Renowned actress Zendaya has generously contributed to the California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes), an act poised to significantly influence the company’s forthcoming 50th anniversary season. 

 Facilitating a $100,000 grant through the Women Donors Network (WDN) to the theater’s North Star Fund, the Oakland-native, celebrated for her roles in Dune and Euphoria, demonstrates her commitment to supporting the arts and community initiatives. 

“We hope that our funding supports your work and helps further your strategic vision, wherever funds are most needed,” said WDN’s President and CEO Leena Barakat in a statement. 

The North Star Fund is dedicated toward launching a development program for young acting talent, improving sound and lighting at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, and upgrading Cal Shakes’ Cafe facilities. The fund will also finance the theater’s 50th anniversary production of As You Like It, set to be directed by Elizabeth Carter. 

“To me, As You Like It is ultimately about the freedom to uncover ourselves,” Carter said when the play was announced, “being loved for our true selves, and that the least of us is the most of us.” 

Zendaya, 27, has been closely linked to Cal Shakes since her childhood. Her mother, elementary school teacher Claire Stoermer, worked as the house manager for 12 summers. Zendaya often accompanied her mom to the theater, helping by selling raffle tickets and handing out programs. 

The actress began taking classes at Cal Shakes at the age of 8, encouraged by her mom. Within six years, Zendaya began starring in the Disney Channel series, Shake it Up. In 2020, she became the youngest actor to ever win an Emmy Award for her work on Euphoria. 

The $100,000 donation follows a pattern of Zendaya representing her hometown of Oakland and supporting its community programs. Last year, with boyfriend Tom Holland, she visited her alma mater Oakland School for the Arts to talk with students.  

In 2018, she helped fund a grant supporting computer science curriculum at Oakland’s Roses in Concerete Community School. 

Zendaya remains a regular visitor to the Cal Shakes’ theater in Orinda and was made aware of its post-pandemic challenges in conversations with Executive Director Clive Worsley and others at Cal Shakes. 

“We are deeply grateful to Zendaya and the WDN for their partnership,” Worsley said in a statement. “This gift helps keep Cal Shakes going strong.” 



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