Founded in 1990, nonprofit organization Marin Shakespeare Company creates a cultural community through live theater, education and social justice engagement.
The North Bay knows Marin Shakes, led by co-founding Managing Director Lesley Currier and co-founding Artistic Director Robert Currier, for its award-winning summer performances at Dominican University of California’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre in San Rafael.
The company also offers year-round classes for students and leads a theater program for incarcerated individuals at more than a dozen California State Prisons. Several years ago, Marin Shakes formed the Returned Citizens Theatre Troupe, featuring formerly incarcerated actors and playwrights who tell their stories through theater.
Now, Marin Shakes is on the move and beginning long-planned renovations on its new home, the Center for Performing Arts, Education & Social Justice, located at 514 Fourth Street in San Rafael. This month, Marin Shakes staff and board members helped start the demolition and renovation process at a small groundbreaking ceremony.
“Lesley and I have been looking for an indoor home in San Rafael for about 25 years,” Robert Currier says. “Every time a building comes up, we’ve looked at it, but this was too good to be true.”
The building, located just blocks from the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, is the former home of Heller’s for Children baby store. Marin Shakes purchased the building with the help of a generous anonymous donor, and the Curriers worked with architects John Sergio Fisher & Associates to turn the space into a multi-use venue.
The new Center for Performing Arts, Education, and Social Justice will include an intimate 165-seat theater; a lobby that will double as a cabaret space for music, play-readings and community gatherings; classrooms; administrative offices and storage for costumes, props and sets.
With renovations expected to take a year to complete, the Curriers have some time to plan for future productions, and they note it will not just be Shakespeare.
“[The building] is going to allow us to expand our repertoire,” Lesley Currier says. “We will be responsive to what kind of programming the community wants.”
Marin Shakes continues to fundraise for the renovation project, with construction costs rising due to the pandemic. Once the renovations are complete, Marin Shakespeare Company aims to become an arts hub in downtown San Rafael.
“Bob and I have been running Marin Shakespeare for over 30 years,” Lesley says, “and we hope it will survive beyond us, and we think with the theater space, that ensures the longevity of the company.”