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September 3, 2001

Shakespeare Santa Cruz names interim artistic director

By John Newman

Paul Whitworth, the current artistic director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, is blessed with a generous portion of charisma and a presence that is, as the saying goes, larger than life. With his imposing persona and his long association with the festival, he could almost stand in as the company's signature.

Risa Brainin is associate artistic director for the Missouri Repertory Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, and will take over at Shakespeare Santa Cruz in January. Photo: Mike Regnier
That's why, when Whitworth announced he'd be taking a two-year sabbatical beginning in January 2002, speculation about who would replace him became one of the wildest topics of conjecture at UCSC--second only, perhaps, to what exactly isa genome?

All speculation, about the leadership of SSC anyway, may now be put to rest. In January of 2002 Risa Brainin will assume the helm of Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Brainin is currently associate artistic director for the Missouri Repertory Theater in Kansas City, Missouri. She has served as associate artistic director of the Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis from 1997 to 2000, and was involved with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis as resident director, associate company director, and acting instructor in the company's outreach program.

"This is the ideal position for me in a number of ways," said Brainin. "I'm passionate about being involved with a repertory company that produces classical theater at its best--Shakespeare Santa Cruz has all of this and more. It's also located in my very favorite part of the country. I look forward to getting to know the West Coast better, both professionally and personally."

Brainin will assume the position of director when Whitworth begins his sabbatical after the close of SSC's holiday season production of Gretel and Hansel.

I'm delighted with Risa Brainin's appointment," said Whitworth. "She brings impressive experience, a wide range of talents, and a fresh sense of excitement to the festival. Shakespeare Santa Cruz has long been noted for its originality and sense of adventure, and we're sure Risa Brainin will be a wonderful addition to that spirit."

Brainin has accumulated impressive directorial credentials with such companies as the Guthrie Theater, Actors Theater in Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Missouri Repertory Theater, Indiana Repertory Theater, and Wisconsin's American Players Theater.

She is also the former director of Stepping Stone Theater for Youth Development, and co-founder and artistic director of Brainstorm Productions. She has served on the faculty at the University of Minnesota and directed the apprentice and intern programs at Actors Theater in Louisville. Brainin was a finalist for the 1996 Alan Schneider Director Award, and is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University Drama Program.

Brainin will be working with Marcus Cato, longtime SSC production manager, who was recently named the new managing director. It's a combination that affords Whitworth peace of mind contemplating SSC's future in his two-year absence.

"The combination of Marcus's deep knowledge of every aspect of the festival and Risa's new perspective," he observes, "should yield exciting results."

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