Nestled in the hills east of Berkeley, the California Shakespeare Theater is quickly becoming one of my favorite weekend getaways in the Bay Area. From May through October, Cal Shakes stages a rotation of four plays (not all by the Bard) in an intimate outdoor amphitheater. The main stage is surrounded by a beautiful, wooded outdoor seating area that makes a perfect spot for enjoying a picnic and drinks before the show. In addition, Cal Shakes is committed to innovative, experimental theater so it’s not uncommon to find art installations peppering the theater grounds as well.
Cal Shakes performances are characterized by playful irreverence. The main stage itself is unassuming, with simple plastic chairs, allowing the audience to be drawn into the performance and its stunning natural backdrop. This Bay Area counterculturally-tinged style has also seeped in to the management of the theater itself. As part of Cal Shakes’ commitment to community engagement and accessible theater, the company offers a wide variety of box office discounts–including the 20 for $20 program, in which 20 $20 tickets are set aside at noon on the day of a performance, available to callers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Cal Shakes is a truly wonderful way to spend an evening in the Bay Area. I’m convinced that there is nothing quite like watching theater as the sun sets. One night, I even saw a shooting star pass overhead during a performance of A Winter’s Tale!
Getting to Cal Shakes
The California Shakespeare Theater is located at 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way (formerly 100 Gateway Boulevard), Orinda, CA 94563.
You can also reach the theater by BART. Take the train to Orinda station (on the Pittsburgh/Bay Point – San Francisco line). Cal Shakes offers a free shuttle to the theater every twenty minutes, beginning 90 minutes prior to the start of a show. The shuttle will also deliver you back to BART when the play is finished.
Box office information is available on the Cal Shakes website.