When SB native Melissa came back to her hometown fresh after receiving her theatre degree, she was surprised to find that not only were there few opportunities for adult actors, but that there was no in-town company which consistently provided Shakespeare to the Santa Barbara Community.

So, armed with fresh Shakespearean training and the idealism of a new college grad, she decided to create her own production. From scratch, Melissa and a group of amazing artists came together and put together a full production of Taming of the Shrew, in November of 2017 in the beautiful setting of Manning Park in Montecito. The show was a greater success than imaginable, and it became apparent that there was a desire for permanent outdoor Shakespeare here in the city. Since then Santa Barbara Shakespeare put on another full production of As You Like It in Montecito, uplifting the community after the horrible Mud Slide tragedy of 2018. 

Santa Barbara Shakespeare, now a 501c3 non-profit, continues to find ways to create art in Santa Barbara, bringing the bard to theatre-goers in the city and beyond. 


Melissa Marino Founder

Melissa Marino, Founder and Board Director

Melissa is a performer, director, producer and Santa Barbara native who grew up performing from a young age. She was involved in school productions throughout her childhood, from Showstoppers to La Colina to San Marcos, and was further inspired to receive her B.F.A. in Theatre Performance at Chapman University.  She then went on to earn her Masters in Performing Arts Management from Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy, and currently works with multiple theatre organizations across the globe. Some of her favorite Shakespeare performances include performing as Feste in Twelfth Night and acting in a series of roles with her university's Guerrilla Shakespeare Troupe.


Anna Jensen, Director

Anna has a Ph.D. in Theater Studies from UC Santa Barbara, where she currently also teached. In addition to working as the cultural history and dramatic literature at the Brooks Institute for over a decade, she has translated and adapted plays by Henrik Ibsen, including Hedda Gabler and When We Dead Awaken. She works with Ensemble Theatre Company, where she recently consulted on their production of Measure for Measure, and she has served as production dramaturg for many productions—some of her favorites include Macbeth, Good People and The Baltimore Waltz  

Jenni Ernest

Jennifer Ernest, Costumer

Jennifer is a Santa Barbara native that was almost literally born into the theatre. Though she currently lives in the Los Angeles area, Santa Barbara will always be her home. Whether it was growing up in a family with strong ties to theatre, acting in the various shows from Junior High through College and beyond or being behind the scenes on film and television this all around Renaissance Woman has always held a special place in her heart for the Bard. In fact she came back from an over a decade theatre hiatus just to perform in a Shakespeare show. And has not been able to give it up since. You may have even seen her in the inaugural production last year as Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, where she also was the costumer.