Photo credit: Bernadette Wilson
A Passion for Theater
For nearly 35 years, UC Santa Cruz Admissions Counselor Sharon Dirnberger has been supporting the education and development of Santa Cruz students. A long career at UCSC also provided Sharon with a front row seat for her other passion – theater. Quirky, fun, artistically interesting theater, thy name is Shakespeare Santa Cruz.
Sharon’s been supporting Shakespeare Santa Cruz for over 25 years now; first as a season ticket holder, a member of the Board of Directors, and a donor. Now, by including Shakespeare Santa Cruz in her will, she’s ensuring that Shakespeare Santa Cruz will be available to generations of theater lovers, just like her.
Her first experience with Shakespeare Santa Cruz is one she’ll never forget.
“When I first attended Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s production of Henry IV, Part 1 in 1984, I was skeptical,” Sharon said. “I had heard that Paul Whitworth played Henry IV in a Boy George costume and that Falstaff rode a motorcycle and wore leathers. I didn’t know what to think! But, it was amazing. I was hooked for life. I brought a friend who had taken Shakespeare in college and hated it. Even he liked it!”
Sharon’s been a theater fanatic since high school, but her early experiences were much more conservative.
“In high school, we’d take field trips up to ACT (American Conservatory Theater) and by my senior year of college I was a season ticket holder. Even my vacations centered around theater,” she said. “I traveled to Ashland and London for theater.”
Sharon still enjoys traditional theater, but admires that Shakespeare Santa Cruz and Shakespeare-to-Go offers our community a much more accessible kind of theater. “To people who tell me Shakespeare is ‘too highbrow,’ I tell them, ‘bring your picnic; bring your wine.’ The redwood glen is a magical place,” she said.
Sharon is most passionate about bringing live theater to children. While serving on the Board from 1997-2002, she chaired the education and outreach committee. “I want to bring live theater to kids in schools so that they can enjoy this very different art form. If you connect them early with theater … it’s just so different than television or film … it will enrich their entire lives.”
Sharon wanted to preserve Shakespeare Santa Cruz for future generations. When her parents passed away, she was the sole beneficiary of her parents’ real estate holdings.
“My folks bought their house in Santa Cruz in 1973 and I sold it in 2006. I realized that with my inheritance, I needed to make my own estate plan. I don’t have any children or brothers or sisters that I’d need to support. So, I’m designating organizations and causes that are important to me. Shakespeare Santa Cruz is at the top of that list. It was such a great experience to be able to figure that out. Including an estate gift is a wonderful opportunity to make an impact,” she said.
Sharon is also a dedicated annual donor to Shakespeare Santa Cruz, often co-sponsoring a performance in the Mainstage Theater. She is helping to secure professional theater for the Santa Cruz community, now and into the future.