Berkeley Rep Blog

December 2009

Berkeley Rep named best of the decade

posted by Terence Keane on Mon, Dec 28

Happy New Year to you and yours! It certainly has been quite a year here at Berkeley Rep:

In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)

  • Another two shows developed at Berkeley Rep landed on Broadway: Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).

  • Wishful Drinking also became a bestseller – and earned its author a Grammy nomination for her audio book!

  • Spike Lee released his film of Passing Strange, and Green Day released a new version of the song "21 Guns" featuring the cast from our blockbuster production of American Idiot.

  • With a daring array of plays, we continued to break box-office records in Berkeley even as our shows toured to Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and other cities.

We’re grateful for your support in 2009, and thrilled to share with you the accolades we’ve received as the decade draws to a close:

  • In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Robert Hurwitt asserts that “the rise of Berkeley Repertory Theatre” was the Top Theatre Story of the Decade! “The Rep opened its new Roda Theatre in ’01, allowing it longer runs and greater flexibility with two mainstages, and has quickly risen in local and national prestige. Under the leadership of Tony Taccone and his associate artistic director Les Waters, it’s become one of the region’s two flagship companies and a primary source of new work for Broadway (where Taccone and Waters each opened a show this fall) and the rest of the country.”

In 2009, we were proud to premiere an unconventional comedy called In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) – and even prouder when Les made his Broadway debut with Sarah’s script this fall. The play that we commissioned proved popular with the nation’s most prominent theatre critics:

  • Elysa Gardner named it Best Play of the Year in USA Today: “Broadway newbie Sarah Ruhl defied gender and genre orthodoxy to give us a hilarious and moving meditation on the many factors that complicate communication between (and within) the sexes.”

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Holiday centerpiece salutes "21 Guns"

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Dec 22

There's an annual holiday tradition around here, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it involves creativity.

In the weeks leading up to the Berkeley Rep staff holiday party, each department is charged with creating one of the festive centerpieces that adorn the tables. Some departments take this charge very seriously and begin thinking about it months before. Others are more inspired by the creative push of a deadline and throw something together before heading into the party.

The one rule is that the design must have something to do with a Berkeley Rep show, past or present.

An impartial panel of judges at the party (their identities are known only to Company Manager Megan
Wygant) covertly assesses the creations and a prize is awarded to the winner.

SOT centerpiece 1
Now that this year's party is behind us, we can share with you the winning entry. Designed by School of Theatre administrator Emika Abe and fellow Lizz Guzman and constructed by the SoT staff, the centerpiece paid homage to the Green Day song "21 Guns" featured in American Idiot. A Christmas tree shape is decorated with toy guns and pictures of guns (21 in all, very clever) and topped with a plush heart grenade. There's also an accompanying note to the big man in red. Taking its cue from Johnny's letters in the show, the missive reads: "Santa, take a f@#*ing shower."

Members of the SoT design team each won a $50 Whole Foods gift card for their efforts.

And speaking of "21 Guns," the fantastic version Green Day recorded with the American Idiot cast is available for download at all the usual outlets including iTunes and Amazon.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Berkeley Rep!

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Show poster models needed!

posted by Cheshire Isaacs on Fri, Dec 18

Want to be featured in a Berkeley Rep poster? We’re searching for two volunteer models, one male, one female, to pose for a non-explicit nude photo that will be the poster image for Berkeley Rep’s upcoming world premiere of Naomi Iizuka’s “Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West.”

The two models would be posed tightly together in a position that would suggest sexual intimacy. The photo, which would be taken from a side view, would require models to be fully nude, but no faces, genitalia, or nipples would be shown. The ideal models would be Asian or Asian-American, but since the photo will be monochrome, models with comparable skin tones would be fine. Models must be over 18 and should look 20s, have smooth (not overly hairy) skin, and have petite-to-medium and/or toned builds (but not overly muscular). If you have elaborate tattoos, they should not be visible from at least one side.

Models should be available for a photo shoot during the week of December 21. You will be compensated with for premium tickets to the show (value: $244) and photo credit where appropriate (if desired).

Please send your contact info and your availability during the week of December 21, as well as a full-body photo (clothed is fine as long as we can get a sense of your suitability for the poster image). All submitted information will remain strictly confidential and erased when the project is complete. Please submit your materials to Berkeley Rep’s art director, Cheshire Isaacs, at cheshire AT berkeleyrep DOT org. Cheshire is available to answer questions by email or phone at 510 647-2915. A draft of the poster image is available for your consideration.

A note: actors are completely welcome to volunteer as our models, but it should be clear that this is in no way an audition for Berkeley Rep, and being featured in the poster does not constitute being featured in a Berkeley Rep production.

Please share and/or re-post this request. Thanks so much for your consideration. We hope to hear from you!

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Baby, it's cold outside (but not inside...anymore)

posted by Christopher Dawe on Fri, Dec 18

During Tiny Kushner, our first show in the Thrust Stage after we entirely replaced the HVAC unit on the roof of the building, we had several audience complaints about the wintry temperature in certain parts of the theatre.

We were working at a fast and furious pace to get our settings in line with what our audience expects and deserves, when our crack team of internet monitors picked up on a blog that mentioned our theatre's name, somewhat in vain. A San Francisco artist came to the show and had a memorable experience, to say the least, which he mentioned his on his blog, a tale of a few cities.

He suggested a new design for our burgeoning gift shop:

Here's the front...

T-shirt 1
and here's the back...
T-shirt 2

After writing a note assuring him that we had indeed fixed the issues he was referring to, he graced us with an even better shirt idea, IMHO.

You'll have to visit his blog to see that design.

We always appreciate the feedback our audience members provide for us — especially in such creative ways as this.

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David Sedaris is coming to Berkeley Rep!

posted by Chad Jones on Wed, Dec 16

Yes, it's true. One of the funniest men in the world presents An Evening with David Sedaris from June 14 to 20 on Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage.

Sedaris sketch

Last week, our subscribers and donors were the first to learn about this special event. A few days later, friends of Berkeley Rep found out (basically anyone who's on our email list, which you can join by clicking here), and now the information is spreading out to the rest of the world.

An Evening with David Sedaris will feature the author reading from his as-yet-untitled new book. He will take questions from the audience and then sign books (all of which will be available for sale in the lobby by arrangement with Books, Inc.). We're not kidding when we say tickets are going fast. Seriously. Fast.

Tickets are $35 (half that if you're under age 30). Click on our online box office or call 510 647-2949.

David Sedaris is the author of Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as four collections of personal essays: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, each of which became a bestseller. There are a total of seven million copies of his books in print and they have been translated into 25 languages. He was also the editor of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories. Sedaris’ pieces appear regularly in The New Yorker and have twice been included in The Best American Essays. He and his sister, Amy Sedaris, have collaborated under the name "The Talent Family" and have written half-a-dozen plays which have been produced at The Drama Department, La Mama Experimental Theatre Company, and Lincoln Center in New York City, as well as at theatres nationwide. Their scripts include The Book of Liz, which was published in book form by Dramatists Play Service; Incident at Cobbler’s Knob; One Woman Shoe, which received an Obie Award; Stitches; and Stump the Host. David’s original radio pieces can often be heard on This American Life, distributed nationally by Public Radio International and produced by WBEZ.

He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album. Listen to a four-minute excerpt from his most recent recording, released last month,  David Sedaris: Live For Your Listening Pleasure here.

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Congrats to our first lobby photo contest winner!

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Dec 15

AO Lobby photos 1

Because it's the holidays and because we're having so much fun with Aurélia's Oratorio, the extraordinarily unique show running through January 24 in the Roda Theatre, we decided to have some fun in the lobby.

After setting up some decorations along with a trunk of robes and hats and other costume pieces, we invited our audience members to dress up and take a photo or two of themselves. If they send us the lobby photo (to or post it on our Facebook page, they're automatically entered into a contest to win four tickets to an upcoming Berkeley Rep show along with a pre-show drink for you and your three guests.

We'll conduct random drawings throughout the Aurélia run, and we're delighted to report that our first winner is Laurel Scheinman (seen above in the gold hat with her friend Mindy Geminder in the black hat). Congratulations, Laurel, and many thanks for playing.

Below are a few more festive lobby photos. You can see the entire collection in our Facebook photo album.

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Hello, Kitty! Celebrating two decades in the costume shop

posted by Chad Jones on Mon, Dec 14

Kitty 1

When she left her native Bay Area in the early ’80s, Kitty Muntzel was an artist and a teacher, with students ranging in age from Kindergarten to the golden years. She landed in St. Paul, and while touring the Minnesota Opera, she heard the costume shop was looking for stitchers to help build costumes for Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

“I thought I’d give it a try,” Kitty recalls. “As an artist, I had learned to sew working on fiber sculptures, and I had experience in taking something flat and making it three-dimensional.”

Kitty quickly discovered a love for sewing, and after a year under the apprenticeship of Gail Bakkom at Minnesota Opera, Kitty began working in costume shops around the country, from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to San Francisco Opera to the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC. With each new experience, her skills grew, as did her title.

In the summer of 1989, Kitty came home to the Bay Area when she became a draper at Berkeley Rep.

Now celebrating her 20th anniversary with the Theatre, Kitty can most often be found in the downstairs costume shop adjacent to the Thrust Stage. On a recent morning visit, Kitty was working amid dress forms displaying some favorite costumes she helped to construct over the last two decades.

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Aurelia casts a spell over critics!

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Dec 10

AO dresser

The holidays are here, and the critics have given Aurélia's Oratorio some very nice gifts by way of some truly lovely reviews.

Here are some excerpts from Robert Hurwitt's review in the San Francisco Chronicle, where the Little Man is jumping out of his chair! 

  • Arms turn into legs and at times there's no telling which end of a person is up. Reversals of expectations are the order of the day in Aurélia's Oratorio, the delightfully surreal dreamscape of a show that opened Wednesday at Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theatre. Part nouvelle circus, part vaudeville of illusions, part fantastical free association, Oratorio is a whimsical showcase for the talents of Aurélia Thierrée, a performer who practically defines the word beguiling.
  • At a mere 70 minutes long, Oratorio is packed with enough delights for a show twice as long. It may not have been designed specifically for the holidays, but it's like a Christmas stocking stuffed with one gift after another.

Read the entire review.

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Sipping and snapping through the season

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, Dec 4

AO cocktails - adults

As a toast to tonight's first preview of the amazing Aurélia's Oratorio,we'd like to share with you — in a cyber kind of way — the luscious libations our cocktail sorcerers have concocted for this truly remarkable show.

If you come to the Theatre early or decide to stay after, here's what awaits you:

  • The Spellbinder— Succumb to the sweet charms of this fantasy on ice. Absolut Citron pairs dreamily with Parfait Amour liqueur, while a flash of lemon juice and a splash of tonic water finish things off with a touch of stardust.
  • The Velvet Curtain— Frangelico and Skyy Vodka swirled with white crème de cacao create a lovely, enigmatic concoction. Plumb the depths of this mystery in an elegant martini glass or mixed with a steaming cup of joe.

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American Idiot cast recording of "21 Guns" with Green Day now streaming!

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Dec 3


Just after American Idiot cast members took their final bows on the stage of the Roda Theatre, the work continued. A few days following the final performance on Nov. 15, the cast assembled at Green Day's Jingletown recording studio. With Green Day producing, playing, and singing, they recorded a newly orchestrated (by Tom Kitt) version of "21 Guns."

That track — which sounds absolutely incredible — is streaming on Green Day's website.

Listen to it here.

Here's Billie Joe Armstrong from the press release talking about the recording (shipped to radio Dec. 4 and available for purchase and download on Dec. 22):

"We wanted to record ’21 Guns’ because it represents a pivotal moment in the show when the lead character, sung by John Gallagher, Jr., realizes he needs to get his stuff together,” says Armstrong, who collaborated on the story for American Idiot with Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening). “After the show wrapped, we headed straight to Oakland with the cast to record, and they sung the hell out of it. I couldn’t be happier. It’s great to have something out there for people to hear who didn’t get to see the show.”

It’s been a big week for Green Day and “21 Guns.” The song received two Grammy nominations on Dec. 2: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best Rock Song.

Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown was also nominated for Best Rock Album. The 52nd annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast on CBS Jan. 31, 2010.

Above photo: The cast of American Idiot. Photo by Kevin Berne

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