Berkeley Rep Blog

Category archive: General theatre talk

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)

Comments: 0 | Read comments

Berkeley Rep's reading list

posted by Amy Potozkin on Thu, Jun 30, 2011
in General theatre talk

A few weeks ago I found myself going through all my books deciding which were ready to be taken down to Half Price Books (right here at the corner of Addison and Shattuck) and which were treasures worth keeping. I came across a few books that I consider to be bibles of mine. Books that I can still remember lines or passages from and that inspired my core values as a theatre artist. I was curious as to what books inspired our staff in their early (or late) days as theatre folk. I asked my colleagues here at Berkeley Rep to contribute the titles of the books they read for a list I was making. Some were quick to respond enthusiastically while others claimed they found books about theatre pretentious. With continued prodding I asked if perhaps there was a different type of book that inspired them in their creative lives, or even one  moment of creative insight that would leave said book a treasure for them.  Again some contributed and some pushed back. “No!” they cried, “no books! No books about theatre!!” Okay, I said. Perhaps a play or a videotape or …something?  Anything? Hence the following list from a number of staff members, fellows, and one former intern. 

Read the entire post

Comments: 2 | Read comments

Poetry Out Loud streams live

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Apr 14, 2011
in General theatre talk

Hey, y'all know it's National Poetry Month, right? We wanted to let you know about this really cool event on April 28 and 29: the Poetry Out Loud national finals. It's the nation's largest youth poetry recitation contest in partnership with the NEA and the Poetry Foundation.

This year the Poetry Out Loud semifinals and finals will be webcast live right here, so you can check out these 53 talented teens compete for $50,000 in awards. The California representative is Robert Marchand, a senior at Pacific Grove High in Monterey County. In fact, Pacific Grove High has sent a state champion to the finals for the past three years. Robert is active in his high school's drama club, and likened reciting poetry to performing a monologue. (Hmm, we wonder if he's destined for the stage.)

Break a leg, Robert!

Robert-Marchand-369x500 Robert Marchand. Photo copyright Brian Baer,
courtesy of California Arts Council.

Comments: 0 | Read comments

Vincent van Gogh Applies for an NEA Grant

posted by Karen McKevitt on Mon, Mar 21, 2011
in General theatre talk

Inspired by and in response to the NEA debates, Artistic Director Tony Taccone penned a short play:

By Tony Taccone

(Two men behind a large table, one seated in a large, imposing chair, the other standing. The man in the chair wears bejeweled cowboy boots, a fantastically embroidered leather jacket visible under his voluminous robes. The man standing is dressed impeccably in a dark blue, three-piece suit. He holds a little notebook. On the desk is a portfolio of some kind, open. Behind the desk is a flag. The artist they are talking to is unseen. They speak rapidly, in sync with one another.)

It makes no sense.

No sense whatsoever.

I’m not saying for you.

We couldn’t say that.

It’s a free fucking country.

In God We Trust.

I’m saying for us.

For the public.

The general population.

For the people at large

It makes the wrong sense. Forget no sense. It makes the wrong sense.
(looking at the portfolio) You call this a


Perhaps a nightscape.

Who can tell?

Cowboy (to the Suit)
He’s painted a nightscape.

I’m not so sure.

There’s no doubt about it.

Suit (to Cowboy)
Since when does a moon?

Plain as fucking day

I don’t quite see it

Cowboy (to artist)
Ah ha! You see! And that’s my point.

The point we’re making.

The point we keep making and re-making

Ad nauseum

And when I say “we”, I’m talking “we” in the larger sense

The largest sense, the purest sense

The “who gives a rat’s ass” sense

The market sense

The common sense of the marketplace sense.
Because the question, Mr?

Van Gogh

Van Gogh. Okay.
It’s like this Van.
Ruthlessly simple.
Let me pose a question.
Can I pose a question to Van?

You’re the question man.
If you can’t pose a question then

Here’s the question then Van.
If a piece of art doesn’t sell, does it really exist?


This is not a koan.

Suit (still laughing)
It’s certainly not.

I’m not being clever.
Am I not being clever?

Suit (unsure)
Well… in a sense.
Everyone knows you’re a clever man.

I’m dead serious now. Van, you listening?

Suit (to the Cowboy, confidentially)
Try the side with the ear.

Listen up, Van.
If your shit doesn’t sell, then it’s worth nothing.

The gospel according to.

Nada. Zero. Less than zero if you add the labor.
Have you added up your labor?
I bet you have.
The Theory of Surplus Value inverted.
Am I not right?

The god’s honest and highest truth.

Let me repeat.
If no one wants to buy your shit, then there is no value.
Supply and demand. An immutable law. Handed down from above.

From Moses to Reagan.

The word made flesh.

And dwelt among us.

And so, Van, for these and other salient reasons, the Agency, Van, is rejecting your proposal.
Christ!…He’s crying. The man is crying.

Suit (offers him his hanky which is rejected)

Don’t get me wrong.
Personally, I like the work.

Even if we don’t completely…

One of these would go great
In one of my bathrooms

The den. The mantle.

Hell, I’d even put one in the kitchen.
The big flower.
Might brighten things up.
Because that’s the question, Van.
How to get one of these into every kitchen.

Or the bath, nothing wrong with the bath.

Then you’re talking.
You’re more than talking

Then you’ve got something

Then you’ve got product.
You’re Branding, Van.
Are you listening to me?

Suit (confidentially to Cowboy)
Try the side of the head with the hole in it.

Cowboy (shouting)
It’s sell or die!
You hear me Van!
Which one will it be?!

For God’s sake man,
stop with the shouting!
I’ve got dozens just like you
bangin’ down the door.




Cowboy (irritated)
Thousands okay, thousands!
I’m trying to nice here!

Sorry, I didn’t….
It’s just that the inventory

Exactly. Exactly with the inventory. The Board President here of one of the greatest if not the greatest arts institutions in the country is here telling you, Van, that his vaulted vaults are overflowing to bursting with thousands of pieces of worthless art! Hundreds of thousands ad infinitum. None bereft of craft, mind you. None without hard evidence of more than a modest degree of talent, no! Some even border on the unspeakably spectacular, unthinkable worlds that in a single instant of a single breath can suck the air right out of your windpipe, connecting every atom floating in the helioscope of your body to the translucent universe without, and that some way, somehow, when you look at them you feel that they hold within their tiny frames the boundless sensation of some desperately mysterious sublime… truth.

And yet, there they now sit, huddled in exile, confined to the damp, corrosive air of this great man's basement, steeped in the profitless dust of eternal sadness because no one fucking owns them. No one understands them. No one will buy them.


There it is.

But we’ve got some good news. Sit up straight, Van, and pay attention!
Because we care deeply about art
because we do not want you to suffer the ignominious fate of those with less talent

There’s a real shortage of talent out there

We have a proposal.

A challenge.

An opportunity for you.

Very very good, it is indeed.

There’s a program designed to support small businesses,
you know, start ups,
for people who show the right kind of initiative.

Some get up and go.

Some real creativity.

Some real currency.

So here’s the deal.
You move to the Third World, it’s a Third World Program,
plenty of good places, just stay out of Thailand, too many teak harvesters,
you move to say, Kurdistan, or Micronesia, or pick almost any place in Africa,
and you set up shop and we give you some cash. It will look small on paper, but do not despair, the cash amount will not impress but I am telling you Van, you play your cards right and you can go global, viral, YOU, Mister Van the Man Gogh, can fucking blow up.
Are you hearing me there?

Sit up now, son.

You study the market. The market that wants to know you, to touch you, to get a little taste

a little piece of genius.

The market is not your enemy, Van. You find out what people want, right?

Not so bad!

You do your demographics, some quantitative analysis

Maybe some focus groups!

Rethink the possibilities. Re launch yourself. Advertising metrics, linking networks, affiliate marketing

Do I hear product placement?

You set your price points vertically, package the hell out of your inventory, exponentially increase production and voila…they’ll be living replications, patented, royalty-wielding, authentic copies of sunflowers or nightscapes or even these one-eared heads of yours mounted in a place of prominent distinction in every other house on the planet.

“A single spark can start a prairie fire”

Cowboy (laughing)
Listen to him, Van. From Mao to Moneyball.

With more than a nod to Adam Smith!

So think it over and let us know soon.
I don’t have to tell you that these are prized grants, Van. Hundreds of applicants

Thousands of artists

Lots and lots and lots and lots. So buck up, pal! Think positive! Don’t think of this as a defeat!
Think of this as an opportunity.

Suit (singing)
“I did what I had to do
and saw it through without exemption/”
(sotto voce)
 “I planned each charted course, each careful step, along the byway”

It’s a new day in the arts Van. Time to grow up. Time to get real.

Both (singing)
 “And more, much more than this, I did it my way!”



Comments: 1 | Read comments

Show in a box

posted by Amy Bobeda on Tue, Feb 8, 2011
in Costume shop , General theatre talk , Our shows

Many things come in boxes -- presents, shoes, refrigerators, a man named Jack, and (more often than not due to our current economic state) plays. I’m not quite sure who coined the term “show in a box,” but when Berkeley Rep does a coproduction (Compulsion, and the upcoming Ruined), remounts an old production (The Arabian Nights), or takes on a travelling show (The Great Game: Afghanistan) we send and receive the show literally “in a box”.

Receiving shows in a box is a little like Christmas when you think you know what your mother bought you, but you’re not quite sure. You’re nervous that it’s not quite the right thing, or was too expensive. You worry that Santa broke it as he tossed it down the chimney. However, you’re ecstatic to open the box.

Like any other production, shows in a box require some preparation. The marketing department plans the cocktail menu and produces the signage. The electrics department receives the light plots in advance so they can efficiently hang the lights. The production departments pour over paperwork from the shows’ previous locations (in the case of Ruined we have had many conversations with the Huntington Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse in preparation for the show’s arrival), but mostly, we wait with baited breath for the truck of boxes to arrive.

In the costume department, we receive giant wardrobe boxes full of clothing, and we begin to play the “who wears what” game. The advantage to a show in a box is that usually the same actors travel with the show and help us get up to speed while we help them settle into a new town.

Sometimes things arrive broken. Maybe a pair of socks is lost in transit. Perhaps the scenery needs some touch-ups from the paints department. Often staging evolves from one theatre to another.

While the show in a box isn’t quite as exciting as building a show from scratch, there is something magical about being one of the legs on a play’s journey.


One of the costume boxes for The Arabian Nights.

Check out costume fellow Amy Bobeda's blog.

Comments: 0 | Read comments

Room for thought: arts funding during a fiscal crisis

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Jan 27, 2011
in General theatre talk

Ax Berkeley Rep is looped into the national (and international) conversation about the arts, arts education, arts policy, and more -- and we want to share with you stories we find especially thought-provoking.

The LA Times “Culture Monster” reports on the Republican Study Committee’s proposed Spending Reduction Act of 2011. While the article focuses on the proposed cuts of the arts, the Act actually proposes cuts in many sectors.

Read the article in the LA Times, check out the Reduction Act’s two-page summary (pdf), and if you’d like to read more, here’s more info on the entire proposal.

In related news, the Huffington Post published this article about newly elected Kansas governor Sam Brownback’s planned executive order to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission. If he does so, Kansas will be the first U.S. state without an arts commission.

Do you think arts should be eliminated during a fiscal crisis? Tell us what you think!

Comments: 0 | Read comments

American Idiot earns Grammy nom

posted by Karen McKevitt on Fri, Dec 3, 2010
in General theatre talk , News , Shows on tour


Congratulations to Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day for their Grammy nomination for the Broadway score of American Idiot! The band scored two Grammys for their original album, so wouldn't this be a nice one to add to the collection?

This is the second time in two years that a Berkeley Rep show was nominated for a Grammy. Last year, Carrie Fisher was nominated for the audio book of Wishful Drinking.

In related American Idiot news, Billie's joining the Broadway cast on January 1 for another turn as St. Jimmy.

Comments: 1 | Read comments

Outlandish new trailer for Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Dec 2, 2010
in At the theatre , General theatre talk , Our shows


  Screencap for cd
Our new trailer for Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead racked up more than 8,900 views on YouTube in less than a week! Check it out for yourself -- and share with your friends.

And yep, the show launches with what else but a movie! Says Tony Taccone, the show's director, "In order to introduce you to a live event — the magic of living, breathing theatre — we’re going to show you a movie. Right? It makes absolutely no sense, except it absolutely does makes sense in the world of Lemony Snicket, who is completely eccentric, wildly imaginative and clever and hysterically funny."

Read the entire interview with Tony on the making of the movie, The Magic of Living, Breathing Theater, here.

Hey, tonight's opening night! If we don't see you tonight, we hope to see you soon. Purchase your tickets now!


Comments: 2 | Read comments

A curious dispatch from Lemony Snicket

posted by Pauline Luppert on Thu, Nov 18, 2010
in At the theatre , General theatre talk , Our shows

With the world premiere of Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead mere days away, Lemony Snicket himself has taken the time to send you a curious dispatch in which he shares with you why theatre is important – and how you may find a more or less everlasting joy and peace.

Is theatre important to you? Make a gift to Berkeley Rep today. 


Comments: 0 | Read comments

Concerning cultural intercourse

posted by Pauline Luppert on Mon, Mar 22, 2010
in Events , General theatre talk

In one of my favorite quotes from a review of Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, The San Francisco Chronicle's Rob Hurwitt said scenes from the show "set the mind spinning about topics as varied as the art and commerce of photography, the ways in which humans love and use one another, a Coco zhou century of intercourse between Japan and America . . ." I love this concept of cultures having intercourse. It's sexy, and so much more dynamic than cultures "influencing" each other or "exchanging" with each other.

On that note, an upcoming evening event on Thursday, April 1 at The Asian Art Museum set my mind spinning about a century of intercourse between Shanghai and America.

Here's how the museum describes the event: "Dubbed 'the boy Billie Holiday,' Coco Zhao (seen right) performs an intimate set of original works and Shanghai jazz favorites in conjunction with the special exhibition Shanghai. Jazz thrived in Shanghai’s colorful cabarets and dance halls during the ’20s and ’30s. Suppressed during the Cultural Revolution, it’s enjoyed a renaissance thanks to a new generation of jazz musicians. Zhao cross-pollinates Mandarin vocals with distinct sounds of contemporary American jazz; his unique heritage (his parents performed traditional Chinese opera) is infused with youthful interpretations."

The event begins at 5pm and features a cash bar and various exhibit-related activities. Tickets are $10, but the museum is giving away some free tickets. Click here for a chance to win.

Watch a video of Coco Zhou performing at the Yokohama jazz festival:

Comments: 1 | Read comments

Previous entries | More recent entries