.Workplace Drama

A mere few days before TheatreWorks Silicon Valley would launch their 20th New Works Festival, a dire announcement was released about the institution’s multi-million-dollar campaign to keep their doors open.

“[August 9] TheatreWorks announced it must raise $3 million by November 2023 in order to complete its 53rd season,” wrote a press release issued last week by the 2019 awardee of Broadway’s Regional Theatre Tony awards, which highlights theaters outside of Broadway. “The nationally acclaimed theater company founded in Palo Alto in 1970 has announced the devastating after-effects of the COVID pandemic have put its continuation at serious risk.”

“There wasn’t a mismanagement of money or anything like that,” says newly appointed artistic director Giovanna Sardelli. “It’s happening with theaters across the country for the same reason, and for 50-plus years we’ve been economically responsible. The pandemic damaged a fragile ecosystem.”

This, coupled with inflation and increasing financial pressures, has inspired many arts employees and patrons to pull out of the arts altogether and into more lucrative professions like engineering and technology.

“It’s especially tough in Silicon Valley because we’ve lost a lot of people to the tech industry. I have to believe that in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, people will step up,” says Sardelli.

Despite this dismal news for Silicon Valley theatergoers, the currently underway New Works Festival is seeing strong patron support for its vibrant lineup of shows.

“What’s amazing is that those festival audiences have returned almost at a pre-pandemic rate,” she says. “Those people really came out and the shows have been full so far.”

The 20th anniversary festival was in danger of being canceled but was saved by supportive producers who rose to the occasion, according to Sardelli. The fest includes many exciting shows, like its marquee event. 

“Our first show out of the gate this season is Mrs. Christie, which is a regional premiere and isn’t your grandmother’s Agatha Christie,” she says. “It’s a mystery, comedy and full of heart.”

Sardelli is so confident that audiences will love the show, she believes it will be picked up by other theaters across the country. “I’m proud to look at our season and say, ‘This is what we do,’” she says with hope.

The festival opened Friday with Before the Ink Dries, which preceded Happy Pleasant Valley on Saturday (then again on Aug 16 and 19) and Nerve on Sunday (then again on Aug 19), respectively. 

“TheatreWorks has been committed to musical theater, especially in the Bay Area,” says M. Butterfly playwright David Henry Hwang (a Bay Area resident). “TheatreWorks continues to feature a variety of artists and voices.”

Hwang, who admits that it’s a hard time to be a playwright now (and even prior to the pandemic), commends the institution’s ongoing and tireless support of emerging and young playwrights. 

“The idea of being able to give opportunities to local artists as well as supporting young and emerging artists in the Bay Area is important,” he says. “It’s vital for TheatreWorks to survive.”

The rest of the festival showcased Low Expectations on Tuesday (and again on Aug 19), Madeleines on Aug 17 and 20, a fundraiser on Aug 18 and a meet-the-artists panel on Aug 20.

“One of the pillars of TheatreWorks is to invite people into our home and show them what we do, who we are and why we need to be supported,” Sardelli says, encouraging people to come out and cheer their artists.

Regardless of this year’s New Works Festival, TheatreWorks remains committed to regional and national theater—as well as raising money to keep their doors open. 

“Before the pandemic, if you made a miscalculation, you could correct your steps. Now, when you are falling off the cliff, there’s nothing to hold onto,” Sardelli says. “We’ve got some really smart people in the room making important decisions now.”

TheatreWorks has already adjusted their budget to reflect a more conservative, post-pandemic approach to theater and hopes that audiences, subscribers and donors return butts to seats very soon.

“We share stories that celebrate the human spirit and lift people up,” Sardelli says. “I hope the community will step up and support us to see that we produce opportunities and experiences like employment, art, education and entertainment. And we’ve done that for years.”

Jeanette Pratherhttp://JeanettePrather.rocks
A writer, editor and performance artists for over 25 years, Jeanette knows storytelling from the page to the stage. See more at JeanettePrather.rocks or JeanetteBent.rocks.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Giveaways

Win 4 tickets to Keith Rice at SJZ Break Room in San Jose on Friday, October 27. Drawing October 23, 2023.
Win a $25 gift certificate to Smoking Pig BBQ in San Jose. Drawing October 11, 2023.
Metro Silicon Valley E-edition Metro Silicon Valley E-edition