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Happy Old Year!

posted by Terence Keane on Mon, Jan 5, 2009
in At the theatre

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Happy New Year! Although right at the moment, we're looking back at the old year with pride and satisfaction. The critics have released their annual Top 10 lists, and we certainly have a lot to celebrate.

For the third straight year, a show that originated at Berkeley Rep made the Top 10 list in the New York Times! Our work also ranks among the year's best in USA Today, Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, and more.

In 2008, we repeatedly broke box office records here in Berkeley, even as our shows enjoyed runs both on and off Broadway. We sent two shows on tour -- Danny Hoch's Taking Over and Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking -- and they played to sold-out houses in Boston, Hartford, Montreal, New York, San Jose, Santa Fe, and Washington, DC. 

So there was a lot to choose from when trying to select the year's highlights. Here's how we looked in the local papers:

  • This year, we're the only theatre to have two shows selected for the Top 10 list in the San Francisco Chronicle: The Arabian Nights and Figaro.

  • The same goes for the Mercury News, which put TRAGEDY: a tragedy and Wishful Drinking among the year’s best.

  • Three of our shows made the Top 10 list in the East Bay Express: Figaro, Taking Over, and TRAGEDY: a tragedy. (The Arabian Nights and Joe Turner's Come and Gone also got honorable mentions -- but I suppose it would've been unsporting of us to take five of the top 10.)

  • Joe Turner made the list in the Marin Independent Journal, and the Bay Area Reporter included The Arabian Nights in its Top 10.

  • And Chad Jones included TRAGEDY: a tragedy in his lists for Theater Dogs and Examiner.com. (And perhaps this is an appropriate time to acknowledge Chad's wonderful work as a critic in the Bay Area. He's moved up Highway 80 to take a job as an editor at the Sacramento Bee, and his insightful writing and sweet personality will be sorely missed in these parts.)

Even more exciting, our Broadway production of Passing Strange topped some important lists:

  • USA Today proclaimed it the Best Original Musical of 2008, Charles Isherwood included it in his Top 10 for the New York Times, and Gothamist named it the #1 show of the year!

  • Strange also made the Top 10 in Newsday and NY1, and NY Press put Stew and Heidi on its list of “who was nice” (as opposed to naughty) in 2008.

  • Plus, one of the songs from the show, "Working the Wound," was ranked 14th when the New York Post chose the 208 Best Songs of 2008.

Wishful Drinking didn’t make any official lists, but it did get some love from critics at the Washington Post, Hartford Courant, and Boston Globe. Shows by Sarah Ruhl, the playwright who penned our upcoming premiere of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), placed among the year’s best in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hartford Courant, New Haven Advocate, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as well as weeklies in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Sarasota.

And it was definitely a good year for Martin McDonagh. We'll return to the work of this Academy Award-wining author when Les Waters directs The Lieutenant of Inishmore in April. Here's how 2008 ended for the bad boy of Broadway:

  • His debut feature film, In Bruges, made a lot of Top 10 lists, especially by people counting the ones that “slipped under the radar.”

  • The film was nominated for three Golden Globes -- and he took home the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) for Best Screenplay and the ZeBBie Award for Best Film Script from the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild.

  • He was named Best New Filmmaker of 2008 by the Boston Society of Film Critics and grabbed the award for Breakout of the Year from the Florida Film Critics Circle.

  • And Martin McDonagh must be extremely versatile, because he also recently saved a game against Ulster while goal-tending for the Heart of Galway. (Well, someone by that name did.)

If you want to see how all of this compares to past years, check out the Best of 2006 and Best of 2007. And drop by the blog later this week, to see what we're cooking up for 2009. Hint: it includes a film, several books, a CD, more touring shows, and the premiere of several hot comedies right here at home.

Phew! At Berkeley Rep, we're as busy as a hyperactive beaver.*


* Extra points for anyone in the theatre community who gets this obscure joke, which connects Berkeley Rep to one of our industry's most controversial shows from 2008.

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