the caregivers (ombudsfolk & staff) when they are holding space and dealing with crises.



Since our last update in June, the Education Workgroup further developed its non-hierarchical structure, with the Leadership sphere of Education being more representative of available time to manage projects. Most spheres overlap, but consist of Education, Leadership, Residencies, Camps & Classes, and Outreach. Meeting time management was evaluated by the whole of the workgroup with the conclusion that taking time and allowing for additional space fostered a creative and productive environment. The group was given a paid week off November 22 – 26 for both salaried and hourly members of the group.

The workgroup currently has 11 active members with varying amounts of time commitment: Rebecca Ennals, Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held, Regina Morones, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, Marie Morley, Brittany Villars, Charlie Lavaroni, Michaela Stewart, and Rainier Pearl-Styles.

• Virtual Summer Camps continued successfully through July and August. A Review & Reflect process was held to see what aspects of the camp process can be improved. We received uniformly positive feedback from the few families that responded, as well as from our teaching artists, who found the shorter days and longer sessions conducive to effective teaching with less burn out.

• An education menu was developed to further engage with schools as they transitioned to in-person learning and provide a more consistent means to communicate our educational offerings. A postcard was sent out to teachers and schools featuring commissioned artwork from student Nina Mccambridge. A collaboration between Education Workgroup members and Marketing reached out to schools to engage directly with educators, including John Western, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, and Brittany Villars.

• The outreach team surveyed schools regarding readiness for in-person Shakespeare on Tour performances. Based on their input, there is a solid plan to return in Fall 2022. A cross-functional team was established with inclusion across the Education, Artistic, and Engagement spheres; the team will examine past work practices and reimagine what tour could be, upholding organizational practice to consciously interrupt assumptions and not assume we should return to what was. The team currently consists of Akaina Gosh, Ayelet Schrek, Carla Pantoja, Evan Held, Maryssa Wanlass, and Robyn Grahn.

• Residency partnership expectations and agreements were documented along with a form for residency requests and intake. Curriculum is currently in development for these residencies. A Romeo and Juliet specific residency was developed in response to community interest in core curriculum.

• The Shakespeare’s Heartbeat program (developed from the works of Kelly Hunter to support students on the Autism Spectrum) has expanded to the College of Adaptive Arts, with a full Heartbeat class coming in the new year. This class offers the opportunity to train new teaching artists on the curriculum.

During the development of this accountability update, the Company Culture Committee (Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Craig Moody, David Moore, Kem Ozbek, Ray Kutz, Rebecca Ennals, Regina Morones, Toby Leavitt) attempted to integrate two members of the Education Leadership Sphere (Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held) into the writing of this update to speak more directly to the Education Workgroup’s (EW) accountability. However, since they were brought in later in the process, they did not have adequate time to engage the entire EW in the process, to collaborate with members of the CCC, and to ensure the update is representative of the organization’s efforts. We encountered a distinction between an update about programmatic activity and an accountability update, and are working to clarify the difference, and explore the role a program update might have internal and external to the organization. We will investigate these process- and content-related issues further in the coming months, prior to the June accountability update.

Since our last update on January 31, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work. Please note that we originally committed to publishing this update on May 31, 2021, and acknowledge that this update is instead being published a week late on June 7, 2021.

Anti-Racism Training
From January 26th to April 29th, a group of Resident Artists, staff, and board members (Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Regina Morones, Carla Pantoja, Pratiksha Shah, and Maryssa Wanlass) engaged in an Anti-Racism Workshop led by Diedra Barber of Filament Consulting Group. This workshop was specifically geared towards helping arts organizations build capacity to co-create, co-imagine, and co-foster anti-racist multicultural work environments. Over the course of the three-month program, participants developed a shared language to discuss how white supremacy and patriarchy show up in the workplace, and the group practiced utilizing tools that would allow for more transparent and productive conversations.

Members of SF Shakes are participating in training through Theatre Bay Area, “Pathways to Belonging: Building Antiracist Practices” this May and June. Participants include two board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody), two Teaching Artists and Education Workgroup members (Joshua Waterstone, Ayelet Schrek), and three staff members (John Western, Edmund Campos, Meredith Eldred.) With this training, all year-round staff will have completed anti-racist training within the last year.

One element of Diedra Barber’s workshop centered around invoking collectivism with intentionality. The word “we” is used casually, often without clarity about who “we” refers to (We at SF Shakes…). Specificity is important, and a key element of transparency is acknowledging who is in the room for various conversations. Moving forward, the Accountability Committee (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja) hopes to be transparent and specific with who we are referring to.

SF Shakes’s Executive Director Toby Leavitt has emailed the Executive Directors of the American Indian Cultural District and the American Indian Cultural Center to introduce herself. Prior to introducing herself, she benefited greatly from guidance provided by the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust in “How to Come Correct.”

In addition, since SF Shakes’ last update, the company expanded its participation in the Bay Area Accountability Workgroup, adding staff members Edmund Campos and Pratiksha Shah to the group’s BIPOC-centered Affinity Space.

With financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, SF Shakes has engaged accountants Metis Partners to develop a collaborative budgeting model that can be shared and updated by many different parties; the two goals of this model are to provide better transparency about sources and uses of resources and to empower more people to participate in strategic discussions. This will also be an opportunity to develop additional financial measures of accountability that are important towards charting our path towards becoming a more equitable organization. The project will begin in June, after the 2020 audit is completed.

SF Shakes has worked to make core areas of production and decision-making less hierarchical and more inclusive of the artists and staff that comprise the Festival. These areas include educational programming, and season planning and casting for Free Shakespeare in the Park.

The Education Workgroup was created to address inequities in our education programs. The challenges we faced in 2020 served as a true catalyst for actionable change to ensure our education programs meet the needs of our community in this moment and value our teaching artists through equitable practices. The need for actionable change was further heightened by the sudden resignation of the education manager followed by the resignation of the education director. The Festival has responded in part by increasing capacity and overall pay rates, involving teaching artists in the decision-making process, and exploring alternative management structures. Our response was to adopt a shared leadership structure to empower the education staff to make programming decisions.

Rebecca Ennals put out a call to all active Resident Artists and Teaching Artists to self-nominate to be a part of this new education workgroup with Amy Lizardo and Regina Morones in co- leadership positions. There was a strong response to Rebecca’s email which resulted in seven teaching artists signing on to the workgroup right away. The workgroup was then divided into two subgroups, Shakespeare summer camps and existing residency programs.

The Workgroup currently includes 10 active members: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.

Three members are BIPOC, 2 identify as Disabled, and 2 identify as LGBTQ+. Two out of the 3 team leaders are BIPOC, and the team is 60% female or non-binary. The workgroup is wrapping up its Spring 2021 phase and plans to include new members in the next phase, including a new member who is BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and has already self-nominated.

Camp Workgroup activities/achievements to date include:

  • A virtual camp that is sustainable for both teachers and students that consists of 3 “cycles” of virtual camp sessions that are a duration of 3 weeks rather than the previous 2-week model. Each cycle of virtual camp includes younger players (ages 7-8), older players group (ages 9-12), and Upstart Crows (ages 13 – 18).
  • New virtual camp schedule:
    Players: 9am – 12pm On Camera Synchronous learning with one hour of asynchronous learning for a total of 4 hours per day.
    Upstart Crows: 10am – 3pm Synchronous learning, an hour lunch, and 1-hour asynchronous learning for a total of 5 hours per day.
  • Fully updated virtual curriculums for both Players & Upstart Crows
  • Script adaptations for Pericles and Twelfth Night
  • Updated Values, Ethics, and Aesthetics document
  • Coordinating videos for asynchronous learning
  • Upstart Crows session 1 and 2 are staffed, Managers for session 1 and 2 are staffed, Advanced Shakespeare Workshop is staffed, and Players session 2 is staffed
  • Camp training is scheduled for June 2 – 5th
  • Residency Workgroup activities/achievements to date:
  • Successful rollout of JLS Middle School Virtual Residency – Thur/Fri, May 6 – 21,
  • Joshua Waterstone (lead TA), Brittany Villars (TA), & Ryan Lee (TA)
  • Completed our first in-person residency at the Bay School – Wed/Thur, May 28 – 29, Bidalia Albanese (lead TA), Evan Held (TA), and Brittany Villars (TA).
  • Monthly TA training sessions every other Wednesday from 1:30 – 3 pm on Zoom kicking off on May 12th with a Virtual Playshop training led by Bidalia Albanese.
  • A new residency menu offering is in the works – will have a breakdown of residencies by duration (1-3 days, 1 week, & 2-3 weeks) rather than generic “tailor made residencies.”
  • Working on a document that outlines residency partnership expectations and agreements along with a google form for residency requests and intake.
  • Created a new daily report google doc for residencies
  • Will be working with the marketing team to streamline an intake form for residency requests.
  • Creating a spreadsheet that captures the specific skill sets and expertise of our Teaching Artists to streamline hiring for residencies.
  • Successful Virtual Playshop with Contra Costa Jewish Day School on Wed, May 26th coordinated by Regina Morones and led by Evan Held and Charlie Lavaroni.
  • Upcoming Virtual Playshop with the Town of Danville on July 16th is fully staffed and will be led by Joshua Waterstone and Ryan Lee.
  • Working on creating base curriculum specifically for residency programs based on duration of residency (1-3 days, 1 week, & 2-3 weeks).
  • Currently working on expanding Shakespeare’s Heartbeat program with the College of Adaptive Arts and SFUSD
  • Shakespeare’s Heartbeat Teaching Artist (TA) training coming up on June 5th. All TA’s who were interested received a free copy of Kelly Hunter’s book Shakespeare’s Heartbeat: Drama Games for Children with Autism.

This year, the selection of the title and planning for Free Shakespeare in the Park was less hierarchical than ever before. Building upon last year’s consensus-based season selection process, this year’s process invited more voices to the table. The Season Planning Committee included Free Shakes artists and teaching artists alongside Resident Artists, staff and artistic director. SF Shakes continued the practice of taking suggestions from committee members on play selection. In addition to conventional Shakespeare play texts, the Committee also considered adaptations (such as La Comedia of Errors adapted by Bill Rauch and Lydia Garcia) and modern verse translations of Shakespeare rendered by professional playwrights (such as this year’s selection of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre.)

Suggestions were also taken from the committee on how the play would be presented, what format(s) said presentation would take, and who might helm the project. For instance, calls for self-nomination were employed to make these decisions as well. The selection of one Director of Vision (Carla Pantoja) and three additional directors (Rebecca Ennals, Elizabeth Carter, Carolina Morones) is indicative of the responsibility shared in the process as a whole.

Also for the first time this year, SF Shakes re-imagined its casting process by inviting Resident Artist, David Everett Moore to review audition submissions. In this process, David and Rebecca Ennals shared the duties of initially reviewing the video submissions and selecting which to pass on to directors for review.

SF Shakes is continuing to work on improving internal communication to de-silo information. After surveying its constituents, SF Shakes has adopted a regular practice of bi-annual all-company meetings; the most recent was held on March 16, 2021. Slack has also been added as a communication tool, and a company Google-drive will be added next.

Education Workgroup: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.

Season Planning Team: Wrapped up work in February 2021, having achieved its purpose of selecting a title for 2021 Free Shakes. However, the team identified a need to have its work be ongoing, and we expect its function will likely be a major function of the Resident Artist Company going forward (pending more work by that team). Membership: Rebecca Ennals, Pratiksha Shah, Edmund Campos, Neal Ormond (staff); Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Regina Morones, Maryssa Wanlass, David Moore, Sydney Schwindt (Resident Artists); Carolina Morones, Elizabeth Carter, Karen Schleifer (Guest Artists)

Engagement Team: Maryssa Wanlass (lead), Carolina Morones (project lead), Edmund Campos, Pratiksha Shah, Rebecca Ennals. (Robyn Grahn on maternity leave)

Accountability Committee: Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja

Resident Artist Company: Current membership includes Amy Lizardo, Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Ella Ruth Francis, Regina Morones, David Moore, Maryssa Wanlass, Robyn Grahn, Sydney Schwindt, Phil Wong. The current company was able to meet once in the spring, with next steps to be to further define the company’s purpose, then decide how new members will be invited and/or self-nominate.

SF Shakes plans to publish another update by November 30, 2021 to include reflections and takeaways from Free Shakespeare in the Park and the summer season of education programming.

It has been one year since SF Shakes has intensified its efforts at creating a culture of accountability within the organization and begun posting public progress reports. We hope these updates convey a sense of the work that has been done. We believe this work to be essential and ongoing. We invite comments, questions, or suggestions regarding these efforts at

Since our last update on September 30, 2020, here is a summary of our continuing work:

Land acknowledgment has been added to our website, using the guidance offered by the Ramaytush Ohlone people at
We have continued the practice of land acknowledgment at rehearsals, workshops, and project meetings, and begun to include it in staff and board meetings.

Company Culture training is held at the beginning of ALL programs. This includes discussion of the characteristics of White Supremacy Culture and how they show up in the theatre industry and at SF Shakes, as well our responsibility as a Shakespeare theatre to address the harm Shakespeare’s dominance in the Anglo-American canon and culture has done. This training also includes conflict resolution guidance and resources for addressing grievances, including naming internal ombudspeople and external HR resources.
At these trainings, and subsequently, leadership is also committed to naming current harmful habits and specific challenges in our company culture, such as scarcity mindset, sense of urgency, and either/or thinking. We are sharing how the company is currently addressing these issues, and our attempts to repair and change our habits, with transparency and responsiveness.
Our Company Values have been added to our website, including a new Value addressing sense of urgency and scarcity mindset. We consider these values foundational – we share them as part of our Company Culture training in order to provide a compass at the beginning of every process.

We are committed to paying interns in 2021, with a commitment to hiring at least 60% local Bay Area BIPOC and/or low-income candidates. We are collaborating with fellow arts and community organizations to identify candidates.

After Free Shakes 2020, we abolished the “post mortem” process in which feedback is given at the end of a process and filed away, and re-imagined it as “Review and Reflect.” As part of this process, in every program we are committed to the idea of “feeding forward” our learnings directly into the next program, addressing and repairing harm as quickly as possible, and offering mid-point anonymous surveys and suggestion forms as well as access to ombudspeople and external HR resources to address grievances. Participants are paid to participate in Review & Reflect meetings and gathered with sensitivity to positional power dynamics in each department. This process is a work in progress and we expect it to evolve over time to better address employees’ needs.

We have created a transparent rate sheet for all seasonal and educational positions, which we will continue to refine in conversation with our staff and artists. You can find that here.
We have begun working with an attorney who specializes in local labor law and human resources. They have begun reviewing contracts and policies, starting with a new hiring agreement developed in consultation with Resident and Teaching Artists. This consultant, in conjunction with our EDI consultant, provides expertise, experience, and perspective to support the structural changes necessary in becoming a more antiracist organization.

Financial updates have been posted to website.
The Accountability Committee, which organized the August, 2020 Company Meeting and reviews these antiracism updates, will be expanding its membership in February to include three additional Resident Artists (Akaina Ghosh, David Moore, and Regina Morones), in addition to the existing membership of one resident artist (Carla Pantoja), three staff (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Toby Leavitt), and three board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody, Gorkem Ozbek).

Takes on Shakes, our new educational video series, offers “takes” on plays in the core curriculum that interrogate the text with an eye to social justice approaches in performance. The accompanying curriculum provides context around the 400-year history of Shakespeare performance, encourages critical thinking, and directly addresses assumptions about the ways the plays have and “should” be performed.
A group of staff and artists are currently engaged in a shared season planning process for Free Shakespeare 2021, examining diverse texts, including non-Shakespeare texts and Shakespeare adaptations and translations by women and BIPOC playwrights. The goal is to expand what we think of as “the canon” and celebrate Shakespeare’s ability to adapt to our ever-changing world.

In Fall 2020, Takes on Shakes employed more than 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists, including the writer/directors of both episodes of Takes on Shakes.
The Free Shakes 2021 Season Planning committee includes 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists and staff members. Artists are paid for their participation in this shared leadership process at a rate comparable to staff salaries. Key season planning decisions, such as the choice of play(s), will be reached by consensus, not made unilaterally by the Artistic Director.
In Fall 2020, 4 out of the 5 teaching artists hired for after-school programs and virtual Playshops were BIPOC; at least one identifies as LGBTQ+.
SF Shakes’ Executive Director also participated in ArtEquity’s excellent training, Finding the Keys, Antiracist Approaches to Radical Recruitment in the Arts.

SF Shakes plans to publish another update by May 31, to include – among other topics – updates related to, “Transparency into Finances and Decision-Making”:

On January 26, a team of Board, Staff and Resident Artists began a four-month workshop to build capacity to co-imagine, co-create, and co-foster an antiracist, multicultural organizational culture, structure and model. We expect to examine together how to implement more inclusive decision-making and other forms of power-sharing. We will include an update on this team’s work on May 31.

In February, SF Shakes will also begin to work with a financial advisor to develop a more inclusive budgeting and forecasting process to support distributed decision making and strengthen both internal and external communication around our organization’s financial position and priorities. We will include an update on this work on May 31.

We applaud the March launch of the American Indian Cultural District in the Mission District of San Francisco, future home of the American Indian Cultural Center. We will introduce ourselves, and ask whether they are interested in exploring how SF Shakes might further their mission and activities and amplify the visibility of Native Americans in San Francisco.

In spring of 2021, an Education Workgroup of management and teaching artists will be formed to address the management structure of education programs, decolonizing our camp and classroom curricula, training of teaching artists, and best practices for teaching virtually and safely in person.

On May 31, 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, SF Shakes, like many other predominantly white organizations, published a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. Shortly thereafter, Black, Indiginous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre artists around the country created a statement in response, called “We See You, White American Theatre (WSYWAT)”. This was followed by a Living Document of Bay Area BIPOC artists (Living Doc) sharing their personal experiences of racism in our theatre community, and in legacy-white institutions like SF Shakes. Both groups then published action plans of demands for changes to our institutions.

We see the work of the communities that created WSYWAT and the Living Doc as generous and the resulting documents incredibly helpful. We have real changes to make in order for SF Shakes to become the genuinely inclusive, accessible, equitable organization that we strive to be – and that our mission promises. While this had begun to be addressed in the last several years, we understand that our incremental approach is not getting us to what we want to be – an anti-racist organization. We recognize that our organizational practices have caused harm, and we are eager to restore trust and work together to undo systemic racism in our organization and our community through our actions of accountability and change.

On August 6, 2020, we published our commitment to continued action and accountability around the demands of both WSYWAT and the Living Doc. A list of our current actions and immediate next steps is below. Our next update will be made on 1/31/2021. We have also added a page to our web site as a repository for these updates.

In August, we were midway through our virtual Free Shakespeare at Home production of King Lear. This provided an opportunity to immediately address the following:

Generate an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement with consultation and blessings from Indigenous stakeholders. (Living Doc)

Actions Taken:
– All Free Shakespeare at Home performances included a land acknowledgment of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, original stewards of the occupied land on which SF Shakes’ headquarters sits, as well as an acknowledgment that we are the beneficiaries of settler colonialism.
– All Free Shakespeare at Home performances included a posted link to the Sogorea-Te Land Trust to encourage our audience to pay their land tax.
This is a new practice for us and we are actively revisiting as our understanding grows, in a continued desire to make sure this is not performative but based in decolonizing principles. Here are some links we have found helpful for self-education:

Next Steps – by 1/31/2021:
– Add land acknowledgment to our website.
– Extend the practice of land acknowledgment to rehearsals and staff meetings.
– Continue attempts to connect directly with Ramaytush Ohlone representatives for consultation and blessings
– Revise curriculum to include information for students about Elizabethan and Jacobean colonization, and how Shakespeare has been used as a tool of colonization.

Provide anti-racist and anti-bias training to all departments annually. (Living Doc)
An Accountability Ambassador within the institution must be appointed to report back to the public quarterly to share the progress, growth, and changes with full transparency internally and externally. (Living Doc)

Steps taken so far:
– SF Shakes cannot become the anti-racist organization it wants to be without the board’s leadership. At a board level, in 2019, some anti-racism training was a part of each board meeting, and the subject of the full-day facilitated November retreat; thereafter, in Feb/March 2020, the board chair and a second board member took a 4-day antiracism training with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB); a third board member took a 3-day training with Dr. Robin DiAngelo; in June, these three board members formed the board’s Anti-Racism Committee, and led the board in a series of individual and board-wide (at the June board meeting) anti-racism and accountability (at the August board webinar) conversations. To further dialogue and education, eight of the 14 board members have formed an anti-racist reading group, whose first meeting was Sept 14. At the September board meeting, the board agreed to focus on policy regarding board anti-racism training as well as board recruitment, rededicating themselves to board diversification goals that have not been met to date.
– At a staff level, in the last year and a half, the Executive, Artistic, and Education Directors and other staff have participated in important trainings, including PISAB training and a program offered through Theatre Bay Area called Theaters Advancing Social Change, in partnership with ArtEquity. The Executive and Artistic Directors are also participating in the Bay Area Theatre Accountability Group, which is committed to meeting for the next year to address racism in the Bay Area Theatre community.
– For the past three years, the first day of rehearsal for Free Shakespeare in the Park/@Home has been devoted to company culture training, and additional anti-racism resources were shared throughout the project’s duration. We will continue this practice, and expand it so it serves each program.
– To hold ourselves accountable to our intent and plan to become a more anti-racist organization, an Accountability Committee of board, staff, and a resident artist alum was created. This committee will monitor commitments to ensure they are fulfilled and report back to the public quarterly to share the progress, growth, and changes with full transparency internally and externally.

Next steps:
– Two additional board members and one staff member are enrolled in PISAB’s Undoing Racism training this October 2020. REVISED 10/23: While the staff member attended, the two board members did not; this was due to shifting scheduled training dates (from early to mid-October) and resulting scheduling conflicts; SF Shakes is monitoring PISAB’s website for additional training dates, which both board members remain eager to attend.
– In 2020-21, SF Shakes is planning to participate in an anti-racism workshop titled “Building Individual Capacity to Co-Imagine, Co-Create, and Co-Foster an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Organizational Culture, Structure and Model” in order to build on these trainings and translate them to actions.
– Company culture training will be held at the beginning of all programs, whenever onboarding new employees. We will begin this expanded practice in October, 2020, with a company culture training for fall education program staff.

Eliminate 10 out of 12s and eliminate the 6-day rehearsal week. These are long-standing practices that are steeped in capitalist and white supremacist culture. When these practices are in place, the growing and nurturing of the BIPOC family structure is imperiled. Many BIPOC artists have been forced to make a choice not to have families. For Indigenous artists and other peoples recovering from genocide, these practices are extremely detrimental. (WSYWAT)

Actions Taken:
– After partially implementing a 5-day/week rehearsal schedule in 2018, this was fully implemented in 2019. In 2020, we continued to honor a 5-day workweek, and further reduced weekly hours to address on-screen fatigue associated with virtual rehearsals; other than tech week, rehearsals were kept to 6 hours/day; short designer appointments sometimes added an additional 30-60 minutes. We will maintain either the 2019 or 2020 schedule in 2021, depending on whether rehearsals are virtual or in-person.
– We eliminated 10 out of 12s in 2020 (reduced to 8 out of 10). We plan to continue this practice whether or not rehearsal is in-person or virtual.

Compensate the Artist fairly based on the amount of time contributed to the production and with respect to the cost of living in your region. (Living Doc)

Actions Taken:
– We have rewritten non-equity actors’ contracts to include more explicit expectations, including what hours artists are expected to work and that they are paid for each of these hours. In 2020, all non-union actors/stage managers were paid $16.50/hour, as outlined by San Francisco’s minimum compensation ordinance. Unions actors/stage managers were paid at LORT-D scale.
– We have expanded payment to include hours worked in association with marketing/promotion and post-show discussions.

Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We will develop and share a transparent payment/compensation rate sheet for all seasonal positions.

Establish local partnership with Black and Brown businesses near the organization / company. (Living Doc)
Generate post-performance resources for patrons that include, but not limited to: information about the culture and history referenced in the play, ways to support Black and Brown businesses, and ways to engage as a responsible community member. (Living Doc)

Actions taken:
– During the September run of King Lear, we worked with the offices of Supervisor Shamann Walter and the Bayview Economic Development on Third (EDOT) to promote local businesses in our home neighborhood of Bayview, a predominantly Black neighborhood in southeast San Francisco. Specifically, we compiled an updateable google doc of all restaurants open to the public for takeout during the pandemic, along with their contact information. We promoted these restaurants to our King Lear audience, and transferred the list to the supervisor’s office so it can be maintained going forward.
– Throughout the run, we worked with our civic partners to encourage our audience to donate to local nonprofits on the frontlines of the pandemic, addressing hunger, poverty, and homelessness. Specifically, we promoted West Valley Community Services and San Mateo Strong.
– During the September run of King Lear, we encouraged donations to our San Francisco-based community partner The Healing WELL, an organization serving our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Next Steps – by 1/31/2021
– With our partners at The Healing WELL, we are piloting an online engagement program encouraging connection, wellness, and community storytelling on Oct 19, 2020, and are prepared to continue the program according to the needs and wishes of the program participants.

This summer, we have also been engaged in a process of accountability and reparations with our Teaching Artists and Resident Artists regarding this summer’s virtual summer camp program. While neither the WSYWAT or Living Doc demands specifically names teaching artists and non-production programs, as an organization with a deep commitment to education, applying these principles to our education programming and teaching staff is essential.

Actions Taken:
– After 2020 summer virtual Shakespeare Camps, staff received requests from an organizing committee of Resident and Teaching Artists for more equitable and increased teaching rates, clearer expectations, and compensation for time spent on tasks associated with teaching camps and outside of teaching hours. The conversation is continuing, and to date we have agreed to the principles that camp teaching artists be compensated for all aspects of their work, that communication take place in a way that honors the teaching artists’ time, and that job responsibilities be clearly defined.
– We have made retroactive payments above contracted rates to apologize to our teaching artists, show appreciation for work they did in summer 2020 above and beyond stated expectations, restore trust.

Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We will have a transparent rate sheet for all education programs.

Publish a thorough plan of actions marked within a timeline with a commitment to creating an equitable, just, and anti-racist theater. (Living Doc)
Make public your annual fiscal report: 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20. (Living Doc)

Steps taken so far:
– SF Shakes held a virtual company meeting on Aug 26, 2020, open to all 2020 board, staff, resident artists, and seasonal employees of the organization. During this meeting, updates were shared regarding SF Shakes’ financial and programmatic pivots in response to the pandemic, and our anti-racism and equity actions and plans. Board and staff leadership responded to questions, including those submitted anonymously.

Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We polled all participants, including those who later watched a recording of the company meeting; based on the results of these polls, quarterly emails will be sent and biannual company meetings will be held going forward
– We will post our 2017 and 2018 Form 990s and audited financials, and add those for 2019 and 2020 upon their completion.

In addition to those next steps outlined above, we intend to address the following topics in our January 31, 2021 update:
– A plan to sunset the unpaid internship program.
– A commitment to include 60% BIPOC, queer, trans, womxn of color, and/or non-binary cast and production teams in 2021
– Some next steps on the enormous and essential work of problematizing, decolonizing, and decentering Shakespeare in our education system.

While additional topics likely will be addressed in our January 31, 2021 update, we commit to addressing these three topics.

We appreciate the opportunity to update the community on our actions. Please note that past and current statements and commitments are now on SF Shakes website.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, along with massive inequities in deaths from Covid-19, has led to widespread demonstrations across the country demanding police reform and a long-overdue national reckoning with the systemic racism deeply ingrained into the structures of American life.

The theatre community is actively engaged in this reckoning. We thank the collectives of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) artists who have contributed to the demands issued by We See You, White American Theater and The Living Document. San Francisco Shakespeare Festival sees itself in these documents, and will work for change in our community and our organization.

As a Shakespeare theatre, we benefit from the outsized impact of one white male playwright on the entire theatre industry. While we will always appreciate the beauty of his poetry and humanity of his stories, we accept our responsibility to challenge the dominance of his brand. We recommit ourselves to interrogating his plays and expanding the traditional Eurocentric classical canon.

We are now thoroughly reviewing the documents mentioned above with our staff and board of directors. By the end of September, we will create a page on our website to update the community on our actions. We will honor the demand for more transparency and accountability that we have heard from our own Resident Artists.

SF Shakes stands in solidarity with our Black company members and neighbors in condemning systemic racism and demanding justice for the murders of Black Americans.
As a predominately white-led organization, we recognize that anti-racism is more than a one-time statement in a time of crisis. It is a daily commitment in our workplace, classrooms, rehearsals and performances.
As an organization founded on principles of access, inclusion, and community engagement, we recognize that anti-racism must address economic injustice, housing and healthcare inequities.
As a theatre company, we use Shakespeare’s stories to address the issues of our time through the lens of human history, as he did in his time. We recognize that telling these stories inclusively must include the participation of all members of our community.

In Solidarity,
Cynthia Francis, Chair, Board of Directors
Rebecca J. Ennals, Artistic Director
Toby Leavitt, Executive Director

Click here for anti-racism resources

Please support these organizations fighting for justice for George Floyd: