BERKELEY – Last Friday, Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) hosted a special performance of Twelfth Night as performed by California Shakespeare Theater’s all-female cast. Attendees included BFHP’s clientele, underemployed and underhoused men and women currently residing in the Berkeley area. The event included a free dinner and a chance for audience members to mingle with the cast and crew.
“In school I was never into Shakespeare, but seeing it up close was wonderful,” said audience member and BFHP client Yolanda. “I wasn’t gonna miss it for nothing in the world. I had to take care of some business for my housing but I came right on back. Sometimes you gotta take care of your heart.”
The Twelfth Night cast and crew is bringing the show to non-traditional spaces in the Bay Area including juvenile detention centers, youth development groups, and public libraries.
“A lot of arts events in the Bay Area aren’t particularly welcoming of underhoused people, even though they deserve access to the arts just as much as anyone else, and enjoy the entertainment,” said BFHP Director of Advancement Jim Huntley. “Berkeley Food & Housing Project hopes to host more events like this in the future, and we’re grateful to California Shakespeare Theater for bringing this production to our clients.”
Michelle Hensley, founder of Minneapolis-based theater company Ten Thousand Things (TTT), took on a Director role for this production of Twelfth Night. Hensley’s goal in bringing the TTT model to the Bay Area is to bring theater to diverse audiences with limited access to the arts.
“The goal of this project is to take theater to places where the people we’re performing for aren’t going to be in your typical theater audience,” said Rebecca Novick, CalShakes’ Director of Artistic Engagement. “Ten Thousand Things’s motto is ‘theater is better when everyone is in the audience,’ and we strongly believe that.”
TTT’s shows are high quality, in addition to being highly accessible: the shows annually top “best-of” critics’ list, and last year Minneapolis’s Star Tribune named Hensley “Best Theater Artistic Director.” The Bay Area production of Twelfth Night is supported by Intersection for the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and Art Works.