Wes “Scoop” Nisker is known for his decades of work as a Bay Area radio news anchor and commentator as well as for his teachings in Buddhist meditation and philosophy. But he has a secret: there’s theatre in his past.
Back in the day, he dabbled in stage work with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and in the late ‘70s, he was part of a performance work called The Empire Strikes Out, which ran at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco and at the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley.
As his journey took him into the Buddhist community, Scoop performed some short pieces during workshops and at conferences until people encouraged him to go public. That’s when he started performing different versions of Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again at venues such as The Marsh and Freight & Salvage.
For the last few months, Scoop has been working on Crazy Wisdom with Mina Morita, Berkeley Rep’s Bret C. Harte Directing Fellow, along with Literary/Dramaturgy Fellow Rachel Viola, to transform Crazy Wisdom from a lecture piece to something more theatrical. This revamped, more theatrical version will have two performances as part of Berkeley Rep’s Fireworks festival July 2 and 3.
“It used to be very casual,” Scoop recalls. “It was me getting up and making observations, musing on life and the universe. Now the show is being given thematic and dramatic arcs than it never had, which is interesting and exciting. It’s also hard work!”
According to Scoop, the underlying theme of the show hasn’t changed, which is essentially him musing on stuff. “The new structure gives me freedom to get into the character that is me, to let the character come into it and let it be full-blown exposition,” Scoop says. “My main objective is to share my own wonder, my own excitement about the things that I am taken with – science, the universe, existence, what it’s all about. In the show I describe myself as kind of a cosmic journalist and a comic philosopher.”
The Berkeley Rep team’s primary goal was to give Scoop’s already successful show more shape and a more distinct point of view. “We didn’t want to interrupt the wonderful flow that already existed in the show,” Mina explains. “Our goal was to give the show more of an arc relating to Scoop’s own personal search as a cosmic journalist, which is fascinating – it’s who, what, when, where, and especially why – so we tried to focus in on that.”
Inspired by comedians such as Woody Allen and Lily Tomlin and by musicals like The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Scoop describes Crazy Wisdom as a “playful musing on evolution, the nature of reality, the structure of the universe, and the difficulty of being human and being alive.”
Mina says she has learned a tremendous amount from working with Scoop, most notably about science, Buddhism, and the nature of the universe. “Scoop’s subject matter is close to my heart because as a theatre artist I’m interested in the world and in asking the bigger questions. That gets you out of your myopic everyday existence.”
For Scoop, this foray into the theatre has been a challenging and rewarding experience. “The people at Berkeley Rep have been so inviting and warm and understanding,” he says. “And it’s wonderful to work with Mina. This whole experience has been really fun.”
Above photo: Wes "Scoop" Nisker. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
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