...let it never be said that a passion for the arts didn't give you that opportunity.
Earlier this week, I was pleasantly surprised when an email from Oberon K.A. Adjepong arrived in my inbox. Oberon played Christian, the traveling salesman, in Berkeley Rep's production of Ruined last season and we've kept in touch on and off since then. Like the character you saw on the Roda stage, the real-life Oberon is gifted with a strong sense of humor, an instinct for mischief, and a singular ability to make you feel like a dear friend from the first moment you meet. I really enjoyed having him with us in Berkeley, and am always happy to hear from him.
Oberon was writing because he wanted to ask for my help. And, reading his request, I thought that it might be something that the greater Berkeley Rep community might like to jump in on as well!
Here's the deal:
At present, the role of Christian has not been cast.
Oberon would very much like to be the one tapped for that role -- and the first step is getting an audition. He and his agent are working the regular channels to make such a thing happen, but he recognizes that this is the time to think about nontraditional solutions as well.
Oberon is therefore asking his friends and family to launch a letter-writing campaign in support of his recent work with Ruined, and to recommend his being given the opportunity to audition for the role.
You see where you can help, don't you? The more, the merrier!
It's pretty simple: write a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell her that you saw Oberon in the recent Berkeley Rep production of Ruined (if you'd like, you can also mention that he played the role at La Jolla Playhouse and the Huntington Theatre in Boston). Tell Ms. Winfrey how much you liked Oberon's work as Christian. Be specific if you can. And ask her to consider casting him in the role of Christian for her film.
Again, that email address is email@example.com.
We all talk about how, in this business, being successful is a combination of talent, hard work, and luck. Sometimes, you just have to make your own luck -- and this is one of those times. Let's help him do it!
Photo: Oberon K.A. Adjepong as Christian and Tonye Patano as Mama Nadi in Berkeley Rep's production of Ruined (photo by Kevin Berne)
Last Friday's night/OUT party for the LGBT community was a huge success! I mean, I know we say that a lot (what can we say; it's a successful series!) but this was one of the best night/OUTs we've had in a while. We had a huge crowd, a great DJ, incredible food and drink...but what really put the icing on the cake was a special, surprise visit from none other than Rita Moreno herself.
Rita (and dancers Ray Garcia and Salvatore Vassallo) stopped by the party and were gracious enough to mingle and take photos with our guests for a good long time. Or maybe they were just enjoying the party--can't say I'd blame them!
Take a peek and some of our photos below. (I may have gotten a little Instagram-happy.) If you were there and took a photo with Rita, share it in the comments!
Did you miss out this time? Don't worry, we have two more night/OUT events this season. It's not too early to buy tickets, so make sure you don't miss out again!
Thanks to our night/OUT season sponsors, San Francisco Bay Guardian and The Bay Area Reporter, as well as La Bonne Cuisine, Ale Industries, Tres Agaves, and DJ Gstar of the Hella Gay Oakland Dance Party for making this night a success. See you next time!
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing our drinks created especially for the run of Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup! (It opens tomorrow night, by the way!)
Rosita Rum & Cola
Puerto Rico meets the Bronx…and gets dressed up for Broadway. Bacardi says hola to Coca-Cola and tops itself off with a bright red cherry. Cool and hot – just like Rita! $8
Singin’ in the Rum
Bacardi white rum dances with splashes of lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur. One sip and you’ll kick up your heels – who needs an umbrella anyway? $8
Plus: Tres Agaves MargaRita!
It’s a hit! Don’t miss the encore performance of the Tres Agaves Margarita, starring Tres Agaves Tequila and its certified Organic Margarita Mix. $8.
And, we have some new treats at our concessions counter: Love at First Bite's peanut butter cookies, Raymond's cabernet sauvignon, Boont Amber Ale, and Anchor Steam lager. See our concessions counter menu.
Last Friday was the season's final 30-Below, AKA the coolest theatre afterparty for people in their 20s. And it was a blast! We had the good folks at Picante on hand making fresh tortillas in our courtyard (after four salmon tacos, I am a fan for life), a keg of delicious Triple Rock Bug Juice Ale, wine courtesy of Raymond Vineyards, and even a pre-show maragarita tasting with the always-fabulous Tres Agaves. And as for entertainment? Our old friend DJ Ome was back to spin tunes while we waited for our turn in the Magbooth. That's right, I told you the photo booth would be back!
For those of you who missed it, here's a few snaps we took at the event. And those of you who were there, see if you can spot yourself in the crowd! Leave us a comment if you find yourself or a friend.
Thanks to David Trease for the photos! Click on the pictures to open a larger size in a new window.
partygoers enjoying 30-Below
the collectable Triple Rock coasters
Picante's fresh tortillas were a huge hit
(Looking for the full set of photo booth pictures? Check out the album here.)
There are a lot of things I love about working at Berkeley Rep. The people, the art, the playing of Nerf football when the marketing team is starting to lose it… I will miss it all dearly when my fellowship ends on July 1. However, there is one part of the office culture here that I will perhaps miss more than anything else.
As a native of the Midwest I’m not sure if this is a prevalent practice in California or simply yet another quirky trait unique to Berkeley Rep, but this company allows its employees to bring their puppies to work. Indeed, I think this is a magical, transformative notion that should spread not only to other workplaces in California (if it hasn’t already), but to the rest of the United States, and perhaps, the world. I would personally like to pay homage to the awesomeness of this concept by profiling all the pups that have made my time at Berkeley Rep that much cooler.
Hilary—perhaps the most integral to my fellowship experience, Hilary is the faithful companion of our Literary Manager and Dramaturg, Madeleine. She has her own desk in the literary office in the form of a big red sofa. I like to imagine her kicking back with a script and cup of tea when no one’s looking.
Murray—discrediting the old adage that dogs look like their owners, Murray belongs to our Director of Development, Lynn Eve. He loves babies and has more friends on Facebook than his owner. True story.
Jackson—defying pitbull stereotypes, Jackson defines the term "sweetie-pie." I actually overwhelmed him once with an enthusiastic greeting. He whimpers whenever Emiel, our facilities director, leaves his side.
Tofu—did you know your call to the box office might be monitored by a Shih Tzu? It’s true, Tofu faithfully sits next to his owner and Box Office Agent, Destiny. He’s mastered Tessitura and has a great speaking voice.
Before I even moved to Berkeley to begin my fellowship, I had heard of Berkeley Bowl: it was spoken of with a holy sort of reverence, praised in quiet whispers and exuberant cries of gratitude. I heard how lives were changed when a second one opened. Somehow, in the haze of a hot Toronto summer, I managed to miss a very key fact about Berkeley Bowl. I arrived here wondering why everyone in the East Bay seemed to be so oddly enthusiastic about knocking over pins with a very heavy ball. Was this an American thing?
As it turns out, East Bay bowlers do have a mecca, not in Berkeley, but in Albany. It’s where I found myself last Friday morning, surrounded by co-workers, before I’d even managed to drink my morning coffee. The day marked the revival of Berkeley Rep’s company picnic, a chance to mingle and unwind with colleagues over some strikes and spares.
After trading in one of my boots for a pair of shoes (with Velcro, because apparently no one with feet as tiny as mine could possibly be an adult capable of tying laces), I joined a team comprised of artistic, marketing, electrics, and education staff.
As it turns out, there are some very enthusiastic bowlers in the East Bay, including Marketing Director Robert Sweibel. My fellow fellows and I had heard Robert speak of his prowess on the lanes -- but could we believe him (he is, after all, director of marketing)? As it turned out, he really could walk the hard-toed-shoe walk and would helpfully give pointers to anyone who wanted to improve his or her form. No one, though, could beat the School of Theatre’s Emika Abe, who posted a commanding lead over her team. An honorable mention goes to Master Electrician Fred Geffken’s toddler daughter who, with a little help from mom and dad, managed to roll a ball almost the entire way down the lane. She’ll be one to watch out for next year.
I did not fare so well. My hot pink bowling ball could probably tell you about all of the right gutter’s chips and scratches with astounding detail. No matter. After smugly and speedily tearing off the Velcro as others struggled with their laces, I turned the corner to find a large crowd gathering. I soon learned the cause for the mob: a Dance Dance Revolution faceoff between Development Associate Sarah Nowicki and Development Fellow Wendi Gross. If you’ve ever encountered one of our beloved "Devo Ladies" you know: these women are kind, classy…and tenacious.
It was a well-deserved almost-end-of-season break for a staff I’ve discovered to be among the most hard-working and most fun-loving folk around.
Oh, and then we had a potluck, a collaborative, gustatory production in true Berkeley Rep style: ambitious, eclectic, but altogether delicious. I wondered where everyone got the ingredients for their dishes. I hear there’s a guy named Joe around here that trades stuff for food? You Berkeleyans are so progressive.
When I was in grade school, the school had a monthly assembly wherein class awards were presented. The most important of these was Student of the Month. One lucky child from each class was paraded up in front of the school for a handshake from the principal and the approbation of their peers. The lucky kids were also presented with a certificate, their picture in the administration office, and an invitation to the holiest of holies -- the chance to eat lunch with the principal the day after the assembly.
For whatever reason, as a kid in first through fifth grades, I thought that being Student of the Month was the coolest thing ever. I wanted it so bad. And every month, I’d head into that assembly full of hope that this was the month that I’d get to eat lunch with Principal Gregory.
Let’s cut to the chase: I was never student of the month. Not once. In five years. Never. And I wasn’t student of the month in junior high (where you got a lollipop and a hearty handshake), either.
Looking back, I should have realized that hoping to become Student of the Month was a losing proposition for me. That’s because, in the months where I was convinced it was in the bag -- the months where I turned in all my homework, didn’t get my name on the board once, was a veritable angel, in fact -- those were the months that I received the Most Improved Behavior award.
One of my favorite books from this era, Skinnybones, by Barbara Park, explains why this is a problem.
Every single year that I’ve played Little League, I’ve received the trophy for Most Improved Player.
Now, at first, you might think that means I sound pretty good…which is what I used to think, too. But over the past six years, I’ve noticed that none of the really outstanding players ever gets the Most Improved Player award. And the reason is simple. The outstanding players are already so outstanding they can’t improve much. Let’s face it, the only players on a team who can improve are the ones who reek to begin with.
Clearly, I was a delinquent in the making.
In later years, I also didn’t receive Swimmer of the Month, Resident Advisor of the Month, or “Regional OTM Coordinator Of the Month” (OTM, believe it or not, stands for “of the month.” Because, you see, part of my college job actually required me to name and recognize other “persons of the month” within a nationwide student-life organization. And I still never got anything.)
So, yeah, me and “of the months” aren’t on the best of terms.
Until today. Because you see, Berkeley Rep also has a Person of the Month -- an award I gave up on long ago, for obvious reasons. But, as you probably figured out by now, guess what?
I’m April’s PERSON OF THE MONTH!
It took over two decades, but it was totally worth it.
What did it take to (finally) earn this high honor?
A lot of elbow grease. A lot of sweat. A lot of going above and beyond... A lot of this theatre holding a starring role in my life in recent months. But here's the thing: every point in the past five years that we've gathered for the "of the month" thing, I would always spare a second to think "gee, it would be cool if I got it someday," at which point my brain would supply four or five folks who worked harder, put more on the line, and overcame bigger obstacles than I did in the past month (this time, I was convinced that my colleague, Margo Chilless, would be the honoree -- which she was, a few minutes later).
One of the things that makes Berkeley Rep such a fantastic place to work is that it's not "just" a nine-to-five job for any person here. Not for the actors, crew, front-of-house staff, box office team, or anyone you'd find in the artisanal shops or administrative departments. We do this work because we love it; because we're passionate about bringing live theatre to a stage where we can share it with an audience (and hopefully engage in dialogue about that work afterwards). As a team, we work together to create something that is ultimately greater than the sum of our parts. And when that something comes together in the right way...it's awe-inspiring.
On its own, it's a better reward than being named person of the month.
Every month, I'm proud to work alongside the folks who win "Person of the Month," and pleased when their efforts are recognized. But it was pretty darn awesome to be the lucky one for once...I must do it again sometime. (Hopefully with a little less of a wait, next time.)
Our Hoag Theatre Store boasts some new items exclusively for the run of Ruined, and they’ve proven so popular we can barely keep them on the shelves! What are they? Handmade necklaces and bracelets featuring beads hand-rolled from recycled paper. This stunning jewelry is made by members of the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda.
When the staff first saw photos of the necklaces and bracelets a month or so before Ruined opened, we went crazy for them. I’ve been nearly fanatical about handcrafted items, so I especially couldn’t wait until the first shipment came in. And being nearly fanatical, I wanted to learn about how the beads are made, and about the women and men who make them.
First the beaders select their paper from recycled magazines, posters, and the like. They consider the color of the paper as well as the pattern. Color and pattern may not seem important, but consider how many beads it takes to make a triple-strand necklace with one dominant color and a few contrasting colors. The beaders then cut the paper and place thin wire across one end. Then they start rolling, very very tightly. They finish off each bead with a coat of varnish. A piece of jewelry can take up to two weeks to make.*
Berkeley Rep hooked up with Alliance for Africa to sell this jewelry to our patrons. While many different groups make beads and jewelry to sell, the ones in our Theatre Store are made by the Alliance’s five-member beading group named Lacan Pekum (a poor person never gives up in the struggle). Each member has survived kidnap and torture; through their work with the beading group, they can support their families.
The people who make this jewelry are indeed artists, and we can feel good about supporting a worthy cause -- and showing off such a striking necklace or bracelet. I’ve already purchased an earth-toned double-strand necklace, and I can’t wait until the next shipment comes in!
The Hoag Theatre Store is open before and after each performance of Ruined, and during intermission. Come see this beautiful jewelry!
* Beadforlife.org has a page describing the process of bead-rolling, which was my source for describing it here.
Photos: The people in these photos aren’t necessarily members of Lacan Pekum. The photographer of the second and third photos is Charles Steinberg (©csteinberg2007).
After reading Megan Wygant’s post on the microwave haiku, Production Assistant Megan McClintock was inspired to delve a little further on what it takes backstage to accommodate a “food show” like Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, or the show currently cooking in our Roda kitchen, Ruined. Here’s what she says:
Though there is solid food in Ruined (peanut, anyone?), most of the preparation time for this show is beverage related -- the cast consumes more than 40 glasses of beverages and opens 28 bottles of beer and 8 bottles of Fanta onstage during each show. The drinks referred to in the script include whiskey, beer, Fanta, and Palm wine. Mama Nadi (the lead character in the play and operator of the bar in which Ruined is set) also serves an African homebrew, rum and gin. At least, that’s what the audience thinks the cast is drinking, if we have done our jobs right. In reality, nothing is as it seems.
My favorite of the drinks served onstage is the homebrew, which Mama Nadi serves from a five-gallon bucket with a ladle. It’s based on an African drink made from fermented corn, and director Liesl Tommy reports from personal experience that the homebrew served in the Congo looks white and foamy. To replicate that look for the stage we opted for a mixture of vanilla ice cream and Diet 7-Up, something of an ice cream soda. The preparation process includes a lot of foam!
There are four whiskey bottles onstage, all of which are a mixture of a strong brewed tea and water. Each bottle gets refilled daily using a funnel; we pour the tea through a coffee filter to make sure there are no stray leaves.
Though a simple recipe, the beer process is one of the longest. Since we are using brown bottles, the “beer” is just water, and the bottles are re-used nightly. The Berkeley Rep prop shop has provided us with over 60 bottles with Primus labels; we fill and cap almost 30 bottles per show, starting with rinsing and sanitizing each bottle. The dishwasher rack provides drying space till we get around to re-filling.
The process for the Fanta is similar, and Fanta is the only drink onstage that is at least mostly what it seems. The Fanta is one-half Fanta and one-half water, since drinking very sweet beverages onstage can be hard on an actor’s voice. Like the beer, we bottle it ourselves. We buy Fanta in two-liter plastic bottles, cut it with water, then pour it into our special glass Fanta bottles, which can’t be purchased at your average grocery. Fanta and beer caps get labeled with the date, so we can keep the stock rotated in the crates onstage, keeping everything nice and fresh for the actors.
There are a few other liquor bottles at the bar. The crew gets a break with the gin and rum bottles -- clear liquors that “are on tap in the kitchen sink,” as we refer to it. The script calls for Palm wine, which is also mostly water with some soy milk added to give it the appropriate opacity onstage. That about rounds out the liquid libations of Mama Nadi’s, where the worst buzz you will get is an ice cream headache. Tune in next time for info on other concoctions in Ruined, from the Fufu Mama serves for dinner to the “mud” on the miner’s feet and hands, and come see our creations in action onstage nightly!
Found on the backstage kitchen microwave:
For those who don't have super-vision, the post-it reads:
I stand on a chair
Melt, melt that cheese, microwave
Scene shift coming up.
It's dated December 2008, which a quick flip through the theatre's timeline tells us was right in the middle of Joe Turner's Come and Gone. JT, as we call it internally, was a "food" show -- one that has lots of scenes with characters eating.
All the food you see actors eat onstage is, of necessity, prepared backstage. There's a fully functional kitchen offstage, house right, where food is made, stored, and then reheated in the moments before it has to arrive onstage for the actors to consume in front of you (what that food is could be a blog post all of its own -- modern-day allergies, dietary restrictions, and other considerations mean that the "chicken-n-biscuits, with gravy" called for by the script can probably be none of those things).
Clearly, the mystery writer was working under a deadline. I can only assume they made it.
Melt, melt that cheese, microwave!