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30 Years of Transformation

For three decades, Southwest Shakespeare Company (SSC) has been the torchbearer of classical theatre in Arizona, captivating audiences with timeless Shakespearean masterpieces. From humble beginnings, SCC has evolved into a prominent theatrical institution in the American Southwest. Embracing the theatrical vision of William Shakespeare, our user-friendly approach and commitment to inclusivity has paved the way for profound community engagement and artistic excellence.


As we reflect on our remarkable journey, join us in exploring the impact of language, the power of storytelling, and the shared passion that has defined our history.

Founding and Growth

Founded in 1993 by visionary educator/artists, Randy Messersmith and Kevin Dressler, SSC embodied a "user-friendly" theatre concept from its inception. Drawing inspiration from Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the goal was to create a modern people's theatre, inviting audiences from all walks of life to participate actively and engage in the magic of SSC's performances.

As SSC has grown, its core values rooted in Shakespeare's theatrical vision endured, nurturing artistic excellence and community engagement. From Messersmith's early departure to Jared Sakren's appointment as Managing Artistic Director, SSC forged ahead, raising artistic standards, and introducing talented actors, designers, and directors from across the U.S.

A Timeline of Achievements & New Global Showcase

Through three eventful decades, SSC thrived financially, artistically, and organizationally, witnessing its budget soar from less than $30,000 to over $800,000. Acknowledging SSC's artistic prowess, numerous AriZoni-Award winners graced its stage, while SSC itself received accolades for Best Overall Productions.

Expanding its horizons, SSC hosted and presented classical and literary-themed productions from across the nation and around the world, from the Harlem Shakespeare Festival to the Fringe Festivals in Los Angeles and London, England.

In a groundbreaking move, SSC introduced "Winterfest," performing two shows in repertory, a concept never before witnessed at the Piper Repertory Theater in the Mesa Arts Center's history. 

Expanding to New Venues, Premiers and Partnerships

As SSC celebrated its 20th Anniversary, it embarked on an extraordinary expansion, adding Playhouse on the Park and Desert Botanical Garden to its venues. The innovation continued, reimagining outdoor performances with the enchanting "FairyWorlds."

SSC welcomed a season of Arizona premieres, a testament to its continuous commitment to presenting fresh versions of Shakespeare's timeless canon and introducing new works, capturing hearts and igniting imaginations.

A Living Legacy

As SSC celebrates its 30th anniversary, it stands proud, embodying the enduring spirit of classical theatre, fostering inclusivity, and inspiring audiences for generations to come. Join us on this extraordinary journey through time, where language, passion, and artistry have shaped a legacy of love for the stage and the shared humanity it reflects.

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