From Facilities Director Christopher Dawe:
One recent rainy Tuesday afternoon, we lost power on our block of Addison Street.
The outage forced us to cancel American Idiot that night because we were advised by the PG&E street crew that we wouldn’t have power again until midnight — or later.
Before that, we hadn’t canceled a show since 2006 when Rita Moreno became ill during her run in The Glass Menagerie. And before that, we hadn't canceled since 1999. And that was due to power failure, too.
When the power came back on after the most recent outage (well after midnight), we did our usual check on our equipment. We found this blown 200-Amp fuse on our chiller unit (the place we make cold air for our air conditioning). We got lucky because the fuse did the job it is supposed to do, which is to be the weakest link to break down (also inexpensive to repair).
We get to play with big toys here at Berkeley Rep, and this is just one glorious instance of the stuff we get to fix when things go wrong.
In Tiny Kushner, a collection of five short plays by Tony Kushner, Jim Lichtscheidl takes a memorable turn through East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis: a little teleplay in tiny monologues. Jim plays nearly two dozen characters in a fast-paced story about a real-life tax-evasion scheme born in the Midwest that spread through New York City public employees like a bad disease.
To keep track of all his varied characters — male, female, young, old, Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, Sikh-American, Italian American, you get the picture — Jim lifted a trick from the world of movies. He created storyboards, quick sketches of each of his characters and the kind of setting in which their scene takes place.
Jim allowed us to peek into his storyboard notebook and share some of his sketches with you. Here's the first page, which features a corrections officer on Rikers Island and a skinhead inmate (for a larger image, click on the photo):
"This is the first time I've storyboarded a project," Jim explains. "I felt I needed a touchstone to help with memorization and to get a grasp on what these characters look like in the environment Kushner has created."
For the third time this month, one of our shows garnered a great review in the New York Times. On October 5, Ben Brantley wrote a rave review for the Broadway production of Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, which was staged by Artistic Director Tony Taccone. On October 10, Charles Isherwood published a rocking review for Green Day’s American Idiot, our world premiere directed by Michael Mayer. Then, this past Sunday, Bruce Weber penned a big review of Tiny Kushner for the new Bay Area section in West Coast editions of the Times
Here’s what he had to say about the show, and about our recent success. In a metaphor appropriate for October, he compares us to a homerun hitter on a hot streak:
“A thinking person's comedy... the West Coast premiere of Tiny Kushner took place on Wednesday at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where so much of the nation’s talked-about dramatic product seems to come from these days, and the double pedigree – playwright and theater – is attention-getting...
“Individually and even collectively, the five entries here are snacks in the Kushner canon. However, that doesn’t make them nonnourishing or the evening unsatisfying; Mr. Kushner’s fierce liberal conscience (he’s Arthur Miller’s heir, in that regard), colossally fanciful imagination and virtuosic gift for composing verbal arias are too much in evidence for that...
There are Halloween parties, and then there's the American Idiot Halloween party.
You can get your Halloween off to a rock-and-roll start at Berkeley Rep! See Green Day’s American Idiot this Saturday, October 31, and start the party early. Come in costume and your first drink before the show is on us! Bar specials include a Bloody Mary, the St. Jimmy, the Letterbomb, and others, as well as an outstanding selection of local brews.
And here's some good news: If you’re under 30, your ticket is half-price!
Stick around after the show, too. As soon as the curtain falls around 9:30pm, we’ll be giving away a bundle of American Idiot memorabilia for the best costume of the night. The winner will receive a Levi’s™ American Idiot tote bag containing a souvenir book, limited edition commemorative poster, the American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums and an American Idiot T-shirt.
Buy tickets online or call our box office at 510 647-2949.
If it's two days after an opening night, this must be what we call Review Friday. Today's the day reviews of Tiny Kushner begin rolling in, and we're enormously pleased and proud of this Tiny accomplishment. Congratulations to Artistic Director Tony Taccone and his fantastic cast — J.C. Cutler, Kate Eifrig, Jim Lichtscheidl, and Valeri Mudek.
Here's a sampling of the critical response, along with links to the complete reviews.
Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Penetrating… buoyant… blistering… exhilarating! Broad reach and Kushner’s eclectic, wicked wit make for a great deal of charm and excitement in Tiny Kushner, an anthology of five short plays... it’s impressive how well the five plays fit together, because they were written at different times for different purposes... Hefty political and moral issues dance with buoyant shtick [as] penetrating comedy and theatrical strokes light up the stage, fully exploited by director Tony Taccone and four versatile actors.”
...it was awesome!
Over the years, we in the Berkeley Rep costume shop have had some interaction with the tailors at Pixar. Kathy, our tailor, has an excellent book on tailoring odd bodies that they took guidance from during Ratatouille. Needless to say, a bond was formed between our shop and theirs.
There are a few things I never knew or thought about when it comes to animation. Being a fan of animated films, TV shows, and video games, I should have realized the amount of effort it takes to render clothes beautifully in this medium — doubly so because of my profession! But when I heard that Pixar had tailors, I was a little confused. But now I understand, and after you read this, you will too!
(This was explained to me last week, and hopefully I don't muddle it — Pixar lovelies, if you read this and I make a mess of it, post corrections and I will fix!)
Some of the Pixar group were tailors, and others did hair, skin, etc. The focus was largely on the body of the characters among our companions (much like it is with us). At Pixar, the tailors render the clothes to lay over the bodies of the characters. To do this, they have to take into account not only the garment that they are creating, but also the body under the garment and the accessories that may be moving freely over the garment. (So far, this sounds simple, right?)
Today's San Francisco Chronicle features a great interview with old friends Tony Kushner and Tony Taccone, who have been collaborating since just before Kushner's Angels in America rocked the world. Their latest project is Tiny Kushner, a collection of five short plays, which opens tonight and continues through Nov. 29 on the Thrust Stage.
Robert Hurwitt's story begins: "From the epic Angels in America and prescient Homebody/Kabul to the musical Caroline, or Change, Kushner, 53, can't seem to stop wrestling massive themes to the stage with wit, penetrating insights and great theatricality."
And here's Kushner, who is not generally known for the brevity of his tremendous wit and intelligence, on writing short plays: "It's not a form that I'm naturally drawn to. I think I've written 10 or 12. What I like about this grouping is that they have a certain thematic consonance, and there's a shape to the evening. It's not just a smorgasbord."
Above photo: Tony Kushner and Tony Taccone on the Tiny Kushner set.
Photo © Mike Kapka, San Francisco Chronicle
By Elizabeth Guzman
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d be able to say: “Sorry, I can’t hang out tomorrow. I’ll be welcoming John Gallagher Jr., Rebecca Naomi Jones, Michael Esper, Tony Vincent, and Anthony Rapp to the event I planned."
As the fellow in charge of Teen Council at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, I have been working to keep up momentum and excitement after American Idiot. While perusing theatrebayarea.org, I was excited to see that Rent would be playing in San Francisco starring Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the original Mark and Roger respectively. Over the next few weeks, Rachel Fink, associate general manager and director of the School, Gendell Hernandez, our education associate, and I put together plans to take a group to see Rent as part of our Theatre Scene program. Although this was the first experience with the show for many of the teens, I discovered Rent 13 years ago and consider it to be one of my formative experiences personally and theatrically. So you can imagine my excitement when Rachel suggested inviting Anthony Rapp and members of the American Idiot cast to come to the School and have a special talkback with the teens about their experiences in these shows.
By 4pm on October 15, the crowd of teenagers was gathering outside the doors of the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre. Some came inside to giggle and whisper with their friends, while others hung around the door hoping to be the first to catch a glimpse of the actors. The adults were also extraordinarily excited, and I, for one, felt myself holding my breath as the interview began. I wanted to make sure that the event went well — that the actors were comfortable and that the teens felt inspired, learned something, and had fun. Perhaps, most importantly, I wanted to make sure the students’ pizza and actors’ food arrived on time and was correct. However, as soon as Valerie Dohrer and Darcy Davis (our wonderful teen interviewers) asked the first question and Anthony answered, I relaxed and listened to what the actors had to say. The insight, laughter, and theatrical passion that each actor shared with the group elicited smiles, laughter, and knowing nods from teens, fellows, and staff alike. Even comments relating auditioning to being a dog on an electrocuted floor could not take away from the evening (thank you, Michael Esper!).
Estimates for last Monday night’s audience at The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later are impressive. Somewhere in the realm of 50,000 people (according to the New York Times) attended one of the 150 staged readings of the new play around the world — including at least one in each of the 50 states.
Mina Morita, who directed Berkeley Rep’s sold-out production of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, reflects on the events of Monday night: “It was such a cultural moment. The impact of doing something like that on an international scale, to be connected that way, is incredible.”
Tectonic Theater Project, the creators of the original Laramie Project (produced at Berkeley Rep in 2001), a piece of documentary theatre about the murder of 21-year-old college student Matthew Shepard in 1998, hosted a reading in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Tully Hall. Portions of that reading, specifically the pre-show introductions featuring Tectonic’s Moisés Kaufman and actor Glenn Close and the post-show discussion, were streamed over the internet and made available to any theatre company with the technological know-how to tap into it.
The Berkeley Rep audience saw the New York introduction and then took part in a live post-show discussion with Mina, dramaturg, Rachel Viola (Berkeley Rep’s literary/dramaturgy fellow), and Greg Miraglia from the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
For Mina, along with her 10-member cast and stage manager Michael Suenkel (who also stage managed The Laramie Project here eight years ago), the reading turned out to be a whole lot more.
“First of all, it was an event with a cause: proceeds from the evening are being donated to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and we’re going to be making a donation of approximately $4,000,” Mina says. “This play engages us because of the issues it involves, including the possibility for cultural change, led by the hate crime bill that has taken 10 years to see action on a federal level. The week before the reading, the House passed the bill, and it could be going to the Senate any day now. That combined with President Obama’s weekend speech to the Human Rights Campaign and the gay rights march on Washington created a real sense of momentum leading up to the reading on Monday.”
Berkeley Rep is featured in a fantastic front-page story in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
The headline reads, "Berkeley Rep a big success on Broadway," and the story, about the shows the Theatre has sent and is sending to New York as well as the buzz generated by the world premiere of American Idiot, features interviews with our own Artistic Director Tony Taccone, Managing Director Susie Medak, and Associate Artistic Director Les Waters, along with American Idiot producer Tom Hulce, Lincoln Center Artistic Director Andre Bishop, playwright Tony Kushner, and The Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.
Speaking about Berkeley Rep's rising national profile, Tony Taccone is quoted as saying: "It puts a certain spring in your step. For everyone at the company, in some unconscious way it's a validation for everything you've been doing. But it's certainly not what we planned."
Tony goes on to say of the exposure: "I think it's good for all of us. If something is great at ACT or TheatreWorks or Marin, it raises people's expectations at all the other theaters. Is it good for Chicago when Steppenwolf does August: Osage County? It's good for the Goodman and everybody else. When people come out from New York and other places, they check out other companies while they're in town."