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Zendaya attends a news conference for “Dune: Part Two” on Wednesday, Feb. 21, in Seoul, South Korea. | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Zendaya Makes Generous Donation To Revitalize Bay Area Theater

Zendaya as Celia in “As You Like It” as part of Cal Shakes’ Conservatory | Jay Yamada/California Shakespeare Theater 2006

In the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it’s easy to forget one’s roots. But for Oakland native Zendaya, her journey back to where it all began is a heartwarming reminder of the power of generosity and the enduring influence of community.

Zendaya, the Emmy-winning star of EuphoriaMalcolm & Marie, and the Spider-Man and Dune franchises, recently made headlines not for her latest blockbuster role or jaw-dropping red-carpet appearance but for her heartfelt contribution to the California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes).

The announcement came on Wednesday, Feb. 21, as the East Bay theater company revealed that Zendaya had donated a generous sum of $100,000 through the Women Donors Network. Clive Worsley, the Executive Director of Cal Shakes, expressed deep gratitude, emphasizing the significance of Zendaya’s donation, particularly in the challenging times faced by the theater community.

For Zendaya, the connection to Cal Shakes runs deep. Born and raised in Oakland, she found herself immersed in the world of theater at a young age, thanks to her mother, Claire Stoermer, who worked at Cal Shakes for 12 summers. Zendaya would spend her days hanging out backstage, absorbing the magic of live performances and gradually overcoming her natural shyness by taking classes with the company.

Cal Shakes’ Bruns Ampitheater, with a view of the Orinda hills, seen on Dec. 21, 2020. | Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Trish Tillman, a former Cal Shakes instructor, reminisced about Zendaya’s early days as a tomboyish pupil, noting how her experiences with the company instilled in her the value of hard work, collaboration, and understanding the craft of acting.

Fast forward to the present, and Zendaya continues to make waves both on and off the screen. From her role in the highly anticipated Dune: Part Two to her upcoming project, Challengers, she remains a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.

Yet, amidst her busy schedule, Zendaya has not forgotten her roots. Her generous donation to Cal Shakes comes at a critical time for Bay Area theater, which continues to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic. With theaters facing closures and financial uncertainties, Zendaya’s contribution serves as a sign of hope, revitalizing a cherished institution and paving the way for future artists.

With her unwavering commitment to her roots and dedication to making a positive impact, Zendaya reminds us all that no matter how far we journey, home is where the heart is. And for Zendaya, that heart will always belong to the stage, where her love for the arts first began.