"It's in the air," says California Shakespeare Festival spokesperson Victoria Kirby. "When Ashland [Ore.] made their announcement on Monday, we all said, 'Oh hell, they stole our thunder.' " Artistic directors are dropping like flies from summer Shakes up and down the coast: Ashland's artistic director, Henry Woronicz, resigned for "personal" reasons; Danny Scheie stepped down from Shakespeare Santa Cruz; and locally, Michael Addison, longtime (nine years) artistic director of California Shakespeare Festival, announced last week that he was leaving, as well. "When Michael told the company, there were gasps around the room, then total silence," Kirby recounts. "Then they gave him a five-minute ovation." Under Addison's direction, Cal Shakes grew from the small but mighty Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, upping ticket sales from 25,000 to 42,000 per season, tripling the operating budget, and landing its own custom-built amphitheater in Orinda. Now, Addison's just plain tired out from all that fund raising and administrating, and he wants to concentrate on artistic projects. Cal Shakes' board plans to have a new director in place by August so he or she can overlap with Addison for a training period. No news yet on who that person will be, but he or she is likely to be hand-picked by Addison.
We have lost Genevieve Hustead, the ubiquitous theater usher, to a long illness. She was the glamorous, middle-aged woman with the French accent who handed you your program at many a theater opening. A great lover of the arts, the former French teacher decided to fill her dance card with constant ushering duties. (The Magic eventually stopped calling her to see if she would be coming; the management would just pencil her in for opening-night ushering, and she'd show up). Genevieve was repaid with a huge number of friends in the theater community. We all knew she was ill for the last year and a half -- in fact, a party was given for her the day after Thanksgiving 1993, shortly after she announced her illness; she made it to last year's follow-up bash, too. (The first party was such a rousing success, Genevieve asked that it be held every year in her memory.) Apparently, she told her friends she wanted to leave this world the moment she could no longer keep up her ushering schedule, and that's just what she did. She'll be deeply, painfully missed. Services for Genevieve will be held July 8 at 11 a.m. in the Shakespeare Garden of Golden Gate Park. You can make donations in her memory to the Lemonade Fund, Theatre Bay Area's fund for critically ill theater artists.