Charles Pasternak Named New Artistic Director of Santa Cruz Shakespeare

Pasternak follows Mike Ryan, who will step down after the 2023 season

Santa Cruz, CA (August. 24, 2021) – Santa Cruz Shakespeare and its Board of Directors announced today that Charles Pasternak will take over as the company’s next artistic director, assuming the role after the 2023 summer season. Mr. Pasternak will succeed Mike Ryan who announced he will depart after 10 years in the role.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am very pleased to announce the selection of Charles Pasternak as the next artistic director of Santa Cruz Shakespeare,” said Board President Rick Wright. “Charles will bring so much to Santa Cruz Shakespeare and will further the vision that Mike Ryan established. Charles is not only a gifted actor and director, but will continue to foster increasing advocacy for inclusiveness and gender equity as we work to strengthen our artistic work, enhance the audience experience, broaden our education program and deepen our roots in the community. I look forward to Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s growth under his artistic leadership.”

“It is the greatest honor of my life to accept the role of Artistic Director of Santa Cruz Shakespeare,” said Pasternak. “In many ways, my professional career began here in Santa Cruz when Marco Barricelli cast me as Romeo in his 2008 season. Eventually, it was the artists and relationships I built over four seasons in Santa Cruz that carried me to a wide-spanning career across this country. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that, as an artist, now the circle closes: I’m coming home.”

With his appointment, Pasternak brings a vision for the company’s next chapter that builds on the theatre’s 40-year success, continuing to make it a vital, celebrated and authentic part of the Santa Cruz community and beyond.

“I will endeavor to continue the incredible work of Mike Ryan in leading this company towards both artistic excellence and social justice,” added Pasternak. “In short, I want to create brilliant theatre with a wildly diverse array of artists and technicians. For all of Santa Cruz and for the communities and beyond.”

Mr. Pasternak will be the eighth artistic director of the Festival since it was founded in 1981 by Audrey Stanley. He has served as the founder, artistic director and long-time actor for The Porters of Hellsgate Theatre Company in Los Angeles. The company is devoted to producing the work of William Shakespeare, and over its fifteen-year history The Porters have produced over two-thirds of the canon, including fifteen productions directed by Pasternak. His productions for The Porters have received numerous Los Angeles awards and nominations including Ovation, Broadway World, Valley Theatre, and Scenie, as well as Critics Pick recommendations from The Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly, and Backstage, among others.

Mr. Pasternak’s appointment comes after a two-year search, which was interrupted by the pandemic. The selection committee, primarily made up of the Board’s executive team, with advice from theater professionals, followed a tradition of evaluating what would be considered the cream of the U.S. theatrical community, not just those with a background as an artistic director.

“Of course, our primary focus was on finding someone with an innovative and fresh artistic vision we believed would support and enhance the organization’s mission, vision and values,” said Rick Wright. “Our dream was to find an individual who could participate in the execution of that vision through acting and directing, someone who would expand our education program, continue to foster diversity, reestablish our run of pantos, strengthen our ties to the community and to our very generous donors. While this was a tall order, and we believe that all of our candidates would have served the organization well, Charles was a true standout. Talking with nearly a dozen highly regarded professionals who know him well convinced us we would be fortunate to count him as our new artistic director.”

Mr. Pasternak, an actor, director, and teacher, has been based primarily in Los Angeles and New York City, though his work in the theatre has taken him across much of the country. To ensure a seamless transition, he will collaborate with Mike Ryan, as well as SCS staff and board, until he assumes his role as Artistic Director in the fall of 2023.

“It has been my extraordinary pleasure to sit at the artistic helm of Santa Cruz Shakespeare since an incredible team of people pulled it from the ashes in 2014. I am deeply humbled by the trust that this community has shown to me and to Santa Cruz Shakespeare,” said Ryan. “Thanks to the generosity and passion of our community, and to the hard work of our board, staff, and all of the artists who have come to work for us in that time, SCS is stronger, more vital, and more relevant than ever…and that means it is time to pass it on to a new Artistic Director at the end of the 2023 season, a decade after I took up the mantle.”

“Theatre thrives on new ideas, different perspectives, and great re-imaginings, and Santa Cruz Shakespeare deserves no less. Charles Pasternak brings with him an unmatched passion for Shakespeare, a love of our Santa Cruz community, and the brilliant personal artistry that has been the hallmark of the Festival for the past 40 years,” Ryan continued. “I look forward to working with him in the next two years to ensure that this transition is both thrilling and inspiring, and that it catapults SCS into the next glorious chapter of its astonishing history.”

About Santa Cruz Shakespeare
Featuring professional actors from around the country and inspired by deep local roots that go back more than 40 years, Santa Cruz Shakespeare stages bold productions of the plays of Shakespeare and other great playwrights that stimulate audiences’ senses and spark their imagination. For more information about SCS, visit, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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