Company History

Company History

Co-founded in 1994 by educators, actors and Shakespeare aficionados, Kevin Dressler and Randy Messersmith, Southwest Shakespeare (“SSC”) has always emphasized education and making Shakespeare understandable to the masses.

In May 2000, a national search brought Jared Sakren to SSC as Artistic Director. He was a member of the first graduating class of the Juilliard Drama Division and a founding member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company, with which he appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on national tours. His background includes teaching, performance and directing credits throughout the nation including the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Yale School of Drama, American Conservatory, Denver Center Theater Co., Arizona Theatre Company, and more. He is also founding artistic director of Shakespeare Sedona.

For the first 11 seasons, SSC performed the fall and spring shows in the outdoor Mesa Amphitheatre and the winter show indoors at either Mountain View or Westwood High School. The 2005-2006 season opened at the new Mesa Arts Center, a $94.5 million facility located in downtown Mesa. Under Jared Sakren’s leadership, SSC expanded its season and performed a total of five shows in two of its four theaters (the 550-seat Virginia G. Piper Repertory Theater and the 99-seat Anita Cox Farnsworth Studio Theater).

SSC mounted a six show season in 2006-07, performing in yet a third theater at the “MAC,” the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse Theater. For the last several seasons, Southwest Shakespeare has performed five shows in the Mesa Arts Center and to date, we have brought over 115,000 students to our theatres to see and experience Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen and heard, on stage.

In a continuing effort to better serve our mission to bring classical theatre to audiences, SSC performed at the Arizona Biltmore Resort during the summer in 2010 and 2011. This summer we brought ART and Much Ado About Nothing to the beautiful red rocks of Sedona.