Back in January, we shared the pivotal organizational news that Doug Brook, our leader of Silicon Valley Shakespeare (SVS) for the past six years, would be stepping down as Executive Director at the end of March. The past few months have flown by—just as they tend to do, just as we knew they would. As we move into the month of April and I step into that role, I find myself reflecting on this journey with gratitude—from both a personal perspective and for SVS as an organization on the cusp of major growth. 

I stumbled upon SVS in November of 2018 after literally typing the words “Shakespeare group in Silicon Valley” into my browser search bar. I had just had an especially draining day at the office and, still at my desk late into the evening as the overhead lights clicked off above me, I had the distinct realization that I had become completely consumed by my corporate job. 

It got me thinking about what I missed the most—and what immediately floated to the top of my mind was theatre—more specifically, Shakespearean theatre. My passion for all things Bard-related began after playing Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at twelve years old. Theatre continued to be a large, formative part of the early stages of my life, culminating in receiving my B.A. in English with a concentration in late Shakespearean plays from Santa Clara University. 

A winding road

Shortly after graduation, I discovered another love—the business world. I seized the opportunity to spend a few years traveling the globe planning large-scale events and project managing with Cisco, then shaping and growing a marketing department at a tech startup, then finally, spent several years at Yahoo where I wore many hats as an Executive Assistant and the department operations go-to gal. I have traditionally been the cat herder, the process person, the one who creates order from chaos: skills I have honed over those years that are priceless now.

Frequent travel, late nights, and a jam-packed calendar left little room to stay involved in the theatre world. Do I sometimes lament spending a decade away from it? Of course. Do I regret any of the career choices or paths taken? Absolutely not. Because my ten years in tech supplied me with not only the tools I needed for the future, but the restlessness and drive I needed to leave it all behind in pursuit of something greater. 

That fateful night, when I learned about SVS for the first time, I couldn’t ignore how perfect it seemed that one of the shows for the upcoming 2019 season was an all-female-identifying production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was Midsummer that brought me to the Bard many moons ago, and it was going to be Midsummer that brought me back. 

Returning to theatre, returning home

Working with SVS as an artist was beyond my wildest dreams. Suddenly, I was part of a community of like-minded theatremakers committed to equity, diversity, and the pursuit of true artistry. That summer, after immersing myself in so much joy and creativity in the evenings with SVS, I noticed a stark contrast to the energy of my day. Something was telling me that it was time to move on from my corporate job. In the end, I listened to that voice.

I spent a few months soul-searching, visiting some friends out of state, and contemplating my next move. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do exactly, but I knew it had to do more than check a few boxes—it had to marry my career experience with my life’s passion. En route to the airport, heading home to start the next chapter of my life, I mindlessly unlocked my phone–and then I saw it. SVS was looking for their next Managing Director.

Some believe in fate—and maybe it is just coincidence—but it did feel like a not-so-subtle nudge from the universe to take the leap. The timing was right, the position was right, and it was time to jump in feet first.

The year no one expected

When I started as Managing Director in October of 2019, we had just closed another successful summer run and had begun planning our 2020 season announcement event. As the company’s second full-time employee, I was eager to jump in and be an anchor to help streamline all the wonderful things that were already working, and put some thought and elbow grease into the pieces that weren’t. Little did we know that 2020 was about to throw us an extreme curveball.

After a year of major challenges, trials and errors, and the greatest programming pivot in SVS history, we emerged stronger. We were able to look inward—to reflect on our values, our mission, and our goals. We were able to reflect on what it truly means to be equitable, diverse, and inclusive—to double down on what we already do so well and to improve and excel in areas we hadn’t yet explored. And we were bolstered by a community that believes in us and in our ability to truly deliver what our mission statement claims: that we innovate the classics through inclusive casting, concepts, and retellings; that the classics become further illuminated through these diverse perspectives; and that we inspire our community by igniting the spark of empathy and compassion that connects us to one another.

This past year has shown me that through the resilience of our company, our community, and our world—we can truly get through anything.

Looking ahead

As we move through this difficult time and back to the in-person world we know, we recognize that it won’t feel the same. It can’t feel the same. We’ve been through too much as a global community to allow us to return to “normal”–whatever that means. We will return to the parks with a greater understanding that, while what we had was good, what we will have will be even better: work created OF the community and BY the community creates work FOR ALL the community. Yes, 2021 will be another year away from Willow Street and Sanborn, but I am so proud of the innovative, relevant, and deeply thoughtful online season we have in store for you. 2022 will be our long-awaited, joyful reunion and we will be celebrating every chance we have to be together.

As I’m sure you already know, we often refer to our patrons as “our SVS family.” I’ve been so lucky to experience the full spectrum of what that means—as a patron, as an artist, as a member of the team, and now as the next leader of the company. I am eternally grateful for the support and partnerships of our stellar staff—each a rock star in their own right: Angie, Melissa, Laura, Doll, Tonya, and Kevin—and for the exemplary leadership and guidance from Doug as we’ve moved through this transition.

The exponential growth and transformation that we’ve gone through in the past several years has been astounding. I can’t wait to build what’s next.

If what’s past is indeed prologue, the future sure is bright.
Annalisa Tkacheff
Executive Director