San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, which has appeared at Amador Valley Community Park for decades, is planning to start performances online this year then return to park stages in late summer although not in Pleasanton.
The troupe began its Free Shakespeare in the Park in 1983, with performances in San Francisco, Pleasanton, Cupertino and Redwood City between June and September. Pleasanton opted out of last year's virtual program during the pandemic, citing finances, and is not planning to take part this summer either.
"The city is unable to sponsor the performance this year," recreation community coordinator Nick Binzoni said. "Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the city is focused on providing essential services and ensuring the needs of the community are met."
"Free Shakespeare in the Park is something we greatly look forward to each summer, so we are, of course, disappointed not to be able to offer it this year," he added. "We hope to bring back Free Shakespeare in the Park in the future."
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and Pleasanton remain in close communication and supportive of each other, noted Executive Director Toby Leavitt.
"SF Shakes is still looking for creative ways to welcome Pleasanton audiences to both its virtual and in-person performances this summer," Leavitt said.
This year's production, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," will be presented in four episodes, with Episodes 1 through 3 on YouTube. The season will culminate with Episode 4 performed live and in person, conditions permitting. The schedule for the live performances is still in development and will be available at sfshakes.org.
Episodes will remain available online, and Episode 4 will also be recorded so audiences can opt to follow each installment as performed or binge-watch all the episodes by summer's end.
The play was co-authored by Shakespeare and George Wilkins, and this production is a new modern-verse translation by playwright Ellen McLaughlin.
"This is Shakespeare at his most sublime, and it was a lovely challenge to meet him in the beauty of his language and try to do right by him," McLaughlin said.
"'Pericles' is an epic tale that holds so much of what this last year has been like," said Carla Pantoja, director of Episodes 2 and 4. "When we take Pericles' journey, we transform with him as he goes from a young cavalier suitor to a man weighed down with grief, finally emerging to rediscover the family he longed for the entire time."
Artistic director Rebecca J. Ennals directs Episode 1, and Episode 3 is directed by Elizabeth Carter, whose virtual "King Lear" last year received wide acclaim. The pre-show creator/director is Carolina Morones.