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NapaShakes Receives $450,000 Grant

Anonymous donor provides multi-year grant to Napa Valley-based nonprofit to fund programs, operations, and performances that bring the world’s greatest interpreters of Shakespeare and classical theatre to the Napa Valley’s stages and classrooms

NapaShakes Producer and Artistic Director Laura Rafaty announced today that the theatre company has received a three-year $450,000 grant from an anonymous Napa Valley donor. The grant will enable the company, which was founded by Rafaty in October 2014, to build a path to long-term sustainability by strengthening its staffing and infrastructure, and by expanding key existing relationships with organizations like the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

“In a relatively short period of time, NapaShakes has established a reputation for bringing unforgettable live performances from the most acclaimed theatres around the world to the Napa Valley and making its artists available to local residents, visitors, students and teachers,” says Rafaty. “All of this has been accomplished on a shoestring budget through the tireless work of our small volunteer staff and our hard-working board. We are so grateful to the early volunteers and donors for their faith in us and for sharing our belief in the importance of bringing world-class theatre to our region, and to the thousands of residents and visitors who have attended our live performances and screenings. We thank our anonymous donor, who has invested in NapaShakes at a strategically important time, enabling us to better serve our community and audience into the future.”

Based in St. Helena, NapaShakes is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with annual expenses of $157,000 and revenues of $160,000 during fiscal year 2016. The company received 62% of its income from ticket sales and event driven revenue, with the balance contributed through donations and grants. The nonprofit has presented an ambitious and critically lauded schedule of live performances by internationally renowned theatres, including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (2014 and 2015) and the Fiasco Theatre Company (2016). In 2016, NapaShakes presented its first world-premiere, in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library, of “Measure + Dido,” starring Sir Derek Jacobi and the Folger Consort. The work premiered in the Napa Valley before touring to the Green Music Center and Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center. All NapaShakes performances include educational events with the actors, musicians and creative team.

“We launched NapaShakes’ education program in 2014 by busing 1100 kids from all over the Valley to the Lincoln Theater for a special presentation of ‘King Lear’ by the Globe Theatre,” explains NapaShakes founding Education Director Laila Aghaie. “The kids were enthralled, mobbing the actors like rock stars after the show, and their teachers described it as ‘life changing.’ Since then, we’ve made access to these artists and experiences a hallmark of our education programs, both in schools and in theatres.” 

“The NapaShakes team has been astonished by the enthusiastic support the community has given us,” remarks founding Co-Producer Matthew Cowell. “It’s more than just financial. Lovers of Shakespeare and theatre from all walks of life have provided housing for the actors, promoted ticket sales, hosted fundraising dinners and organized group readings. One local resident lent us a priceless harpsichord while others conducted a ‘scavenger hunt’ of sorts for everything from a Roman helmet to a rare type of horn in order to replace props that went missing right before a show. We would not be here today were it not for these amazing supporters.”

“The Shakespeare’s Globe performances are a particular favorite of our audience, both live and on screen,” adds Rafaty. “We are in regular contact with the Globe team, and we will bring them back to us live as soon as they are ready to tour again. We are expanding our Globe on Screen series, including free student screenings in local schools moderated by our dramaturg Philippa Kelly. NapaShakes was honored to obtain the rights from the Globe to show their thrilling performances captured on film, and we look forward to making them more available to a broader valley-wide audience.“

Founded in 2014, its mission is to establish California’s Napa Valley as a world-class destination for professional classical theatre, and to foster an understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare’s life, times and writings through fun and challenging educational and community outreach programs benefitting residents, students and visitors alike. NapaShakes is in its third season of screenings at St Helena’s Cameo Cinema. Our education and community programs serve thousands of students, seniors and lovers of Shakespeare each year.