Berkeley Rep Blog

Category archive: Backstage buzz

TJM, homeschooled child star

posted by Amy Bobeda on Wed, Feb 8, 2012
in Backstage buzz , Our shows

Much like the notion of child stardom, homeschooling is romanticized. No shock that the two go hand in hand like doing geometry in your pj's right before Teen Bop comes by to write a cover story about how you have the world’s best hair. Clearly, I am now romanticizing the homeschooling and stardom of my future husband, Justin Bieber.

The homeschooled child star isn’t at the forefront of many Reptile’s minds these days: The Pillowman and Brundibar are far behind us, but once in a while we find a gem of a kid, and voila! A homeschooled child star is born.

For those who have yet to catch my drift, I am talking about the Tyler James Myers (featured on the cover of last month’s issue of American Theatre magazine) who portrays the character of Boy in the Tony Taccone/Jon Moscone love child entitled Ghost Light (running on the Thrust Stage through February 19).

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The puzzlers in the play

posted by Amy Bobeda on Thu, Feb 2, 2012
in Backstage buzz , Our shows

I can’t remember the last time someone asked me if I wanted to do a puzzle. Oh wait. I can. I was 8, and it was a 3-D puzzle of the Titanic that I destroyed with my fist within hours of deep frustration. From this, one could deduce that I’m really not keen on puzzles -- sure real-life puzzles are the bomb, but if it’s got "jigsaw" in the name, you better me handing me an actual jigsaw.

Point being, the one thing about folks who devote their life the physical production of plays, be it board ops, deck crew, or actors, it's guaranteed that they love their work because of the precision and concentration. Similarly, both are also skills that required in puzzle construction along with, you guessed it: copious amounts of free time!

Some shows are more puzzle-crazy than others. This season, the puzzle love was strong with the folks on Bill Cain’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible (still running at Seattle Rep for those reading from the PNW) but nothing rivals the puzzle love among the cast and crew of Ghost Light. I place the blame on child star Tyler James Myers, who apparently loves to do puzzles in his free time. His studio teacher, Victora, legally required to be backstage at all times Tyler is working, also has an affinity for putting together the most mind-boggling puzzles. The Virgo of the Ghostlightians is Mr. Ted Deasy -- who has been known to rearrange the chair setup for docent presentations while still wearing his spandex ghost costume just because he can’t handle the disorder--is perhaps the most serious among us.

Mind you, when I say they love puzzles, I mean they love puzzles more than TMZ loves catching a nip slip on camera. These folks are averaging about three puzzles a week, and these are not your grandma’s puzzles. We are talking 1,200-piece minimum, impressionist painting that paints your retina, hard-ass (pardon my French) puzzles. Last week, they were finishing a 1970s smorgasbord of chocolates, pizza, and veggies puzzle, and now they have moved on to a 3-D Irish castle. They are so engrossed in puzzles that now everyone gathers around to watch the last five pieces go into place, and we have to let the finished product sit out for a few days for passersby to admire.

Perhaps the worst part of their puzzle obsession is that fact that I, a gung-ho puzzle hater, can now say I have contributed pieces to a puzzle in the last 48 hours. I am seeking help from a support group currently, and soon the Ghostlightians will move on and someone else will come in, again with an affinity for puzzles.

So ladies out there, if you are under the age of 18 and think the world of Tyler James Myers, forgo the fan mail and send a puzzle his way. You’ll thank me later.

Amy the Antipuzzler


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A peculiar delivery

posted by Kyle Sircus on Fri, Jan 27, 2012
in Backstage buzz , Costume shop

One of the loveliest aspects of our Harrison Street campus is the ability to comingle with other departments without straying too far from your own. This morning, for instance, I was chatting with Kitty Muntzel, our fabulous draper, about an upcoming program article and getting some insights from her. On my way out of the costume shop, tailor Kathy Kellner Griffith called me over to a different table. "And take this with you," she said. 


I have to admit I was amused and, after a bit more thinking, curious. Where does one acquire such a treasure? (In case the picture doesn't do it justice, it's a very detailed diorama of a house in the Philippines.)

I asked where it came from, and the ladies who usually know it all -- they've been here a combined total of 47 years -- had met their match. They were stumped! "No idea," Kathy told me. As far as they know, it just appeared in the shop. They asked me to bring it upstairs so that everyone could see it and take their guess about its origin. Any ideas?

The mystery's afoot! 

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A mingling of plaids: Berkeley Rep’s Ho-Ho Holiday Hoedown

posted by Amy Bobeda on Fri, Dec 16, 2011
in Backstage buzz


Photos by Mary Kay Hickox

There’s nothing like a good ol' fashioned office holiday party. Garlands on the water cooler. Secretaries in short skirts. Drinking so much egg nog that you start dancing on your boss’s desk to Ke$ha’s "Tick Tock"

Thankfully, the Reptiles celebrate the holidays in a far less cliché style. This year’s festivities were themed Ho-Ho Holiday Hoedown, which meant plaid shirts, denim jackets, and a whole lot of Jack Daniels.

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Rita's big break: the making of the Entourage video

posted by Cari Turley on Mon, Dec 12, 2011
in At the theatre , Backstage buzz

It's not every day you get to write a script for Rita Moreno.

Perhaps you've heard of her? Before her star-making turn in "Bring your Entourage to Berkeley Rep," Ms. Moreno appeared in a handful of smaller films like West Side Story, The King and I, and The Ritz. OK, I kid. Obviously, Rita was a huge star well before we talked her into appearing in our video, but now I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back up.

Here at Berkeley Rep, we have this amazing program that no one's ever heard of. It's called Entourage. Here's how it works: if we've got a show that you want to share with 10 or more people, we'll send you a discount code for 20% off. You don't all have to come on the same day, and we'll even waive everyone's service fees. Even better, if you can get 15 or more people to come, we'll give you a free ticket to a future show. Basically, you help us spread the word, and we'll make sure you and your friends save big. Win-win.

Or, if you prefer your information in cheesy, black-and-white video format:

Sounds awesome, right? We here in the marketing department were bummed that no one seemed to know about the program, so we decided to make a video to get the word out. We gave ourselves a comfortable schedule to make a storyboard, write a script, and look for filming locations...and then someone suggested asking Rita Moreno (who was here performing Life Without Makeup) if she'd like to make a cameo. Miraculously, she said yes. But since her show was ending in two days, our two-week timeline was out the window. If it was going to happen, we had to do this thing today.

And that's how I ended up writing a script to pitch to an Oscar winner in 15 minutes. Once that was done, we went to the theatre, grabbed as many "volunteers" as we could find, and knocked on Rita's dressing room door.

Boy, was that a terrifying moment. Here I am, some nobody, asking the great Rita Moreno to perform in some ludicrous scene that I wrote. I'm not a screenwriter! I'm not even a regular writer! And then, as if that wasn't frightening enough, I had to act in the scene with her. Look, I was a drama major in college, and I used to dream about this kind of opportunity. But you never expect it to happen with so little warning. I mean, shouldn't I have gotten a few weeks to prepare myself for this? Shouldn't I at least have brushed my hair?

Naturally, it took about three seconds for me to ruin the first take. Mortified, I tried again...and this time Rita tripped over her lines, made a joke about it, and just like that the tension broke. (Stars: they're just like us!) After that, it was just fun. She was an incredibly good sport, as were all the other Berkeley Rep staffers we coerced into performing. The whole thing was over in an hour.

At the end of our adventure in filmmaking, we were left with this little gem. Check it out, and if it sounds like something you might want to do, why don't you get in touch? (I promise I'm not quite as, uh, effusive in person.)

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Ridiculous Reptile tradition: Tattoo Friday

posted by Amy Bobeda on Fri, Dec 9, 2011
in Backstage buzz , Costume shop

Some offices do “casual Friday.” Clearly, Berkeley Rep is too unique to partake in such a trite ritual. What do we do instead? Fancy you should ask! Every Friday morning no matter which campus our ducklings find themselves on, we all have one thing in common: temporary tattoos.

Like all good ideas, it began in the costume shop. On a weekly trip to the local Target for Popov, Oxyclean, and environmentally friendly detergent, we trolled the ever-popular dollar section. That day there was something magical in the air, because those bins were stocked to the brim with temporary tattoos depicting hipster animals — octopus DJ! Raccoon bandits! Boston Terriers in cute baseball caps! Clearly, for a dollar I needed to buy three packs and find their purpose later.

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If you were looking for a reason to email Oprah...

posted by Megan Wygant on Mon, Sep 26, 2011
in At the theatre , Backstage buzz , General theatre talk , Our shows

...let it never be said that a passion for the arts didn't give you that opportunity.

RUpre2b_lr 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: 

Late last year, Oprah announced that she was involved with a film adaptation of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer-winning play, Ruined. Earlier this year, it was confirmed that she would be playing Mama Nadi

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 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

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)

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Puff the house manager dragon

posted by Karen McKevitt on Fri, Jun 10, 2011
in Backstage buzz

By Aleta George, House Manager

350px-Green_dragon_-_Lars_Grant-West Everyone has dreams relating to their work. An actor might go up on her lines. A director's cast doesn't show up. A prop master is asked for ketchup and has to go to India to find it. Usually we keep these dreams to ourselves, but this one I had to share.

In mine, I had a pet dragon that helped me house manage at the Berkeley Rep.

My dragon was jade green and about 8 feet tall. It flew around the Roda lobby helping to get people into the house. It was friendly and only used fire when absolutely necessary. The coolest part of the dream was when it soared and swooshed in the Roda Theatre to get everyone settled and ready for the show. The house quieted as a beautiful dragon flew through the air above their heads.

No need to analyze, please!


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Berkeley (Rep) Bowl(ing)

posted by Rachel Steinberg on Tue, May 31, 2011
in At the theatre , Backstage buzz

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.

Bowling lane 

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. 

Bowling devo 

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.

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Tricks of the jungle

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Mar 17, 2011
in Backstage buzz , Costume shop , Our shows

By Megan McClintock
Production Assistant

It’s supposed to rain all week in Berkeley, but I don’t mind. I’ll be spending most of my week backstage running Ruined (we have nine shows in six days), and the Roda Theatre feels like the Congo these days. Did we pump up the heat? Not literally. The Ruined design team created this jungle atmosphere, and they have covered all the bases.

The jungle vibe starts the minute you walk into the lobby, where the sound designer has provided some great Congo tunes that are underscored by a collage of jungle sounds. The rustling of leaves, coos of birds, and calls of other exotic animals continue throughout the show.

Inside the theatre you can feast your eyes on the jungle itself. Though most of the play takes place inside Mama Nadi’s bar, the walls are indicated mostly by vertical posts and posters, behind which the jungle is lush and green. Tree trunks spring up amongst thick greenery, and the actors must rustle through the leaves in order to enter and exit the stage.

RUpre4_lr Mama Nadi's bar, with the jungle in the background. Pictured: Wendell B. Franklin, Carla Duren, Zainab Jah, and Tonye Patano. Photo by

We even have a parrot onstage, which is written into the script. Our grey parrot is remote controlled -- parrot operator Janny Cote jokes that Rerun (as she has named him) is just one career step away from the Tiki Room. Rerun blinks, flaps his wings, moves his neck, snaps his beak, and even bites an actor on cue in the first scene. Rerun’s voice is provided by the sound department; he has a small speaker hidden right behind his cage so the sound is directionally correct. He is a little star -- he even has the last line of the play!

Janny and ReRun Janny and Rerun.

Even the smell backstage is jungle appropriate. I don’t know if it wafts into the audience much, but the scent of coconut fills the air. Why? Because coconut oil makes the cast look hot and sweaty. The glistening sweat is applied backstage, where warm coconut oil in spray bottles is applied liberally to exposed skin. To get an even sweatier look some cast members start with coconut oil then spritz water on top of it, creating a dripping-in-sweat look. Highly effective and simple, and this is the best-smelling cast I have ever worked with!

Coconut Oil

Since they have to tromp through the muddy jungle to get onstage, some cast members apply “mud” to their feet and hands. The mud and the coconut oil are both costume department tricks. The mud is simply a thick body lotion colored with powder foundation makeup. While most of the mud gets wiped off with baby wipes backstage, any that gets left behind just keeps the cast well moisturized.

So if you need an escape from the rain, it’s warm in the Congo and the tunes are groovin’. You can buy a Fanta from the café counter to round out your sense experience, and if you catch a whiff of coconut in the air, now you know why.

Ruined runs through April 10. Read the buzz and reserve your seats now!

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