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Scripts, speeches, and sliders – Teen Night at "New Book"

posted by School of Theatre on Tue, Nov 1, 2011
in Our shows , School of Theatre , Teen Council

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By Sierra Baggins, Teen Council member

Teen Night at Berkeley Rep starts with a room full of excited teens nibbling on mini burgers and tater tots (catered by the incredible Phil's Sliders!). As their plates empty and the School of Theatre falls quiet with the dimming of the lights, they know that their evening at the theatre is about to begin in earnest.

SierraSierra interviews Julie and Brandon

First, teens get to interview theatre professionals about being behind the scenes at Berkeley Rep and about the life of an artist.  I am a Teen Council regular and have seen my fair share of Teen Night interviews, but they never get old. What I like about the Teen Night interview is that the guest speaker is not always the show’s director -- we talk to people from all areas of the theatre. Stories from people on stage are always interesting, but getting to hear about productions from every angle makes the interviews that much better. With New Book, we attended a Teen Council Tech Tour of the set, then interviewed two of Berkeley Rep’s 2011-12 season fellows, Julie McCormick (literary) and Brandon Wienbrenner (artistic), both of whom worked with the show intimately.

I was honored to have the chance to be the teen interviewer because I could ask our guests questions about what it was like to work on a world premiere work by a critically acclaimed playwright. It’s so informative to meet people like Julie and Brandon, who are getting their start actually working in the theatre, as I, and many of the teens in the audience, hope to be doing someday soon.

What’s it like being a Berkeley Rep fellow? What’s the best thing you’ve learned from working on this show? What is it like working on a new play? How has it changed through the rehearsal process? These were just a few of the questions we threw at our guests. In reply, Brandon told us about his journey to Berkeley Rep through Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and Julie taught us about the fascinating and little-known world of dramaturgy. Both talked about how working on a new play opens up a world of possibilities, and having Bill Cain in the room meant that he could always help interpret his words (which, when working with classic playwrights like Shakespeare, is not an option).

Even though saying goodbye to our Teen Night speakers is always sad, it comes with knowing that we then get to see the show we’ve heard so much about. The walk down the block to the theatre seems to be miles long as the anticipation builds. Sitting in our seats waiting for the show to start is always nearly impossible. In the case of How to Write a New Book for the Bible, it was almost as hard as resisting the urge to jump to my feet and start applauding as loudly as I could the second the play was over. Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who felt exactly the same way.

How to Write a New Book for the Bible was so beautifully written, I occasionally missed a minute of the show because my brain couldn’t let go of poignant, soul-baring one-liners about God, life, and family that truly touched the heart of the play. The words were so beautiful that I would often forget the most tragic moments of the story. Other heavy moments were relieved by the humor of the piece. All the characters joked, even through the most traumatic of experiences. For these reasons, as we reluctantly walked out of the theatre at the end, no one seemed to be at all disheartened by what we had seen, even though the subject matter was far from light. Instead, everyone had that very particular glow that comes from the knowledge that they have just witnessed an amazing production -- and that there’s a whole year filled with Teen Nights to come!

To find out more information about Teen Night and other Teen Council programs, visit


Sierra Baggins is a senior at Berkeley High school, and an aspiring stage manager. She has managed the Berkeley Rep School of Theater Teen One Acts Festival for the past three years, in addition to taking classes there for the past eight years. An avid Teen Council member, she is co-chair of its events committee, and has participated in many of their programs in her four years of being a member.


I like all you posts, they are all very informative and useful. This one is not the exception! Thank you very much for your work and keep up!

Paula | Thu, Feb 9, 2012

Great that the next generation of artists and audience members are involved in such activities

mspy | Mon, Feb 20, 2012

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