This year we're celebrating Susan Medak's 20th anniversary as Berkeley Rep's managing director.
We asked some prominent community leaders to toast and roast her in honor of her remarkable tenure at the Theatre. This short video includes loving and humorous commentary from her partner in crime, Artistic Director Tony Taccone, as well as legendary performer Rita Moreno, renowned producer Tom Hulce, local politicians like Tom Bates and Loni Hancock, and philanthropists such as Marjorie Randolph of Walt Disney Studios and Bernard Beaudraux of Target® Corporation.
Above photo: Berkeley Rep Managing Director Susan Medak and her husband, Greg Murphy, at the 2010 ONSTAGE! Gala.
In a previous post, we told you about how Berkeley Rep Teen Council members Ariele Scharff, Gareth Tidball, Taylor Greenthal, Matia Emsellem, Keisa Reynolds, and Christina Novakov-Ritchey (that's them above, from left to right, in downtown Chicago) were part of the first delegation of teens to attend the Theatre Communications Group Conference.
While at the Chicago conference, the teens took part in many sessions, including those that dealt with race and diversity in America, inclusion in the arts of people with disabilities, and, perhaps most notably, Fostering the Next Generation of American Theatre Audiences moderated by educators from Berkeley Rep, the Goodman Theatre , and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
We asked members of the Teen Council delegation to reflect on their experience in Chicago and describe what they took away from the TCG Conference.
Miramonte High School
Fall 2010: Freshman at the University of California, Davis
The chief reason we, as teenagers, went to the TCG Conference was to let people know that we exist, that we have a voice, and that arts education is vital to keeping the theatre alive and relevant. This is easier said than done. On our plane ride over my mind was racing with thoughts like, “Will everyone dismiss us?” “What are we even supposed to talk to people about?” and “I really really don’t want to mess up,” so I tried to prepare questions, topics of discussion, and brush up on my theatre knowledge. However, the funny thing is that none of that really mattered once I got there and started to attend sessions. Intuitively I knew if I agreed with what someone was saying or not, and how that related to me as a young person. Matia, Taylor, Keisa, Gareth, and Ariele seemed to have a similar reaction as I learned during our first late-night meeting, and I was impressed with their ability to articulate themselves clearly and engage in intelligent conversations with the other conference participants. We managed to get people thinking about our role in the theatre, and many people came to our side in defense of arts education, such as Brava! Artistic Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges and New York University’s Daniel Banks.
As we went to more and more sessions and continued to talk to people, a theme was becoming apparent in our answers: the best way to attract young people to theatre is to offer them an opportunity to see shows that speak to their emotions on a very fundamental level. Our recurring example of this was Berkeley Rep’s production of Girlfriend last season, which moved us all so much that we couldn’t get it out of our heads for months (I mean, we were singing its songs on the bus ride to the airport). People kept bringing up marketing strategies such as big fonts and bright colors as ways to get teenagers to buy tickets, but we couldn’t help but disagree and say that it’s the programming that matters. If you produce a show that is honest and easily relatable and make it accessible to a younger audience that has fewer financial resources than the average patron, you will create a lifelong theatregoer. Attending this conference certainly has raised more questions than it has answered, but it has left us all feeling much more confident about the importance of our voice in theatre as well as opening up doors for us to continue discussing the issue of arts education.
In case you didn't happen to be in Central Park this morning or were not watching Good Morning America, here are some highlights from the cast of American Idiot performing in concert.
You can see the whole concert at the Good Morning America website.
Top photo: The cast of American Idiot performs in Central Park. Photo courtesy of ABC News
The recognition couldn't have gone to a better company, but then again, we've loved Tres Agaves since they made our In the Wake and Fireworks patrons so very happy with free pre-show tastings. In fact, it was at one of those tastings that the folks at the Express first brought a glass of Tres Agaves tequila to their lips.
Here's what the East Bay Express had to say:
Tres Agaves may not be the very best tequila on the planet for snooty-snoots. But if you're a righteous margarita fan — if nothing tastes better on a late afternoon in warm July than a long thwick of the sour-sweet stuff through a salty glass rim — then hometown Tres Agaves, formulated especially for mixing, should be your go-to brand. Leave it to a Berkeley tequila and mix-maker to come up with the first margarita mix that uses only organic agave nectar as a sweetener. The Express first sampled the Tres Agaves blend in the courtyard of the Berkeley Rep prior to John Leguizamo's recent one-man show there. Was it him, or was it the delectable medley of ingredients that made the evening such a memorable event? Who knows? But one thing is for sure: Where Tres Agaves goes, we will follow.
What could possibly be better than spending a beautiful summer morning watching the Broadway cast of American Idiot performing a free concert in one of the world's most gorgeous parks?
Well, the park in question is Central Park, so it's not exactly accessible to those of us living somewhere other than the island of Manhattan. But that's where our bad luck ends. When the cast performs songs from the hit rock musical this Friday, July 16, the good folks at Good Morning America will be there to broadcast the concert coast to coast between 7and 9am on ABC.
While we're on the subject of American Idiot, the website Thrillist, purveyor of cool places and events in cities around the country, is sponsoring a contest. Sign up for a Thrillist newsletter (there's one for San Francisco), and you're entered into a contest to win tickets to American Idiot and a VIP package.
When artists complete their work at Berkeley Rep, they often head into a diverse and fascinating array of other projects. To keep you up to date on some of our artists’ activities, we'd like to share a few of their projects with you.
Girlfriend choreographer Joe Goode (seen at right) and his Joe Goode Performance Group are reviving the hit site-specific dance/theatre work Traveling Light at the Old Mint in San Francisco. The show continues through August 1. Click joegoode.org for information. We're biased, but we think this show is not to be missed.
Delroy Lindo, who directed Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in 2008, is revisiting the show once again. He's playing Bynum Walker in the play at London's Young Vic. Delroy’s long history with Joe Turner goes all the way back to the original Broadway production in 1988 when he played Harold Loomis. Delroy has given some interesting interviews to The Root and to whatsonstage.com.
American Idiot cast member Joshua Henry (you’ll remember his standout moment as a military hero jumping out of a TV during the song “Favorite Son”) has joined the cast of the Broadway-bound musical Scottsboro Boys, which also happens to star Colman Domingo, last seen at Berkeley Rep in Passing Strange.
Carrie Fisher has already taken her autobiographical Wishful Drinking to Broadway. Now she’s turning the show into an HBO documentary for release next year. She talked to the Huffington Post about it.
June was a busy month for teens at Berkeley Rep. Two special occasions gave high-school students the chance to be part of local and national conversations about the future of theatre.
What happens when 35 teenagers, representing a range of 20 Bay Area high schools and interests, are given a venue and a platform to discuss the value of art in their own lives?
You might get something a little like the Teen Theatre Conference hosted by the Berkeley RepSchool of Theatre early in June. An energetic group of teens, many new not only to each other but also to Berkeley Rep, came together for a day of collaboration and dialogue, voicing their opinions about the issues they encounter as young artists, students of arts education, and theatregoers.
The Teen Theatre Conference had many exciting components, such as a Q & A panel with local theatre professionals, including Rachel Fink, director of the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre; Dave Maier, a fight choreographer and School of Theatre Outreach Coordinator; freelance director Rebecca Novick; actor Carson Elrod from Berkeley Rep’s recent production of In the Wake; and Raelle Myrick-Hodges, artistic director of San Francisco’s Brava! for Women in the Arts.
The conversations sparked by the panel continued with discussions led by teenage representatives of the School of Theatre. These sessions explored how young people share, define, and experience art. The day’s program commenced with a competition: six groups of teens were challenged to create and perform sketches inspired by various, topical prompts such as "Arts in the Year 2075" or "A World with No Arts." Videos of the first- and second-place winners are at the bottom of the post.
I don't usually wish I worked at a movie theatre, but right now, at this moment, I do — because then, I'd have a kicky tie-in between what you're seeing on screen right now, and what we're planning behind-the-scenes.
Here's the thing: next Tuesday — July 6 — from 11am to 4pm, Berkeley Rep is joining with the American Red Cross to hold a blood drive at the Roda Theatre. If I worked at a movie theatre, this would have a very obvious tie-in. But, I don't. And you know what? I don't think I need to tie this to the current Fireworks festival to make it relevant. Here's why a blood drive is more than relevant. Necessary even:
During the summer, while people are traveling or otherwise taking a break from their regular work-a-day lives, the blood supply traditionally drops. But the need for blood never slows down. If you're able and willing, please come down to Berkeley Rep on Tuesday, July 6 and help us maintain this vital resource for East Bay Area residents.
You can make a donation appointment online at http://www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation. Find us by typing in the sponsor code "REP."
Edward or no Edward, we hope to see you here.