In 1986, The Shakespeare Center, then operating as Shakespeare Festival/LA, presented the first Summer Festival, with performances of Twelfth Night in Pershing Square. The audience included friends, a few earnest theatergoers, and the homeless residents of the Square. 

The homeless took great pride in the production, and each night they became more and more involved in its promotion and management, showing the audience where to sit, handing out programs, answering questions and thanking everyone for coming.

One night, our gracious hosts presented our founder Ben Donenberg with four large trash bags filled with aluminum cans. Wanting to contribute, they explained that the actors could take the cans to a recycling center and get a nickel a piece. 

Deeply touched, Artistic Director Ben Donenberg declined their offer, but instead created the Food for Thought admission policy in response, requesting that audience members donate food for the needy to gain admission instead of buying a ticket.

In 1993, SCLA expanded to offer outreach programs such as Will Power to Youth and employment and enrichment program that combines hands-on artistic experience with paid job training, specifically created to provide an arts immersion for at-risk youth.

In January 2000, SCLA purchased and moved into it’s permanent downtown headquarters, which is strategically located within a two block radius of three Title One high schools serving approximately 20% of the City of Los Angeles’s youth living at the poverty threshold.

In recent years, SCLA has been a national leader and innovator in the field of arts and human services. Partnerships have included the Department of Justice, the Department of Mental Health, US Department of Veteran Affairs, Arts and Healthcare, Volt Workforce Solutions in Anaheim, and the Linked Learning office of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

This year, SCLA has expanded partnerships with Linked Learning to serve even more students with our youth employment initiative and Santa Monica College to bring Santa Monica a summer of Shakespeare.

WHY SHAKESPEARE: Inspirational documentary created by the National Endowment for the Arts featuring the award winning programs, people and staff of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles.

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles is a tax - exempt, non-profit corporation. Donations are deductible to the full extent provided by law.  Here is a link to our IRS 501 (c) 3 Determination Letter.