Berkeley Rep Blog

August 2010

Tony Taccone talks shop with Butler and Moscone

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Aug 31

Tony Taccone Diablo

Though he's off in London directing the Tricycle Theatre's re-mount of Tiny Kushner opening Sept. 1, Artistic Director Tony Taccone's words are echoing through the Bay Area.

Tony sat down with a round-table discussion with fellow East Bay artistic directors Michael Butler of Center Repertory Company and Jonathan Moscone of California Shakespeare Theater, and their thoughts were recorded by writer Robert Taylor for the September issue of Diablo magazine.

Among the myriad topics covered by the ADs is what excites them in their upcoming seasons. Here's Tony's response:

We’re part of a tour of this piece called The Great Game, a 12-play cycle about Afghanistan. It’s a marathon day: You start at 11 o’clock in the morning and end at about 10 o’clock at night. Basically, Nicolas Kent of the Tricycle Theatre was watching television one night and he was sick of talking heads talking about Afghanistan. He thought, What would it be like if my friends responded to Afghanistan in an artistic way? Because it’s the major issue of our time. Then, we’re going to do The Composer Is Dead, a Lemony Snicket project. It’s got a puppet theater about 35 feet wide and a movie we’ve filmed backstage with Geoff Hoyle.

Read the entire article here.

Above photo of Tony Taccone by Mike Thompson for Diablo magazine.

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Mandy Patinkin on West Coast Live Saturday

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, Aug 27

Tony and Emmy award-winning actor Mandy Patinkin will take a break from Compulsion rehearsals this weekend to make an appearance on West Coast Live.

Mandy Patinkin

The show will be broadcasting live from Freight & Salvage Coffee House, right across the street from Berkeley Rep. The show airs from 10am to noon Saturday morning and is broadcast on KALW 91.7 FM. You can also catch up with the show online.

Other guests slated for Saturday's broadcast include authors Neal Pollock and Joyce Maynard and Bay Area actress Margo Hall, who is making her Aurora Theatre Company debut in Trouble in Mind, the just-opened drama by Alice Childress.

When we announced that Mandy would be making his Berkeley Rep debut, we asked our blog friends to share their favorite Mandy performances. We got some nice responses. Some were just bursts of enthusiasm from fans, but we love those, too!

Below you'll find what some of our blog readers had to say.

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The curtain rises on 2010/11: what will you see?

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Aug 26

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Single tickets for Berkeley Rep's 2010/11 season are available now, online only, to friends of Berkeley Rep — and you're reading the blog, so that makes you a friend. Check out the extraordinary shows of the new season, which kicks off in only two weeks with Mandy Patinkin starring in Rinne Groff's Compulsion! Then visit our new-and-improved online box office to order your tickets. This Sunday, August 29, tickets go on sale to everyone, so seize the moment to secure the best seats at the best prices.

You should also check out this video and see what makes a Berkeley Rep season so special.

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Meet Compulsion puppeteer Emily DeCola

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Aug 24


From our offices we can look down into the rehearsal hall, where actors Mandy Patinkin, Hannah Cabell, and Matte Osian, along with director Oskar Eustis and puppeteers Emily DeCola, Daniel Fay, and Eric Wright are working their way through Rinne Groff's Compulsion, our season opener.

Perhaps more than with other plays that have rehearsed below us, we keep getting distracted by the Compulsion rehearsals because the puppeteers are performing atop a scaffolding that makes them eye level with our desks. And also there's the simple fact that puppets &8212; marionettes in this case &8212; are absolutely fascinating to watch.

Why look at a computer screen when you can see puppet representations of Anne Frank and Otto Frank being put through their motions. Talk about compulsive observation!

The American Theatre Wing, the people who, among other things, bring us the Tony Awards, also features theatre artists on its website in a feature called "In the Wings." And it just so happens that earlier this month, they focused their cameras on Emily DeCola, one of our very own puppeteers.

Emily, along with fellow Compulsion puppeteer Eric Wright, is a founder of The Puppet Kitchen, a full-service puppet studio on New York's East Village. She is charming and talented, as you'll see in this video.

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2010/11 sneak peek: The Composer Is Dead and Ruined

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Aug 19

Delving into the riches of the 2010/11 Berkeley Rep season, we've already talked about the season opener, Compulsion, starring Mandy Patinkin, and the epic play cycle The Great Game: Afghanistan and Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and The Last Cargo Cult.

Now it's time to explore Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead and Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined.

Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead

Check out the pedigree on this world premiere. It is written by Lemony Snicket (the bestselling author also known as San Francisco writer Daniel Handler, pictured at right in a photo by Meredith Heuer) with music by Nathaniel Stookey. Based on the children's book, it was originally conceived for the stage by Lemony Snicket and Phantom Limb Company, the amazing puppet troupe under the artistic leadership of Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko. The show was developed with Tony Taccone, who also directs, and Geoff Hoyle, who also stars.

That's a lot of genius piled into a show that will have audiences of all ages giddy with delight.

Earlier this summer, Mr. Snicket/Handler spoke to the Los Angeles Times about his work and mentioned that Lemony Snicket is writing a new four-book series. But he didn't want to say too much about it.

"It's in its first trimester, so you don't want to poke at it too much. It's early, so I don't want to go around bragging about it. That's actually a Jewish tradition, not to set up the baby's room while you're pregnant or even say the baby's name out loud. It's bad luck."

Read the article here.

Daniel also talked about his San Francisco neighborhood in this charming New York Times article.

Nathaniel Stookey, the composer of Composer (who happens to be very much alive, thank you very much), has had a busy summer, including a stop in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he conducted The Composer Is Dead with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. Read about the event here.

And finally, meet Jessica and Erik of Phantom Limb. This video is from late last year when they were working on a show called The Devil You Know with Ping Chong & Co.

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Carrie Fisher feels the force, films for HBO

posted by Chad Jones on Mon, Aug 16

We haven't reported on Carrie Fisher in a while, and there's a lot going on, so let's get up to (light) speed.

Carrie Fisher straitjacket
First of all, at the end of June, Carrie filmed several performances of Wishful Drinking, which, as you'll remember, had two runs here at Berkeley Rep. The live footage shot at the South Orange (New Jersey) Performing Arts Center will be combined with interview footage of Carrie and the people in her life — of course her mother, Debbie Reynolds, will feature prominently.

The Wishful Drinking documentary will air in December on HBO. Carrie talked to the Huffington Post about the movie. Read the interview.

On her ever-eccentric Twitter feed, Carrie announced that her sixth book is in the pipeline. It was also on Twitter that she posted the photo at right, undoubtedly a humorous plug for her recent keynote speech at the American Pyschiatric Association in New Orleans.

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Whetting your appetite for the 2010/11 season

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, Aug 13

Rehearsals have begun for Compulsion, our season-opening show, which means the new season is officially under way.

There's buzz on an international scale for the shows of our 2010/11 season, so here's a little peek into what you can expect in the coming months.

Great Game 1

The Great Game: Afghanistan

You may remember playwright David Edgar for his work on the momentous two-play cycle known as Continental Divide, a co-production of Berkeley Rep and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from 2003 or from his extraordinary adaptation of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (seen a few season ago at the California Shakespeare Theater). Well David will be back at Berkeley Rep as one of 12 playwrights addressing the complex history of Afghanistan in The Great Game: Afghanistan.

David recently wrote a fascinating piece about the play for The Guardian in London. He describes The Great Game as a "mosaic of fiction and faction," which is to say imagination and fact. He continues:

"The Great Game is thoroughly contemporary: a hybrid of hybrids. Nonetheless, unlike much postmodern drama, it retains a central, coherent theme: that western interventions in Afghanistan have almost always produced the opposite effect from that which was intended."

You can read David's essay in its entirety here (and also watch a very cool video about the show).

Above photo: (l to r) Jemma Redgrave, Tom McKay, and Nabil Elouahabi star in The Great Game: Afghanistan, an epic production from London receiving its West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep. Photographer: John Haynes

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Arabian Nights returns for the holidays

posted by Chad Jones on Wed, Aug 11

Get ready for another magic carpet ride.

Arabian Nights 1
Two seasons ago, The Arabian Nights inspired nightly standing ovations and whoops and hollers from Berkeley Rep audience members. Now the show returns for a special, ultra-limited holiday engagement December 11-30.

Director Mary Zimmerman, the remarkable Tony Award-winning creator of Argonautika and Metamorphoses, once again breathes new life into the legend of the 1,001 nights. To save her life, a beautiful bride must spin hypnotic tales of genies, jesters, thieves, and kings - winning her freedom by eventually winning her husband's heart. He falls under Scheherazade's spell, and Zimmerman enchants the audience as well with her signature style that transforms simplicity into the sublime. Amid a thousand tales of honor, revenge, and humor, only love emerges victorious.

Calling The Arabian Nights one of 2008's best shows, Robert Hurwitt raved in the San Francisco Chronicle, " Zimmerman and her cast transport the audience through hilarious and poignant tales of greed, sex and revenge, each tale opening into another and another, to a lingering, redemptive and provocative end."

Tickets for this non-subscription event are on sale now only by phone – and only to Berkeley Rep subscribers. Not a subscriber yet? Call the box office at 510 647-2949 between noon and 7pm Tuesday through Sunday and reserve your seats for any three or more subscription plays. Then you too can reserve your seats for The Arabian Nights. The show goes on sale to everyone else this fall. Be sure to sign up for email to guarantee that you are notified when they do.

Above photo: Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights returns for special, ultra-limited holiday run. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

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Mandy Patinkin to make Berkeley Rep debut

posted by Chad Jones on Mon, Aug 9

Mandy Patinkin 2

Let's start off the new season with some exciting news. Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor Mandy Patinkin (pictured above) will star in Rinne Groff's Compulsion, the first show of the 2010/11 season.

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of The Public Theater, directs this co-production of Berkeley Rep, The Public, and Yale Repertory Theatre, where Compulsion debuted in January (also starring Mandy Patinkin).

Of course we love Mandy for his incredible body of stage, film, and TV work, not to mention his extraordinary albums and concerts. But he lives in cinema history forever with one of the most memorable lines of all time. You know the movie and the line I'm talking about.

The movie is The Princess Bride, a treasure from 1987. And the line, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die," ranked 88 out of 100 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 years of great movie lines.

For this and for so many other reasons, we're thrilled that Mandy Patinkin will be making his Berkeley Rep debut alongside cast members Hannah Cabell, last seen here in Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), and Matte Osian, last seen at Berkeley Rep in Mad Forest.

Compulsion begins previews September 13 and opens September 16 on the Thrust Stage. The show continues through October 31.

What is your favorite Mandy Patinkin role? Leave your answer in the comments section.

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