2016: Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare's legacy!


Hamlet: Blood in the Brain 2004-06

For the first major project of the New Works/New Communities Initiative, Cal Shakes partnered with renowned playwright Naomi Iizuka and San Francisco’s innovative theater ensemble Campo Santo, the resident company at Intersection for the Arts. This powerful new play emerged from an unprecedented artistic partnership between playwright Naomi Iizuka and co-writers Sean San José, Ryan Peters, Ricky Marshall, and Tommy Shepherd, and a three-year process of grass-roots community engagement.

We set out to create a new play that relocates Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the drug-ravaged world of Oakland in the mid-1980s. Directed by Cal Shakes Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, the October 2006 world premiere of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain sold out its eight-week run to rapt audiences at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco.

Over the course of the project, we held community conversations, and conducted multiple interviews with figures from Shakespearean scholars to former drug lords. We also held writing workshops with young writers in schools, juvenile halls, churches and other community-based locations. This work led to ongoing relationships with community organizations including LoveLife Foundation, Allen Temple Baptist Church, The Beat Within, Colored Ink, and Laney College.

Hamlet: Blood in the Brain was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support came from the Columbia Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Clorox Company Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, The L. J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, Theatre Communications Group/MetLife Foundation Extended Collaboration Grants, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, UCSB Summer Theatre Lab, Intersection for the Arts’ New Works Fund and Intersection’s Artist Residency Program, and numerous individual contributors: Barbara Fleming and Gregg Schnepple, Patrick Golden and Susan Overhauser, Jeff and Janie Green, Karen Hawkins and Bill Taggert, Philip and Gloria Meads, Carole and Steven Rathfon, Mark and Claire Roberts, and Jean Simpson.

Read articles about Hamlet: Blood in the Brain:
A Hamlet of One's Own, American Theater Magazine
The Marquez Factor, American Theater Magazine

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King of Shadows (2005-07)

In King of Shadows, our second New Works/New Communities project, we commissioned playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to create and develop a new play that reimagined Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream through the eyes of marginalized gay youth, setting the action in the urban jungle of San Francisco. Partnering with MFA students at American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) and community organizations working with homeless LGBT youth in San Francisco, Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa tapped into the dreams and struggles of gay youth who had been rejected by their families, their peers, and an intolerant society, and were bewildered by their own self-doubts. Drawing from his own and the real-life experiences of San Francisco youth, Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa created a play that makes Shakespeare’s world a mirror of their own.

Over the course of the King of Shadows project, we met with homeless and formerly homeless youth at Larkin Street Youth Services, engaging members of their Castro Youth Initiative in an improv workshop exploring themes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; discussed the text with Shakespearean scholars; toured the Panhandle of Golden Gate park, a refuge and gathering place for many homeless youth; read and discussed scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with A.C.T.’s MFA students; led multiple theater and writing workshops with youth at Guerrero House and took residents of that transitional housing facility to see multiple plays at A.C.T.,  Berkeley Rep, Cal Shakes, and SF Playhouse; held a series of theater and writing workshops with LGBT youth at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center) in San Francisco; and held one-on-one interviews with experts on the LGBT and homeless communities in San Francisco.

The project culminated with a staged reading of King of Shadows, directed by then-Cal Shakes Associate Artistic Director Sean Daniels, on February 24, 2007.

King of Shadows was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support came from the Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund, along with institutional support from The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Community Partners
ACT Conservatory MFA Program
Alameda County Library’s Write to Read
Alameda County Juvenile Hall
Allen Temple Baptist Church
The Beat Within
The Center
Colored Ink
Del Amigo High School
Eastside Arts Alliance
The Farm
Guerrero House
Intersection for the Arts + Campo Santo
Larkin Street Youth Service
Laney College Theater Arts Department
LoveLife Foundation
LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation Center)
National Steinbeck Center
Oakland Museum of California
The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies
Youth Empowerment School

Read articles about Hamlet: Blood in the Brain:
A Hamlet of One's Own, American Theater Magazine
The Marquez Factor, American Theater Magazine