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The Cal Shakes First-Timers’ Guide

We like to think that a ticket to a California Shakespeare Theater performance is much more than a play–it’s the Cal Shakes Experience. This short list should tell you the key things you need to know about getting the most out of what we have to offer.

1. Arrive early:

The Bruns Amphitheater is our little piece of heaven in the Siesta Valley. We open two hours before curtain time, and we strongly recommend taking advantage of that! There are plenty of picnic benches and other places to sit in our groves; museum-grade sculptural installations to explore; a gourmet café serving food, beer, wine, and more; and free, 20-minute informational Grove Talks starting 45 minutes before each and every performance. Please keep in mind that, should you arrive after curtain time, you will be seated at an appropriate interval, at the House Manager’s discretion. Should you arrive 30 minutes into the performance or later, please make your way through the gate next to the Box Office, up the path, and onto the plaza where one of our House Staff will be happy to assist you.

2. Eat, drink, and be merry:

Not only can you picnic before the performance, you can eat whatever you like while the performance is happening, inside the amphitheater. You can bring food with you or purchase it at our café, and then enjoy it in the groves or in the theater. The same thing goes for beverages—your sodas and sauvignons, lattes and lager are all welcome. All we ask is that you please be mindful of noise, unwrapping, unscrewing, and uncorking all items before the performance begins, or during intermission. Please be courteous: Super-crunchy items like chips and crackers can be very distracting to your neighbors!

3. There’s turkeys up in them thar hills:

The Bruns is built on East Bay Municipal land–so it’s parkland. And it’s, you know, outside. So you’ll probably see a hawk, owl, or bat swoop in front of the onstage lights, and you may hear coyotes howling in the distance. Herds of cattle have been known to wander over the hills that rise up behind our stage, and turkeys are occasionally heard. In the heat of summer we sometimes even have mosquitoes (bug spray is available—just ask the house staff). During the warmer days and nights up at the Bruns Amphitheater, we are sometimes visited by hungry little yellow jackets. We make every effort to reduce the yellow jacket population on our grounds but, as the theater is surrounded by acres of wooded watershed, we urge you to keep your food covered whenever possible, and promptly dispose of your trash and recyclables. We have found success in deterring them by placing a few fabric softener sheets, e.g. Bounce or Snuggle, on picnic tables. We’ve also heard that cucumber slices work in the same capacity. So, pack a few of either in your picnic basket along with your chips and guac! If you do get stung, please contact House Management at once for assistance.

4. Dress code:

Gotcha! There’s no dress code, per se, although there are appropriate ways to adorn yourself. Just prepare your body for the Bruns as you would for an outdoor sports event in the Bay Area. If you’re coming to the Bruns at twilight or later, dress in warm layers and bring a blanket, as well as hat and gloves; you’ll be colder than usual because you’ll be sitting in one place for a while, and snuggling up is recommended! We do have blankets available, free of charge, on chilly nights. If you’re attending a daytime performance, dress lightly (as befits the forecasted temperature), bring sunscreen, and consider a brimmed hat and sunglasses. And sturdy shoes are recommended, for walking up our paths.

5. Seating:

There is no permanent seating at the Bruns Amphitheater. Plastic chairs are preplaced in most sections. If you are seated in our Terrace section, the seats are low-to-the-ground beach chairs. Patrons sitting in the Terrace only may also choose to bring their own chair; if you choose to bring your own, it must be a low-backed beach chair (no camp chairs), with a seat no more than six inches off the ground and a backrest no taller than shoulder height (so the people behind you can see!).

6. Getting here:

It couldn’t be easier!

By Car: Take Highway 24 to the Wilder Rd/California Shakespeare Theater exit in Orinda and follow the signs to California Shakespeare Theater Way.Parking at the Bruns is free and ample, but please be aware there are areas where parking is not allowed. Those areas are clearly marked. We have had a few break-ins in and around our parking lot during performances so please make sure to either take your valuables with you, or leave them at home. Cal Shakes is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

By BART: Take a train to the Orinda BART station and catch the free Cal Shakes shuttle that start 2 hours prior to each performance. The shuttle stops at the entrance to the Bruns grounds to pick up additional passengers who would like to avoid the journey up the hill. (If you have guests with mobility problems, you may drive them to the lobby yourself, but you must return your car to the parking lot after dropping them off.) When the show’s over, you can catch another shuttle back to the BART station.

There’s a lot more information available here; we hope you enjoy your Cal Shakes Experience!

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