It’s interesting to me how people’s passions are sometimes marginalized as “niche” or “trivial” when in fact they’re holding little chunks of our collective cultural memory together. I was reminded of that again while researching this week’s cover story on the rebirth of Actors’ Theatre. I personally remember being wowed by the quality and intensity of Actors’ Theatre’s work when I was just out of college and starting to cover the Santa Cruz arts scene in the mid-’90s. I realized many readers today wouldn’t really get why the fact that the company was returning to full seasons was a big deal unless they themselves had seen Actors’ Theatre work back then—which many, of course, have not. So I knew I needed to trace that history, and to really put it in context, I needed to give some background on the entire history of the Santa Cruz County theater scene. You can see how these things get out of hand.
Anyway, I got to talk to many of the key people involved with Actor’s Theatre and the local theater scene in general. They were a kick; just really fun to talk to. But I was in some cases asking them to remember names and dates from as far back as four decades ago, and the timeline I was piecing together was a mess.
Luckily, I discovered the archival work of local actor and writer David Sheaffer, which is housed in UCSC’s Special Collections and Archives. He basically documented the entire modern history of Santa Cruz County theater, and I’m sure more than one person told Sheaffer at the time that he was in way too deep on a subject that would be of “niche” interest at best to the public at large. But his work as a theater historian was absolutely incredible, and helped me to nail down many of the details in this story. In 2001, a Theater Arts endowment was established at UCSC in Sheaffer’s name, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving. Here’s to the people who are driven by their passion, whether they’re starting a theater company or preserving every scrap of memorabilia from that company that they can get their hands on.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
Out of the Park Now
The current conditions that exist in San Lorenzo Park are deplorably unsafe, from both a health and a public safety perspective. This problem will not go away by itself. It will take leadership and the development and execution of a comprehensive, legally defensible plan to remove these squatters from San Lorenzo Park. This group is committing an illegal act every time they spend the night in the park. It is time for city leaders to create a safe and clean environment in San Lorenzo Park by ending this illegal encampment now.
Kevin M. Vogel | Retired Chief of Police | City of Santa Cruz
Re: “Tent Situation”
This article demonstrates both the city and county’s severe ignorance on the issues of mental health, substance use disorders, and homelessness.
One might remember that Santa Cruz did have a day center at Coral Street until city officials made it difficult and put up a fence. There was also a dual diagnosis treatment program on Pioneer Street that worked closely with the shelter to treat those in our community with complicated health, mental health, homelessness and substance use issues.
If the county and city are flummoxed by these issues, perhaps they might learn more about best practices currently working, like the Santa Cruz VA Supported Housing Program, which has seriously reduced veteran homelessness in Santa Cruz and has eliminated veteran homelessness in other areas. Subsidized housing is the small part … the success of programs like these are the clinical providers, therapists, social workers and case managers.
Santa Cruz used to do better! We can do this.
— Dave R.
You want to set up a homeless encampment? Downtown is not the place. Paradise Park used to work. I don’t know why they shut that down. There’s a huge empty field next to the old clubhouse in Pogonip. Build a fence around it and set up a big circus tent for people to camp under. Make that your “Hamsterdam,” out of sight and out of harm’s way for the average citizen who wants to enjoy the city’s public parks. You could retrofit the old clubhouse for homeless services. Think about it. Downtown is not working, though. It’s just kicking the can around.
It’s interesting to see, the usual homeless-ophobe narrative of homeless folks as being “drunken, drugged, mentally ill, lazy, transient bums” becoming less fashionable. In fact, folks outside are a combination of many things, but die 20 years earlier, are treated like second-class citizens, and have the same faults, vices, and disabilities that those in housing have without the benefit of privacy, anonymity and support. And, of course, many of them are longtime Santa Cruzans dumped from housing because of the city’s support for profiteering developers and greedy landlords.
I fear it’s likely that city authorities will use the opening of the slightly-beyond-token shelter (100 emergency walk-in beds for 1,500-plus folks outside) as an excuse to disperse the politically embarrassing spectacle of poor people huddling in cold winter weather away from San Lorenzo, and away from the communal support they now enjoy there, however briefly.
— Robert Norse