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At Grove Event, Santa Cruz Shakespeare Names New Artistic Director

Mike Ryan to step down after 2023 season; plays announced for next summer

Mike Ryan (right) with Paige Lindsey White (left) and M.L. Roberts in 'RII.' Ryan announced tonight that he will be stepping down as artistic director after the 2023 season. PHOTO: RR JONES

At an event at the Audrey Stanley grove tonight, in front of an audience comprised of some of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s biggest supporters, Artistic Director Mike Ryan took the stage and announced the plays that the group will produce next summer. But he also had a surprise announcement: he will be stepping down after the 2023 season.

“It will be my final year as artistic directory of Santa Cruz Shakespeare,” he told the crowd, as some expressed shock. “It will have been a decade here, and that’s a pretty incredible thing to say. The 10 years I have spent at the helm of this company have been the proudest 10 years of my life.”

Ryan went on to say that with the SCS festival as “vibrant and strong and financially stable as it has ever been, this seems to me to be the right time to be passing it off.” He said he firmly believes no artistic director should lead an organization for more than a decade.

SCS Board President Rick Wright took the stage to acknowledge Ryan’s contributions. “Mike Ryan has brought so much to this company,” he said. He also said that by planning his exit well in advance, Ryan “gave us a really incredible gift,” allowing the company to make a smooth transition.

Wright then announced that the company’s new artistic director, beginning in the 2024 season, will be Charles Pasternak. Pasternak took the stage and told the crowd that although he might be best known for his work as founder, artistic director and actor at Los Angeles’ Shakespeare-focused theater company the Porters of Hellsgate, he believes he owes his professional career to being cast as Romeo by SCS’ predecessor company Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

“It is the greatest honor of my professional life to be the next artistic director of this company,” he said. “I spent four seasons here. I fell in love with Santa Cruz, I fell in love with this company. It changed my life, and I don’t mean that figuratively.”

Pasternak, who was chosen after a two-year search by SCS, recalled when Ryan first asked him if he might be interested in the job after “two or three pitchers of beer” in Los Angeles. He lauded Ryan’s work with SCS, and said he wants to continue and build on many of the policies put in place under Ryan’s tenure, including gender parity and expanding diversity.

“Shakespeare is the greatest passion of my life,” said Pasternak. “I believe in service. I believe I owe this company something, and I am here to pay that debt.”

Ryan also announced the SCS productions for the summer of 2022, which will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Twelfth Night, as well as the world premiere of The Formula, by Santa Cruz playwright Kathryn Chetkovich, which is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Ryan also said SCS had hit its ticket sales goal for this summer, as well as come in under budget on its two current productions, The Agitators and RII.

“We are heading into next year in great shape,” said Ryan. “Thank you all for sticking with us.”

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