Summer Residency Lab
About the Summer Residency Lab
Our Summer Residency Lab brings artists to Berkeley to work on projects in June (1–4 week residencies). Artists are selected based on a combination of existing relationships with Berkeley Rep and an application process. Interaction with other artists, staff, board and, when appropriate, the public are highly encouraged. There is no final presentation required at the end of the lab. If a project is in a stage where a reading or an audience would be useful, then that will be arranged. But there is no expectation of any kind of public showing. The purpose is to identify where the project is in its development path, and to move it to the next stage, whatever that stage may be.
What artists say about the Summer Residency Lab
“Writing can be a lonely and uncertain process and having someone say ‘Yeah! Write it! We support you!’ makes approaching the void infinitely less existentially raw, to be super dramatic about it.”
Jackie Sibblies Drury, Summer Lab 2013 & 2015
The Ground Floor is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts/ArtWorks, Time Warner Foundation Inc., the Tournesol Project, Bank of America, Michael & Sue Steinberg, and individual supporters of Berkeley Rep’s Create Campaign.
About the artists
Christina Anderson · Playwright
A Berkeley Rep commission, exploring the power of water and the practice of radical healing in a Black community.
The New Frontier
Glen Berger · Playwright
The New Frontier is Banjos and Fistfights. An ancient tune uncovered, and old wounds reopened. Haunting harmonies sung by three lads who can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. These young men want to be America’s avatars. They want to tap into the underground river that feeds the soul and imagination of this country. One of them wants to get the hell out of this group because the other two are delusional, misguided lunatics. The other two also feel this way. And they love each other. They’re the Frontiersmen—the most popular folk trio in America. They’re at wit’s end, they’re about to break up, and Armageddon looms. It’s October 23, 1962. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring tops the Bestseller List, the Civil Rights Movement is picking up steam, and the Cuban Missile Crisis is coming to a head. So as America holds its breath, the threesome and their vocal coach have been corralled into a cabin in Big Sur by their stressed-out Manager to finally complete the album they owe Capitol Records. Things do not go according to plan. A play about moments of harmony amidst a sea of discord; about disillusionment and hope, estrangement and connection. A play about America, with lots of music. A comic drama about how to complete a damn song.
The Chan Family Picnic, A Nouvelle Vaudeville
Eugenie Chan · Playwright
Byron Au Yong · Composer
The Chan Family Picnic, A Nouvelle Vaudeville explores an American legacy of anti-Asian legislation, sex trafficking, race, and exploitation through the story of a Chinese gold rush immigrant family—the story of hardscrabble peasants sold into indentured labor or prostitution, gamblers, brothel-keepers, and the intertwined stories of Chan and her grandfather, as they seek respectability despite the family’s sex trafficking history. It includes politics, social commentary, jokes, and clan history told in song, dramatic scenes, bits of Cantonese opera, journalism, official testimony, and family letters.
Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious
Dustin Chinn · Playwright
Colonialism is Terrible, But Pho is Delicious is a meditation on ownership and authorship in modern food culture. It’s a triptych that spans the evolution of Vietnamese noodles, which are indisputably better on the West Coast than in New York.
Richard in 9 Poses
Sarah DeLappe · Playwright
A play about a community figure drawing class with women artists and a nude male model.
Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Laid to Rest. A Full Length Multi-Media Play.
Donnetta Lavinia Grays · Playwright
When his fatal shooting stirs a community into fevered protest, Vanda’s son Clarence becomes yet another hashtag in the ongoing fight against police brutality. Social media overwhelms and recreates Clarence’s story beyond even Vanda’s recognition. While struggling to find a sense of peace, Vanda meets Grace—a well-meaning yet casual armchair activist—and the need to mourn Clarence’s death and reclaim his story in the concrete offline spaces of the real world gains urgency.
Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit
Daniel Handler · Playwright
A play about death, addiction, and the stories we tell each other…and also what happens when you mistake a rabbi for a rabbit.
Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit highlights our 2017–18 season.
Martyna Majok · Playwright
The lives of two generations of immigrant women from Poland, Ukraine, Honduras, and Afghanistan haunt a basement apartment in the borough of Queens. When in 2017 Inna comes looking for the mother who abandoned her as a child in Ukraine, Renia is assaulted by the memories of the women who occupied the building wherein she once sought refuge and now owns. Spanning 2001–2017, the play looks at the choices these women made for security, family, dignity, and desire in a country that can play favorites with its fortune. What are you forced to leave behind when working so hard to move forward?
Between Here and the City of Mexico
Tony Meneses · Playwright
It’s 1968, and as a wave of student protest washes over Mexico City, a girl journeys into the ever-shifting capital to find a path to call her own. A beguiling, sweeping ode to a city flush with the promise of revolution, and to the times in life when everything seems possible.
James Harrison Monaco and Jerome Ellis
James Harrison Monaco · Co-creator
Jerome Ellis · Co-creator
Rachel Chavkin · Director
Created with director Rachel Chavkin, storyteller-musicians James Harrison Monaco and Jerome Ellis turn their attention to visual art and our relationship to image as inspiration, seeking to create a new kind of “museum tour.”
Museum is built in two sister sections:
The first is TOUR, in which they take the audience on a walking tour of different existing pieces of art, heavily scoring the tour with electronic and acoustic instruments. As guides, they personally respond to the history and aesthetics of the works with words and music. The other section is called LECTURE. This section is a slide-projection lecture in the style of an art-history lesson, but formally exploded to become quite personal and poetic in its language, and through its live score that’s at once intricate and sweeping.
TRAINERS, or The Brutal Unpleasant Atmosphere of This Most Disagreeable Season
Sylvan Oswald · Playwright
During the second civil war, artists and intellectuals must travel constantly to survive and be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. Luckily, your trainer is here to prepare you with a series of lectures and exercises.
Lisa Peterson and Todd Almond
The Idea of Order
Lisa Peterson · Co-creator
Todd Almond · Co-creator
A Berkeley Rep commission, The Idea of Order is a musical about the role of poetry in our lives, inspired by the life and work of Wallace Stevens.
Max Posner · Playwright
A private account of an unpredictable and ongoing medical disaster and our chronically nonsensical healthcare system.
The Two Reds
Kemp Powers · Playwright
The Two Reds tells the story of the formative years of friends Malcolm X and Redd Foxx, who were working together, hustling together, and even living together (though both were homeless and living on a rooftop) in 1940s Harlem.
Kate E. Ryan
Kate E. Ryan · Playwright
This new play (to be produced by Z Space in San Francisco in 2018) tells the story of the confrontation between a group of liberal-minded women in the Bay Area and a woman who holds more conservative beliefs about gender roles. The play aims to create a conversation around the power of one charismatic individual to change people; the gap between “conservatives” and “liberals” and what that means on a local level; and the strength of our most deeply-held beliefs and how that might change with context.
Diana Lynn Small
Diana Lynn Small · Playwright
House Play is a new play being developed to perform specifically in houses that asks, “What’s a home good for?” When three deities are banished from the heavens, they must decide whether they’d like to become domesticated humans or wild animals. House Play is after diversifying the theatre audience by playing in towns that may not have traditional theatre buildings and by happening inside residential neighborhoods. Audiences will be invited to envision the possibilities of the home as spaces for community engagement, play, liberation, and falling in love with other people. House Play is written and directed by Diana Lynn Small with James Hapke, Heather Johnson, Marie Ponce, and Paige Tautz.
This Much I Know
Jonathan Spector · Playwright
This play explores how we make decisions and what it takes to change our minds, using the revolutionary work of psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman as a lens to look at the distance between what we know and what we think we know.
Adia and Clora Snatch Joy
Mfoniso Udofia · Playwright
An installation in the nine-part Ufot family cycle, in which a daughter of the American South meets a daughter of Akwa Ibom immigrants and together they fuse and fashion a new way forward.
Lileana Blain-Cruz and Susan Soon He Stanton
Lileana Blain-Cruz · Co-creator
Susan Soon He Stanton · Co-creator
Intimacy is an experiment inspired by a psychological study featured in the New York Times article, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” A series of real and fictional interactions create intimate one on one conversations between characters, character and audience, actor and audience, and audience with audience. Why? Because Tinder exists.
Mia Chung · Playwright
Bloken Engrish is about translation and about English as the dominant lingua franca. This play will look at what happens to language, culture, thought, and action when translation occurs—specifically when languages are translated into English.
Megan Cohen · Playwright
In Truest, Sam Shepard meets Thelma and Louise when we find two sisters in a kitchen. Smoking guns in hand, they’ve just slain the iconic brothers of fraternal drama True West. As these women pursue their own uniquely twisted American Dream in a landscape of canonical corpses, they dance an intricate psychological duet that leads us through a surreal terrain of wonder, danger, laughter, and yearning. A delightfully upsetting grapple by an emerging feminist playwright, Truest is about a pair of sisters on a brutal hunt in search of tenderness.
Flowers Are Sleeping
Eisa Davis · Creator
Racism, sexism, gender, and sexuality ensnare us in lethal, depersonalizing binaries. In this piece loosely inspired by figures of the Harlem Renaissance, a black female conceptual artist uses a gallery installation to subvert the patrolled behavior expected of her voice, mind, and body. Using music as an ecstatic, critical tool of resistance, she explores how and if black women can escape the performance of themselves.
The Meaning of Ants in My Kitchen
Erin Edens · Playwright
The Meaning of Ants in My Kitchen is a play about the presence of absence and explores those palpable spaces that exist in our lives when something or someone goes missing. Mary feels frozen in place while the world passes her by until an army of ants shows up and wakes her from her inertia. As the battle wages the consequences of her choice to retreat from life become real and manifest themselves in unexpected ways.
The Art of Gaman
Dipika Guha · Playwright
Maxine Hong Kingston · Performer
When Tomomi’s steamer pulls into San Francisco, her arrival coincides with the first wave of west coast Japanese internment. So when an old man on board offers to arrange her marriage to his son who lives out of harms way in New York, Tomomi knows she must accept. At once funny, intimate, and deeply theatrical, The Art of Gaman is an account of one woman’s struggle for independence and self-expression through her life and American history.
Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble
In collaboration with The ESP Project
Iron Shoes is a collaboration between Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, stage director/choreographer Erika Chong Shuch, and members of her ESP Project, composer Janet Kutulas, and librettist Michelle Carter. A neo-feminist, futuristic folk opera combining original music and text, powerful singing, movement, text, humor, and environments of light, Iron Shoes will transform source material drawn from Eastern European fairytales into a contemporary performance experience. Departing from conventional narrative forms, the collaborators will embark on an imaginative, evocative, and entertaining journey that uses archetypal elements from the tales as points of departure from which to explore themes of female empowerment and disempowerment, confinement and mobility, youth, age, and relationship to self, others, daily life, fate, and dreams.
The Bottomless Bowl
Josh Kornbluth · Playwright
Josh Kornbluth had always dreaded reaching 55—the age when his own father had suffered the devastating stroke that eventually killed him. So it seemed a bizarre coincidence that, on his 55th birthday, Josh received an out-of-the-blue call from the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, which ended up offering him a spot as their first-ever artist-in-residence. Initially terrified of being or doing something inappropriate around dying people, Josh—first as artist-in-residence, then later as a volunteer caregiver—was amazed to find, in his encounters with the hospice’s “residents” (as the patients there are called), powerful, loving, vibrant connections; these, in turn, profoundly affected his attitude towards death…and, even more surprisingly, towards life. The Bottomless Bowl is the story of the most alive place Josh has ever been to.
Aaron Landsman · Co-creator
Mallory Catlett · Co-creator
Jim Findlay · Co-creator
Paul Shambroom · Photographer/Co-creator
Squares is a multi-media theatre project about nostalgia, memory, and technology. Created by Mallory Catlett, Aaron Landsman, Jim Findlay, and photographer Paul Shambroom, the piece is inspired by a collection of 583 found snapshots, all processed at a single lab in Minnesota in 1976.
Josh Lefkowitz · Playwright
Josh Lefkowitz writes a poem a day, five years and counting. As part of the Ground Floor residency, he will stitch together poems (the good ones, anyhow) into a cohesive thematic evening that represents a year in the life. Topics and subject matters to include the following: love, break ups, being alone, internet dating, various bar foods, Neruda, love again, heartbreak, baseball games, depression, Lexapro, and then, again, love.
Keep Your Forks
James Magruder · Playwright
Danny Scheie · Performer
In Keep Your Forks, Eddie Monell, a gay trophy husband cast off by his partner after thirty-one years, has to start over in Indianapolis at the age of fifty with no life skills, a bad attitude, and serious entitlement issues. Can his sister, Joyce, and his “step-daughter,” Rachel, induce him to become a better person? Or does the heroin epidemic in the Mid-West offer him better alternatives?
Lisa Peterson and Todd Almond
The Idea of Order
Lisa Peterson · Co-creator
Todd Almond · Co-creator
A Berkeley Rep commission, The Idea of Order, is a musical about the role of poetry in our lives, inspired by the life and work of Wallace Stevens.
Cottoned Like Candy
Tori Sampson · Playwright
Cottoned Like Candy explores the value placed on bodies, how we accept the soul as a living anchor, and what can take place when we’re forced to choose one over the other. This story follows a newlywed couple Rene and Cole as they deal with Cole’s decision to start cross-dressing which leads to gender neutral pronouns and maybe, if he can convince his wife to stay…a complete gender transformation. All the while, Shana, Rene’s best friend silently fights with depressive urges to silence her soul and disappear her body forever.
Oh, yeah, and character’s from Ovid’s Metamorphoses along with Whoopi Goldberg drift in and out to help tell this story that hopefully asks: What is a soul mate? Are body mates just as kismet? And where are lines drawn when we’ve committed both body and soul to another person when we ourselves aren’t attached to them?
My Father the Speeding Bullet: Nincest
Jen Silverman · Playwright
My Father the Speeding Bullet: Nincest is a provocative, irreverent exploration of trauma, its aftermath, and its insidious reconfiguration into glamor. When Anais Nin was nine, her father left. When she was thirty, he returned—and began a passionate and secret love affair with her. Nincest is a darkly comedic, gender-bending, play-with-songs in which the part of Anais is written for Pig Iron co-founder Dito Van Reigersberg.
Eddie and Dave: A Fictionalized Tale of Van Halen
Amy Staats · Playwright
Eddie and Dave: A Fictionalized Tale of Van Halen begins during a 1997 MTV interview in which a middle aged Alex and Eddie Van Halen explain why, after walking on the stage at the 1996 MTV Awards with David Lee Roth for the first time since their bitter break up eleven years earlier, they fired him again after two weeks. The play will be structured as a memory play, with an MTV-J acting as our narrator, guiding the audience through a series of flash backs leading back up to the fated night of the MTV Awards, then flashing forward to Van Halen’s reunion as much older and possibly wiser men in 2014. Although physically tempered by time, they are essentially the same, still, and hopefully always, running with the devil.
August Wilson Poetry Project
Steven Sapp · Co-creator
Mildred Ruiz-Sapp · Co-creator
William Ruiz, aka Ninja · Co-creator
The rarely heard poetry of August Wilson receives a theatrical presentation by UNIVERSES, a nationally acclaimed performance ensemble from New York. Using the poetry of August Wilson as the foundation, UNIVERSES will create a new musical poetic exploration that explores the power of legacy and how it gets passed down to the next generation. A commission from The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and collaboration with Constanza Romero and the August Wilson Estate.
Untitled hockey project
Joe Waechter · Playwright
The untitled hockey project follows the lives of two seemingly unrelated strangers. Devon is a Minnesota high school hockey star on track to turn pro. It’s the final quarter of the State Tournament, and there’s something Devon must confess to his best friend and teammate before the last buzzer. Mark is a middle-aged unemployed father that spends his days job-hunting, eating ice cream, and checking his Facebook feed. On the verge of losing his foreclosed home and failing marriage, Mark’s found himself a new hobby—an obsession he must keep secret. The lines between ice rink and living room fade to reveal the hilarious and dark implications of masculinity, sexuality, and the desire to connect with a world of our own design.
Untitled Cambodia pop play
Lauren Yee · Playwright
1975: Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot invades Phnom Penh and forever changes the future of Cambodia. 1978: a Cambodian rock band reunites under unusual circumstances. 2006: a long-lost cassette tape is found and reveals an unexpected history. Part-play, part-rock concert, this piece celebrates the raucous history of Cambodia’s music scene and the legacy of the artists whose lives were forever upended by the Khmer Rouge’s destruction.
César Alvarez and Lucas Hnath
César Alvarez · Composer
Lucas Hnath · Playwright
Performed as a 1960s salsa nightclub act, Castro is a musical extravaganza about the CIA’s last ditch efforts to take care of the “Castro Problem.” This musical imagines an alternative reality in which Castro is assassinated and the CIA and Cuban exile community get exactly what they wanted. Say the creators, “It’s based on a true story, but we also made a lot of stuff up.”
Christopher Chen and Mei Ann Teo
Christopher Chen · Playwright
Mei Ann Teo · Director
Passage is a fantasia on E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, recasting the novel as a minimalist contemporary fable on the clash of cultures. Passage meditates on perception and power in the encounter between two imaginary countries that are just that—imagined—by their own citizens and by citizens of the other country.
Julia Cho · Playwright
Liesl Tommy · Director
An estranged son, a father who’s ill, a visiting uncle carrying their memories in tow, and an immigrant from a forgotten country—they all prove potent ingredients in this bittersweet, moving meditation on family, acceptance, forgiveness, and the things that nourish us. When language fails, when the past fades, the perfect meal transcends time and says more than words ever can. Julia Cho’s witty and poetic plays have earned critical praise from New York to Los Angeles. Now she pairs with Obie Award-winning director Liesl Tommy (Ruined and Party People) on the elegant, poignant, and lyrical Aubergine.
Aubergine, commissioned by Berkeley Rep, highlighted our 2015–16 season.
Jackie Sibblies Drury
Jackie Sibblies Drury · Playwright
Berkeley Rep-commissioned artist and 2013 Summer Lab alum Jackie Sibblies Drury returns to work on a currently untitled play about surveillance, paranoia, and the individuals who listen.
The Alligator Ball (working title)
Anne Galjour · Playwright
The Alligator Ball is the third part of Anne Galjour’s Cajun trilogy. In parts one and two, the characters survive hurricanes and floods; in The Alligator Ball, they deal with fracking, the BP oil spill, and its aftermath. Grady and Rosetta Cheramie make enough money from drilling for oil on their property to buy and operate a fantastically successful alligator farm. Now they’ve discovered that beneath the ground is an even richer prospect, natural gas, that could finance Grady’s turtle farm venture. Their nephew is opposed to this and urges his uncle to support his venture of utilizing the fat from the slaughtered alligators to fuel cars. His vision is to “Put an alligator in your tank.” While making preparations for the celebration of the annual Alligator Festival and its ball, the unexpected catastrophe of the BP oil spill occurs. Once again the characters find themselves caught between the potent forces of oil extraction and the fierce power of nature.
Fire in Dreamland
Rinne Groff · Playwright
Marissa Wolf · Director
Fire in Dreamland is a powerful coming of age story commissioned by Berkeley Rep. Kate is seduced by the vision of an upstart Dutch filmmaker who has thrown himself into an epic film about the tragic 1911 fire on Coney Island. As past and present converge in this haunted, battered landscape, Kate must find a way to rebuild her own life amidst the ruins.
Eric Hoff, Will Davis, and SK Kerastas
Color Guard (working title)
Eric Hoff · Writer/Collaborator
Will Davis · Director/Collaborator
SK Kerastas · Writer/Collaborator
The practice of Color Guard evolved from Armed Force’s duty to guard their nation’s flag in combat. It then became a ceremonial ritual in military pageantry. Today, we know Color Guard to be part athletics, part spectacle, and part dance form.
Somewhere in its progression, Color Guard became a subconsciously accepted space for men to express their femininity, a departure from its historical, rigid masculinity. While holding onto military-like discipline and structure, Color Guard became a radical space where men could “twirl the gun around and then catch the shit out of it.” Something so sincere, it’s almost camp.
Writers SK Kerastas and Eric Hoff, with director Will Davis, are creating a movement-driven play that uses the space of an adult Color Guard team to delve into and critique the legacy of once-transgressive spaces and their current role in reinforcing harmful norms. Both a metaphor for the modern gay bar and the modern queer non-profit organization, Color Guard will explore what happens when a once-radical space assimilates, achieves its goals, and turns into something oppressive.
Rules to Follow in Cloud Engineering
Jamie Hook · Director
Brent Arnold · Composer
Michael Chick · Actor
Sarah Franç̧oise · Dramaturg
Rules to Follow in Cloud Engineering focuses on the trials and teachings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich. Scholar, scientist, psychologist, and revolutionary, Reich endures as one of the great characters of the 20th century. From his celebrated beginnings in Vienna as Freud’s heir apparent, to his discredited end in Rangeley, Maine as a paranoid, UFO-chasing, FDA-targeted crackpot, Reich shot across continents and eras like a comet. His radical and profound work anticipated the revolutionary sexual politics, anti-government agitation, and psycho-social revisionism of the 1960s. Rules to Follow in Cloud Engineering incorporates film, music, and even dance elements to weave together a collage of Reich’s life, while contextualizing themes of the cultural definition of madness, the subjective biases of science, the endurance of family, and the nature of human sexuality.
Naomi Iizuka and Ripe Time
Naomi Iizuka · Playwright
Rachel Dickstein · Director and deviser
Sleep is a physical theatre piece that traces the distance between what we appear to be and what we are. Based on the short story by Haruki Murakami, Sleep weaves together dance, language, and visual design to tell the story of a Japanese housewife finding escape from a mundane, prescribed life in a secret nocturnal world. After waking from a haunting dream, she suddenly stops sleeping and is thrust down a rabbit hole of indulgence and transgression. As the constrictions of her prescribed role melt away, she discovers a new self who takes risks, indulges in what is forbidden, devours Tolstoy and chocolate, and embraces what is unpredictable and dangerous. This seeming “escape,” however, leads her to a world of lawlessness and danger that she never expected. Sleep asks: What happens when we awake to the hypocrisies and lies underlying the comforts of our world? What happens when the received wisdoms we took for granted are exposed as hollow and false? From the artists of the Obie-winning Brooklyn-based company Ripe Time, Sleep spins a cautionary tale of one woman’s awakening.
Hansol Jung · Playwright
A Korean boy steps into a new house, accompanied by his adoptive father. This new house belongs to an American boxer and her wife. American father un-adopts boy with a single signature on a piece of paper. But just before he leaves the new house, ex-father finds out that the new couple to whom he has “re-homed” his ex-son to, is lesbian. American Ex-father spends the rest of the play trying to get the boy back.
The boy is actually not a real boy. He is a puppet. The puppeteer is the Emcee of the evening, and spinner of the night’s tale: a lone wolf who slips in and out of the story as is needed.
Yes, the puppeteer is a wolf. At least he believes that he is. Because wolves are a god figure in many Eastern myths, a frequent villain in many Western tales, and biologically famous for their adherence to pack mentality. Is Wolf the Eastern kind, or the Western kind, or a terrible mixture of both? What is happening in this world from his mixed wolf perspective? Where is his pack? Can this Lone Wolf find his own version of a pack?
Sean Christopher Lewis and Jennifer Fawcett
Sean Christopher Lewis · Playwright
Jennifer Fawcett · Director
What is it to create a found footage story on stage? Is it possible to attract and excite audiences in the same way a podcast like Serial or a television story like Breaking Bad can? Can you re-create a story and a space in a way that makes audiences return over and over again? Ghost Story will use a theatrical space and its surrounding grounds as a character and a living set to tell the story of a missing brother. The narrator, a box office attendant at the theatre, has developed an eclectic way of coping: a mini-museum of the basement, a walking tour, hours of cassettes, of interviews, of sound design—all meant to create an experience of loss. He walks an audience through the building to see these installations he has created, these hand-made re-tellings of a ghost story that has haunted him since his youth.
Anaïs Mitchell · Creator
Michael Chorney · Co-collaborator
Todd Sickafoose · Co-collaborator
Hadestown is a folk rock opera based on the Greek myth of Orpheus & Eurydice and set in a post-apocalyptic Depression-era company town. When Eurydice chooses the wealth and security of Hadestown over a life of poverty with her lover, the poet/musician Orpheus, Orpheus journeys to Hadestown to win back his bride. Hades, a pathological military-industrialist, rules with an iron fist but his human weakness is for his strong-willed and estranged wife Persephone. Part love story, part political dreamscape, Hadestown is a tale of two couples, of faith versus doubt, and the walls we build.
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Danny Scheie
A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb · Playwright
Danny Scheie · Performer
A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry is a one man play in the form of a surreal and occasionally unreal journey through the former home of a tremendously wealthy and eccentric couple, Hubert and Clarissa Porter. Audiences will be guided through an expansive mansion/compound (imagined in a theatre space), a structure that physically tells the story of the absurdly wealthy couple’s journey towards eccentricity, insanity, and sudden mysterious isolation from the outer world.
A “confirmed bachelor,” Weston Ludlow Londonderry transcends time and modernity. He is a man of great style and severe points of view, who has a passion for storytelling, gossip, suggestive language, and, keeping his guests in check. He also has a predilection for frequent tangential philosophizing and existential angst, but prefers to keep his personal life obscured yet intriguing.
While Pop Culture likes to paint the story of the Porters as typical “rise and fall of the wealthy” gossip, Weston believes that something far more profound was taking place behind the doors of the compound. House Tour is a play about people who must live far outside the confines of mainstream society, either because they have the means to do so or because they have no choice, and how pleasurable it is to take a glimpse inside.
The Summer Play
Annie Smart · Playwright
In The Summer Play, beloved Finnish author Tove Jansson’s 1972 novel The Summer Book is transformed into a multimedia theatrical experience. In this deceptively simple story, three generations of one family, a grandmother, a father, and his young daughter Sophia, spend a summer vacation on an isolated island in the Gulf of Finland. This summer, however, is different and difficult, as they quietly attempt to deal with the recent death of Sophia’s mother. Reminiscent of a Caryl Churchill play, The Summer Book manages to evoke the sublime, the eternal, and the profound in even the most mundane of circumstances.
Kara Lee Corthron
Welcome to Fear City
Kara Lee Corthron · Playwright
Welcome to Fear City will be a full-length play about the birth of hip-hop culture with the feeling of an old school house party. After reading two riveting non-fiction works, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bronx is Burning by Jonathan Mahler and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, the playwright became obsessed with the chaos of New York City in 1977. Using the theatrical elements of early hip-hop, the piece will tell a simple story…about arson. In 1977, fires were as common in certain parts of the city as garbage. Corrupt building owners paid young men (mostly black and Latino) to start fires because insurance money was more desirable than building upkeep. A young MC character—long before MC’ing was cool—finds himself in a situation where he is offered an enticing amount of money to set a building in his own neighborhood ablaze. In a bankrupt city with a staggering unemployment rate and few options, what do you do?
Lisa D’amour · Creator
Katie Pearl · Creator
Milton is a performance and community engagement experiment that explores the tiny American individual living under a huge, shared sky. PearlDamour is in the middle of three years of trips to five small towns named Milton in North Carolina, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Oregon. They are interviewing many kinds of Miltonians, leading arts workshops in schools and in the community, and discovering the layers of complexity in each town. These experiences form the inspiration for a 3-person spoken and sung performance that takes place within an installation of objects collected from each town, with the audience surrounded by video of the skies over each Milton, captured and designed by Jim Findlay. The performance will go on tour back to each Milton, bringing experimental performance to towns that rarely have access to such a thing. Milton questions what it means to be part of an American community, and if such a thing is even possible. PearlDamour chose their Miltons according to size, demography, and location: together, they stretch across the United States, forming an earth-bound constellation. Who is living inside this constellation? And how are we a part of it? Follow the project at skyovermilton.com.
Sarah Gubbins · Playwright
On April 12, 2013 California governor, Jerry Brown, signed bill AB1266 into law, ensuring that all K–12 California public school students can identify their own gender when participating in their school sports teams, programs, and facilities.
This play is a fictional account of one high school tennis prodigy who is starting to go public with his transgender identity. From a low-income background, tennis and professional sports was his way out of poverty, but when the legislation is passed, it’s an opportunity to live openly with the transgender identity he’s always hidden. Conflict arises when his openly lesbian coach fails to understand why he wants to do something that could compromise his chance at a career as a champion tennis player.
Holden, Barthol, Savio, and Betley
Joan Holden · Playwright
Bruce Barthol · Music and lyrics
Daniel Savio · Music and lyrics
Marge Betley · Stagebridge Executive Director and FSM Dramaturg
FSM is a new work with book by Joan Holden, songs/music by Bruce Barthol and Daniel Savio, commissioned by Stagebridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement at Cal Berkeley.
The FSM was an historic turning point: for the first time, masses of white middle-class youth joined African-Americans in protesting the established order. As the movement spread, it proliferated into myriad variants that together define “The Sixties.”
This piece explores the FSM from three radically different POVs: the students’, as they passionately, often naively, create a movement; Clark Kerr, the university president’s, acting out of fear, making a series of fateful blunders along the way; and the FBI’s, as J. Edgar Hoover seeks to exploit the FSM to further his political goals. The work celebrates the FSM, but also provokes lingering questions about the unintended ramifications and complexity of socio-political evolution. Did the FSM contribute to Reagan’s rise to power? Is political naiveté a necessary component of unwavering political activism? What inspires the average citizen to “seize the moment” and act? And how many of us continue committed activism as we age and take a more nuanced view of social justice, political realities, and cause and effect?
Kapil, Narayan, and Jovićević
Untitled Balkan/South Asian musical
Aditi Brennan Kapil · Creator
Manu Narayan · Creator
Radovan Jovićević · Creator
A new musical collaboration between playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil, and the Balkan-Indian fusion band Darunam, made up of South Asian actor, musician, and vocalist Manu Narayan, and Serbian musician and music producer Radovan Jovićević. The as yet untitled piece explores survival, friendship, and redemption, by way of disparate people from different musical styles and cultures. Their collision creates friction, then fusion, then a way forward in a world where isolation, either cultural or artistic, is no longer an option. All three artists have an immigrant background, and their work draws heavily from that experience: the displacement, disconnect between past and present, and re-invention of self that is inherent in the immigrant reality.
Eddie the Marvelous, Who Will Save the World
Kate Kilbane · Creator
Dan Moses · Creator
The Kilbanes is the musical experiment of Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses, a songwriting duo (who also happen to be married). The Oakland-based theatrical rock band has a performance style that blends the raucous energy of a rock show with the intimate storytelling found in experimental theatre. Their newest piece is a David Bowie-inspired intergalactic rock opera nestled inside a realistic, coming-of-age drama. It’s the story of Eddie, a mousy guy in his mid-20s who has a series of crippling social deficiencies that keep him isolated from the world, but who imagines himself to be the charismatic front man of a late 1970s glam rock band. The two plots—Eddie’s actual life as a recluse and his imagined life as a rock star/intergalactic hero—then unfold in parallel as he struggles to accept the inevitability that his life must change.
John Leguizamo · Playwright/Creator
Emmy Award winner, Obie Award recipient, two-time Drama Desk winner, and Tony nominee John Leguizamo brings his provocative and uproarious work back to Berkeley Rep for The Ground Floor. Known for his solo shows like Ghetto Klown, Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama and Freak, Leguizamo has also appeared on TV’s hit shows ER and My Name is Earl, and in films like Kick Ass 2, King of the Jungle, and Moulin Rouge. He recently penned his autobiography Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends. With an outrageous sense of humor and artistic sensitivity, Leguizamo will hone a series of sketches and vignettes at the Summer Residency Lab.
John Leguizamo: Latin History for Morons highlighted our 2015–16 season as a special presentation.
Dave Malloy · Composer/Sound designer
Ghost Quartet is a chamber music theatre piece exploring love, death, and whiskey. In a dilapidated kitchen, two sisters or lovers prepare a stew, while two musicians sit in the corner. Electric cello winds howl and prepared piano ghosts scratch at the door. As the women drink and chop vegetables, they begin to sing funeral dirges and banshee love songs to each other. It is unclear if anyone can see each other; one or more of the four may already be dead. As the music escalates, the drinking becomes dangerous. Ultimately the piece examines the use of alcohol to medicate after heartbreak and death, and questions whether faith in the occult is a conscious choice or an unconscious instinct. The piece is staged immersively, the audience standing and moving about freely, drinking cheap whiskey, and helping with the cooking as the ghosts rush in and out of the room. The piece uses texts from Edgar Allen Poe, various ghost stories, and the “Ithica” chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses; musically, the piece will be an amalgam of folk, bluegrass, and indie rock, coupled with prepared piano and cello invoking the work of Harry Partch, George Crumb, and Moondog.
The Culture Industry or How Yogurt Conquered America
David Myers · Playwright
In just two generations, a strange and foreign fermented milk product has transformed itself into a nine billion dollar a year industry. That’s more than sliced bread. How did it do it? Looking for the answer reveals a surprising amount about the dream of upward mobility and what it means to be white in America.
Dominic Orlando and Brian Carpenter
The Barbary Coast
Dominic Orlando · Playwright
Brian Carpenter · Composer
Barbary Coast is a musical about the criminal culture that thrived during the San Francisco Gold Rush. Based on historical material, it’s humorous and epic in scope, a vibrant, violent, theatrical portrayal of a cynical world of prostitutes, outlaws, flagrant racism, slavery, and all stripes of political corruption. Like those who stumbled into the actual Barbary Coast, the audience will never know whether to laugh or scream and will view every turn of the action with both terror and excitement.
Jiehae Park and Tristan Jeffers
Here We Are Here
Jiehae Park · Playwright
Tristan Jeffers · Set designer
A new work about place through three lenses:
cartography, the internet, and the loneliness of clock-time.
Abigail Rezneck and Barbara Babcock
The Lady Lawyer
Abigail Rezneck · Playwright
Professor Barbara Babcock · Author
The Lady Lawyer is the story of Clara Foltz, a famous figure in nineteenth-century San Francisco, since lost to history. A single mother of five, Clara became California’s first woman lawyer and the first person to propose public defenders for the criminally accused. The play explores the complex character of this unsung heroine of feminism and social reform, and dramatizes the events that transformed her from ordinary housewife to the renowned “Portia of the Pacific.”
The play is based on Professor Babcock’s biography of Clara, which has been widely reviewed in legal circles, most notably by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who calls it “a fitting tribute to a woman of unbreakable spirit who, time and again, refused to give way to despair or to take ‘no’ for an answer.” The Lady Lawyer is an effort to bring Clara to a broader audience—particularly in the Bay Area, where she spent much of her career—to experience the resonance of her story, her personal magnetism, and her groundbreaking vision of free justice in the real-time, in-the-room setting that only theatre provides.
KJ Sanchez & Jenny Mercein
X’S and O’S (A Football Love Story)
KJ Sanchez · Playwright
Jenny Mercein · Co-collaborator
As a playwright, KJ Sanchez’s work has appeared at Asolo Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Two River Theater, Center Stage in Baltimore, Round House Theatre, Cornerstone Theater Company, and off Broadway at Urban Stages. Jenny Mercein is an actress, director, and writer who is also the daughter of legendary pro-football player Chuck Mercein. The two join The Ground Floor in June to continue work on a co-commission between Berkeley Rep and Center Stage. Based on interviews with players, coaches, medical staff, trainers, parents of young athletes, and other stakeholders, this play will take a look at how issues surrounding head injuries are affecting current and former players, what impact this information is having on standard practices, and how this might change the game.
X’S and O’S (A Football Love Story), commissioned by Berkeley Rep and Center Stage, highlighted our 2014–15 season.
Anna Deavere Smith
The Pipeline Project
Anna Deavere Smith · Creator
The Pipeline Project is a multi-year project which investigates the stories of children who do not complete their education and end up incarcerated. Using collected documentary materials and audience responses from town hall presentations, the end artistic goal is to write a fictional play.
Prior to the Summer Lab, the collected material from an extensive series of interviews will be “read”/performed in a town hall setting. In this instance, the goal is not to further polish the town hall performance into a “finished” work, nor is the goal to invite the audience to be a part of an artistic development journey. Rather, the town hall is meant to have its own aesthetic value as it is: half made-up. The audience, assumed to be as valuable to the discussion as the artist, will be as much curated as it will be invited. In this project, artistic expression is used as a vehicle for engendering discussion about the crisis in American education and the crisis in American criminal justice.
Notes From the Field: Doing Time In Education, The California Chapter highlighted our 2014–15 season as a special presentation.
Stein | Holum Projects
Movers + Shakers
Suli Holum · Director
Deborah Stein · Playwright
James Sugg · Composer
Movers + Shakers explores the virtual mating habits of our 21st century political elite, inspired by Anthony Wiener’s problems with texting and Sarah Palin’s aggressively unapologetic retrograde femininity. We’re interested in sex, power, hubris; really smart people doing foolish things; the intersection of power and hotness. Sexuality onstage is often performed as a spectator sport; we’re interested in getting inside the awkward, brave, and ridiculous feelings that are provoked when carrying on an illicit affair, trying to convey surging emotion via the 140 characters of Twitter or rapid-fire typing of instant message, and how this rejuvenation of the epistolary form has created its own strange, incoherent, yet oddly touching vocabulary and syntax.
Starting with the now-cliché image of the contrite post-scandal press conference, where a disgraced politician euphemistically admits his wrongs, Movers + Shakers uses a combination of clowning and original songs to peel back the veneer of moralizing, hypocrisy, prudishness, and voyeurism to look at how we take pleasure in other people’s pain and how power can be really, really sexy.
Untitled Oum Kalthoum–Abu Ghraib project
Hadi Tabbal · Playwright
The play is a re-imagined world based on the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, the Bradley Manning story, and the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum’s epic song “Al Atlal” (the remnants of a lost love). By possibly following the journey of an Arab musicologist, a Midwestern prison guard in some occupied country in the Middle East, and an American transgendered soon-to-be whistle blower intelligence analyst who grows to be obsessed by Oum Kalthoum, the play tries to understand conditioned human behavior in those moments that we simply dismiss as evil and appalling. The play is an intertwining world of languages (Arabic verse, local dialects, and English), classical Arabic music, trials, confessions, sexual transformation, and betrayals. The play puts into question our moralistic system of understanding human innocence, obedience to authority, accountability, responsibility, and will to action. What is the dynamic of obedience to authority when race, politics, and personal values come into play? There is a very nuanced word for love in Arabic that does not exist in English: love as a particular kind of human love. Where does this capacity to love go in those moments of atrocious behavior? How does one transform from obedient to rebel, from innocent to demonic?
Carl the Raping Goat Saves Christmas
Lucy Alibar · Playwright
A series of stories about pro-bono criminal defense law, Vacation Bible School and goats.
Janet Allard and Nikos Tsakalakos
Janet Allard · Musical bookwriter/Co-lyricist
Nikos Tsakalakos · Composer/Co-lyricist
In 1992 the body of a young man was found by hunters in an abandoned school bus turned hunting shelter off the Stampede Trial in the Denali Wilderness of Alaska. Who he was and how he ended up there soon came to light through Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. The boy was Christopher McCandless, a twenty-something year old from a well to do East Coast family, who rejected his upper-middle class upbringing in search of something a more unconventional lifestyle could provide. After donating everything in his bank account to Oxfam, Christopher set out on an odyssey across the country, ultimately headed for Alaska. Alexander Supertramp is a new musical that follows his journey.
The Universe is a Small Hat
César Alvarez · Creator/Composer
Sarah Benson · Director
Ivan Safrin · Creative technologist
Syed Salahuddin · Creative technologist
The Universe is a Small Hat is an immersive electronic music theatre work, which tells the story of a space colony leaving Earth under the guidance of a charismatic spiritual leader, the Founder. It is designed as a multi-sensory experience that merges dramatic narrative with the participatory feeling of a video game. The story is told through music, audience-driven choices, staged action and a “show app” which generates a networked and virtual dimension of the piece. Each audience member is individually implicated in the outcome of the story and responsible for his or her own path within it. The Universe is a Small Hat deals with the question of immortality through technology, quantum physics, cosmology and confronting the very uncertain nature of our Universe.
Krik? Krak! or The Last Tiger in Haiti
Jeff Augustin · Playwright
Maureen Towey · Director
In Haiti there is an oral tradition of storytelling known as Krik? Krak! At night entire villages gather around fires and candlelight to listen to folklore from a single storyteller. When a storyteller is ready or wants to share a story they say “Krik?” and if the other villagers want to hear a story they say: “Krak!” These stories come from a catalogue of stories shared and passed down from generation to generation.
To cope with their troubled childhoods, Chloe, Joseph and Paul would secretly gather to tell each other Haitian folktales. After being separated for a decade, Joseph reconvenes the trio. As their stories unwind, Chloe and Paul discover Joseph’s clandestine desires and find themselves caught up in a conflict as twisted and dark as any of the tales they’ve told. Inspired by the Haitian tradition of Krik? Krak!, The Last Tiger in Haiti explores the fragile boundaries between storytellers and their stories as one group’s journey into a past unearths devastating truths about the present.
The Last Tiger in Haiti highlighted our 2016–17 season.
Sarah Burgess · Playwright
Camdenside is a play about a great white shark named Doug. Doug drives around Florida in a motorized wheelchair, hunting for the person who killed his wife in a boating accident. When he takes temporary shelter in the basement of an apartment building, he disrupts the lives of the humans who reside there.
The Debate Society
Untitled ski play
Hannah Bos · Writer/Performer
Oliver Butler · Director
Paul Thureen · Writer/Performer
Neon ski wear. European-ish chalets. Sunburn and chlorine rash. The Debate Society’s eigth full-length play takes you to the seventh best ski-resort in southwest central Colorado. The lifestyles of the rich collide with the lifestyles of the aimless as the homes of affluent vacationers become the playgrounds of the local townies and seasonal itinerant workers. Early ‘90s ski culture, Clinton era economics and historical feuds serve as the inspiration for this play on class, competition and cold weather.
Jackie Sibblies Drury
The Theory of Rational Choice
Jackie Sibblies Drury · Playwright
The Theory of Rational Choice is a YouTube period piece about value—of girls, of women, of sex—on the internet.
What Would Crazy Horse Do?
Larissa FastHorse · Playwright
The story brings together a fictional descendant of Dr. Hiram Evans, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and two Native Americans who learn that their grandfather danced in a KKK sponsored pow wow (that really happened!) in honor of Dr. Evans. Set today, the American Indians are facing the extinction of their tribe, while the granddaughter of Dr. Evans is the first female leader of the KKK and poised to bring a newer, gentler version of the Klan into the limelight, based on the teachings of Dr. Evans, which were against “hate” and promoted non-violent separation of races to purify them all, not just whites. Even as the two groups clash, they find that sometimes they are asking the same questions. When is race separation racism and when is it essential preservation? It’s a question both sides need to answer before it is too late.
Idris Goodwin and Adam Mansbach
Rage is Back
Idris Goodwin · Playwright
Adam Mansbach · Author
Based on celebrated Berkeley author Adam Mansbach’s book Rage Is Back, this theatrical adaptation is a wildly imaginative love letter to New York’s golden era of graffiti.
Lauren Gunderson · Playwright/Performer
The Heath is play-and-essay about madness, memory and lineage centered on Shakespeare’s King Lear and the playwright’s own grandfather battling dementia in his 90s. Weaving southern music, irresponsible (grand)daughters, a heritage going back America’s founding, the neuroscience of aging and memory-loss and the story of one of the world’s greatest dramas, The Heath is storytelling made large. It is a musical and visual narrative that melds the fiction with the non, and ends up where Lear does: on the heath, out of our element, bracing for the oncoming storm and the strange peace after.
David Hanbury and Andrew Rasmussen
Mrs. Smith & Carlyle: To Mars and Back Again
David Hanbury · Performer/Co-creator
Andrew Rasmussen · Director/Co-creator
Mrs. Smith & Carlyle: To Mars and Back Again is a comedic, science-fiction, adventure rock musical for children (and hip-minded adults) starring Mrs. Smith and her beloved cat, Carlyle. Carlyle turns his kitty litter box into a rocket and blasts off to explore Mars! Smith builds her own rocket with the help of science whiz-kid Mimi Santiago and chases after her feline friend. Along the way, Mrs. Smith and the audience learn all about science, the solar system, cats and the true meaning of friendship.
Victor Lesniewski · Playwright
Kareem Fahmy · Director
The play follows several members of the opposition movement as different factions assert their wills in the Syrian war for independence, and will explore the many facets that make this conflict so complicated: religion’s divisive power, rural disenfranchisement, the torture and detention of protestors and the controversial interference of foreign powers.
Mona Mansour and Tala Manassah
Mona Mansour · Writer
Tala Manassah · Writer
This play with music is a cabaret act featuring the wife of a modern dictator somewhere in the Middle East. She’s Western-educated, British-accented; poised. She tells stories, jokes, sings in Arabic and English—and through her narrative and songs we track the progressive unraveling of a regime that, hastened by the 2011 revolutions in the region, goes from having a platform espousing anti-imperialist pan-Arabism to being a source of terror and revulsion among its own people. Underneath the songs and stories we unpack what power is, how “evil” can be accepted and how perhaps this “First Lady,” whose role is to provide a face to a regime—however unconscionable its actions—might have more in common with other first ladies, West and East, than perhaps we’d like to think.
A. Rey Pamatmat
Untitled project about the abuse of power and magical narratives
A. Rey Pamatmat · Playwright
Whether it is adolescents with wands; costumed heroes with genetic, scientifically-endowed and alien abilities; or werewolves, witches, vampires and those who would slay them, there has been a recent resurgence in narratives in which otherwise everyday people suddenly find themselves in fantastical situations. Simultaneously, we’ve been confronted with the awareness that in our real lives those with actual power (whether it be money, influence or weapons of mass destruction) misuse and exploit their gifts to exert force, obstruct progress or evoke terror. In this new play, A. Rey Pamatmat will explore abuses of power and magical metaphors for those abuses in order to unpack what happens in a world where you can get whatever you wish for and often—with unfortunate consequences—even more.
Nicholas C. Pappas
Fatty: There’s No Place for the Fattest Man to Hide
Nicholas C. Pappas · Playwright
A mall Santa and children’s party clown, Erik’s life is left in a shambles after being accused of molesting a child. The only people he can confide in are his hallucinations of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin.
In the early 20th century, Fatty Arbuckle was an extraordinarily talented vaudeville performer and silent film star. He was making over a million dollars a year because he was graceful and agile with his paunch. In a scandal that was to destroy his career, Fatty was accused of raping an actress in a San Francisco hotel and then crushing her to death with his weight. Though later acquitted of the charges, Fatty ultimately lost his fame, his wife and his fortune—all because of public perceptions of his girth.
By mirroring the stories of Fatty and Erik through a blend of vaudeville and traditional theatre, this piece investigates why people allow themselves to look the way they look and why outsiders treat them the way they do.
The Idea of Order
Lisa Peterson · Creator
The Idea of Order is a piece with music that examines the role of poetry in our everyday lives, and asks, what IS poetry? Why does it exist? What does it do for us? By exploring the artistically interlocking worlds of Wallace Stevens and Charles Ives, both CT insurances salesmen who kept their day jobs but went home at night and wrote these incredibly abstract, genre-bending poems and songs, The Idea of Order investigates the boundaries between regular life and poetic life, and how those halves of ourselves battle and interact.
20 writers: The Food Project
From seed to table and beyond, the Food Project envisions a sweeping cycle of short scripts that explore our intricate relationship with what we eat. The Ground Floor launches this epic theatrical event by breaking bread with 20 respected writers.
Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Erika Chong Shuch
Tony Taccone, director
Liesl Tommy, director
The House that will not Stand
Marcus Gardley · Playwright
After the mysterious death of her lover, Beartrice Albans imposes a six month period of mourning on her household. She keeps her three daughters locked in the house to embroider linens. But when the summer heat intensifies, a handsome bachelor comes calling, a familial secret is revealed and the foundations of Beartrice’s house are rocked to its core. Set in New Orleans in 1836, exactly 100 years before The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca, this loose adaptation examines the complex system of plaçage (the common-law marriages of white men and black Creole women). These fascinating and mostly unknown free women of color became wealthy and subservient even as they fought against racial oppression pre-Civil War.
The House that will not Stand, commissioned by Berkeley Rep, highlighted our 2013–14 season.
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Madeleine George · Playwright
Leigh Silverman · Director
Separated by a century, three famous Watsons work to solve a pair of mysteries that resolve, kaleidoscopically, into a single techno-love story. Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant, Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and the supercomputer that won on Jeopardy! join forces for a romantic thriller about intelligence, interdependence and artificial forms of both.
Kathryn Keats · Playwright
Gunnar Madsen · Composer
Michael LeValley · Director
In the early ‘80s, Kathryn Keats was a promising young musician who had performed at Opryland, off Broadway and on television. But for nearly two decades she hid under an assumed name because her boyfriend’s schizophrenia transformed him from a beloved collaborator into a homicidal stranger. When he died, Keats’ feelings erupted in song. She began writing music again, releasing an album called After the Silence. Now this Marin singer is creating a show that follows her desperate attempts to save the man she loved…and then her courageous efforts to save herself from what he’d become.
Carson Kreitzer & Erin Kamler
Carson Kreitzer · Book and lyrics
Erin Kamler · Music and lyrics
Runway 69 is a provocative story about one of the raunchiest strip clubs in New York, seen through song on the eve of the clean-up that transformed Times Square. Michelle, the new girl, learns the ropes while finding herself increasingly drawn to the volatile, troubled beauty, Josmine. Michelle’s customer, Dave, has secrets of his own: he’s an undercover cop, sent in to shut the place down.
Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright
Dan LeFranc · Playwright
It’s nineteen mighty-four. In working-class Rhode Island, Bradley and his bestest friend tangle with rich kid Jake Miller and some middle-school goons. And their nemesis has help from a bunch of zombies and grown-ups! Put down that backpack, turn up the soundtrack and let’s cut class.
Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, commissioned by Berkeley Rep, highlighted our 2012–13 season.
Little Boy Blue
Michael Mitnick · Playwright
A thriller about the perfect murder.
The Barbary Coast
Dominic Orlando · Playwright
Brian Carpenter · Composer
Power-crazed Mormons, corrupt politicians, murderous policemen, thieving barmen, desperate prostitutes, Chinese miners out for a “glorious return,” the Mexican Bandit who inspired “Zorro,” the knife-throwing, cross-dressing pickpocket Jeanne Bonnet, US Marshall Harry Love—they’re all part of The Barbary Coast—and Bay Area history.
Greg Pierotti · Writer/Director
Kelli Simpkins · Actor/Dramaturg
Jacob Coleman · Actor/Dramaturg
Barbara Pitts · Actor
Apology is a play with interactive performance and installation components, which tells the story of The Apology Line, an art piece conceived by Allan Bridge. From 1980 to 1995, Bridge collected and played back the anonymous apologies of criminals and other wrongdoers on an answering machine in his Manhattan loft. For 15 years, serial killers, battered wives, thieves, victims of a new disease called AIDS, runaways, addicts, veterans grappling with their actions in Viet Nam, racists, homophobes, Katherine Hepburn impersonators, messengers of God and more poured their declarations onto Bridge’s machine. Bridge began to play back selected material on his outgoing message, people responded to each other and an anonymous underground community emerged. Before American Online was born, before William Gibson jacked us into his matrix, Bridge created one of the first online communities out of twisted copper wire.
She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange
Amelia Roper · Playwright
In a nice New England park, in a nice New England city, two nice New England couples try very, very hard to be nice to each other, while the world around them falls apart. An absurdly funny and terrifying ride through downsized, foreclosed America.
The Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project
Erika Chong Shuch · Co-conceiver/Director/Choreographer
Allen Willner · Co-conceiver/Production designer/Composer
Text by Michelle Carter, as well as Octavio Solis, and Philip Kan Gotanda
Performers include Matthias Bossi, Nils Frykdahl, David Warren Keith, and Beth Wilmurt
After All is about the intersecting stories of four characters all wrestling with the inevitability of time passing. At the center of the piece are a lonely everyman (performed by David Warren Keith) who is visited by a homeless Santa Claus (Nils Frykdahl), the man’s pet goldfish (Beth Wilmurt) who struggles with having only a three-month memory and a televangelist (Matthias Bossi).
The piece is set under the shadow of an unknown impending doom, and the character of “the crowd” (played by a cast of 30 diverse people) are devotees of the faithless preacher whose only sermon is delivered at the funeral for the world. Co-conceived by Erika Chong Shuch and Allen Willner, and directed and choreographed by Shuch, writers Michelle Carter, Octavio Solis and Philip Kan Gotanda contribute to the work.
Driven by an abstract response to questions of the future and the role of collective memory, After All is a dreamy, imagistic, musical world where characters and stories float through metaphoric landscapes. It’s about how we humans clumsily deal with time passing, and how our faith is challenged as the world continues to evolve in directions that don’t always make sense.
The North China Lover
Heidi Stillman · Playwright/Director
The North China Lover is a frank and fearless story of a girl’s sexual awakening and subsequent exile. Born in French Indochina, Marguerite Duras based this novel on incidents in her own life. The storyline is simple—the book deals with the last year of a girl’s residence in 1930s French Indochina (Vietnam) with her family before they move back to France. In this year she meets and has to leave her first love—the North China lover of the title. But in a deeper sense the story is the telling of the story by Marguerite Duras. This is an autobiographical incident in her life, which she keeps revisiting and reworking. This year in her life keeps playing itself out over and over in her work as a writer. It is a story about loss, exile, love, the transition from childhood to womanhood, sexual awakening, remembering. So Marguerite is the main character in this play. She is the narrator, wandering through the audience, on the stage, she’s the “director” of her story.
motherland / foreign relations (we all here why you never call?)
Meiyin Wang · Creator/Performer
Eric Ting · Director
Mark Valadez · Sound designer
ml/fr is a performance for two people and a rotating panel of guests that examines the history of modern China through the subversive interrogation of a mother’s mundane history, ultimately asking the question “What is the appropriate unit of mapping human history?” Part lecture, part interview, part cooking show, ml/fr examines three potential units: the recorded, the oral and the ritual, utilizing the distilled objectivity of the newspaper headline; the communication of personal narrative through electronic translation; and the perpetuation of cultural history through food.
What artists say about the Summer Residency Lab
“Developing a play is mortifying. Everything is lousy and you keep fixing and you’re embarrassed to have written something that’s not working and given it to people who are trying to make it work. Ground Floor gathers many playwrights so we can all be mortified together, and find solidarity and inspiration to keep going and make it elegant and magical and luminous which sometimes, believe it or not, actually happens.”
Daniel Handler, Summer Lab 2017
“The Ground Floor is a rare program. It is a residency that allows their artists to pivot and potentially redefine how they will work on a project. There are not many programs that have both the infrastructural flexibility and the deep understanding of artistic process to shift that rapidly.”
Mfoniso Udofia, Summer Lab 2017
“My Ground Floor experience was a highlight of my life. I felt a tremendous warmth from the other theatre artists, the staff, and the marvelous young ‘ambassadors.’ As a monologuist, I haven’t often gotten a chance to be part of a theatre community (the way, say, normal actors do)—and it’s an incredible feeling to inhabit a lovely space with others who share my passion for storytelling and the theatre.”
Josh Kornbluth, Summer Lab 2016
“In their own quiet, unheralded way, the Berkeley Rep artistic team is spearheading a revolution. On the smallest level, they are dedicated to the nurturing of artists—feeding us, housing us, giving us time to create. But on the largest level possible, they are dedicated to nothing less than a wholesale change in the artistic landscape of our time.”
Julia Cho, Summer Lab 2012 & 2015
“The reason artists find their story here is because you allow for that. You can have resources and not know what the story is yet. The resource is part of finding what the story is. In my experience, that’s how we (as playwrights) want to do it. But we don’t get allowed to do that very often.”
César Alvarez, Summer Lab 2013 & 2015
“This residency was incredible and a crucial step in our project…It is everything a residency should be: organized around letting you do your thing (with incredible tech and admin support) and creating a temporary family of similar artists to interact with and feed off of, be inspired by…with great food and drink!”
Brendan Connelly, Summer Lab 2014 (PearlDamour)
“I’ve done a lot of play development residencies, and this is the first one that I’ve ever done that happens inside an actual theatre. There is a staff here, there is a sense of people making theatre at the highest levels, all around you. That’s different. It’s very relaxed, structurally, you make up your own day—that’s unusual. Also, I think the projects are really exciting and that comes from Madeleine, and Tony, and just the, how do I put it…I loved on the first day Tony said ‘Berkeley’s weird,’ and he capitalized on that, ‘you know we celebrate the weird.’ And that gives us all sorts of wonderful permission.”
Lisa Peterson, Summer Lab 2013
“Something that seems unique about The Ground Floor’s Summer Residency Lab is that all the projects are uniquely non-traditional in an exciting way, and that many of them are in earlier stages that often aren’t allowed in these better opportunities, where you get taken care of.”
The Debate Society, Summer Lab 2013
“I simply wanted to express how inspired I was by the week we spent together. Thanks to all the Ground Floor staff for your great care, to all the other artists for your ideas and exertion, and to my creative team for your incredible talent, insight, hard work, and patience. I couldn’t have had a more productive time.”
Greg Pierotti, Summer Lab 2012
The Ground Floor is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts/ArtWorks, Time Warner Foundation Inc., the Tournesol Project, Bank of America, Michael & Sue Steinberg, and individual supporters of Berkeley Rep’s Create Campaign.
How to apply for our 2018 Summer Residency Lab
We invite artists to apply with projects that would benefit from a residency in Berkeley for 1–4 weeks. Berkeley Rep will provide transportation, housing, rehearsal space, basic technical support, and a modest stipend. Applicants must be available for residency between June 5 and July 1, 2018. Previous applicants may reapply. There is no limit on the number of projects an artist may apply with. We do accept applications from international artists.
Projects may be anywhere along their development path: from an idea without anything on paper yet, to a complete draft of a text. Whether you are a writer simply needing a room in which to write or an ensemble wanting intensive rehearsal time, we encourage you to apply. Artists from other disciplines interested in creating theatre pieces are also welcome. If your project is ready for a small audience, we are happy to provide that, but there is no requirement for any kind of culminating event. Past participants have held events that were open to the public, no final presentation at all, small closed readings, and everything in between.
This is a developmental residency. Projects looking for a full production are not eligible. If you are applying for an adaptation, please have the underlying rights already secured. We do not accept scripts along with application forms. If a proposed project makes it to the second round, we will then request more information, including whatever may already be written.
The Ground Floor application window for the 2018 Summer Residency Lab has closed. Applications for 2019 will be accepted starting in Fall 2018. Please check back for more information.
For questions regarding the application process, please email: email@example.com.
The Ground Floor is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts/ArtWorks, Time Warner Foundation Inc., the Tournesol Project, Bank of America, Michael & Sue Steinberg, and individual supporters of Berkeley Rep’s Create Campaign.
Introduction to The Ground Floor ambassador program
A Ground Floor ambassador serves as a liaison between Berkeley Rep staff and Ground Floor artists. Volunteer ambassadors help Berkeley Rep staff facilitate a generative environment for Ground Floor artists during their stay in Berkeley. The ambassadorship offers highly motivated, responsible aspiring theatre-makers the opportunity to delve into the world of new play development at a major regional theatre.
During the Summer Residency Lab, ambassadors will rotate between two primary learning experiences:
- The artistic/rehearsal rotation: Guided by our artistic and literary staff, ambassadors will assist in supporting a rehearsal and/or writing process for our guest artists. Each ambassador will be assigned to a project—helping artists in the rehearsal room to realize their development goals. (Tasks in the room vary widely project to project—every year is different!)
- The company management/hospitality rotation: Ambassadors will be a liaison between visiting theatre artists, the Berkeley Rep staff, and the Berkeley community. Mentored by the management and production staff, they will learn how to create and foster a welcoming environment that is conducive to artists developing new work, including assisting with artist arrival and prepping artist accommodations. Additionally, this rotation involves assisting staff with the preparation of the communal dinner (catered) in which all Summer Lab participants (staff, ambassadors, and artists) partake each evening.
- Ambassador hours: Over the course of the Summer Lab, ambassadors will get the chance to participate in “Ambassador Hours,” hour-long educational sessions on various topics related to the new play development process, curated by The Ground Floor staff. Ambassadors will also learn how to read and analyze new plays.
Does that all sound random to you? It is. In a good way. The Summer Lab is a hectic, fast-paced, changeable environment—responding to the artists’ processes keeps us all on our toes—and the program is built knowing that responsiveness and flexibility are paramount to creating good art. The Summer Lab is what you make of it: resourceful, curious people tend to get the most out of the program.
Ambassadors are always a huge part of providing a welcoming, fun space for the creation of new work. In addition to developing and honing new skills, ambassadors will have many opportunities to interact with Berkeley Rep staff and summer residency guest artists, including participating in meet-and-greets, attending Q&A sessions, observing readings and presentations, and simply chatting over dinner.
Applicants should have a flexible attitude, the ability to work well with a variety of people, excellent organizational and time management skills, proficiency with basic Microsoft Office programs, a valid driver’s license, and some knowledge of the theatre. Applicants should be prepared for long days, as are we all at the Summer Lab. A sense of humor, flexibility, and maturity are essential.
Berkeley Rep aims to reflect the diversity of the Bay Area and encourages applicants of all backgrounds and abilities to apply.
Please note: All positions involve driving and the applicant must have an acceptable driving record as approved by our insurance representatives. All ambassadorships are contingent upon passing a criminal background check and driving record background check.
- Dates (subject to change):
- Training and prep: Week of May 28, 2018 / exact dates and times TBD
- Summer residencies: June 5–July 1, 2018
- Wrap up: July 3, 2018
- Dinner provided six days a week for four weeks with summer residency artists and staff.
- Entry to Q&A sessions, readings, and other events with summer residency artists and staff.
- Berkeley Rep provides a small stipend to assist with transportation. There is no housing available.
Complete the application form.
- Your résumé should include education, administrative and theatre experience, training, and any other related work. All résumés must be submitted as a PDF.
- Your complete application must be received by 11:59pm on January 24, 2018. Positions will be filled on a rolling basis as qualified applicants are identified.
- Letters of recommendation are neither required nor expected. Please do not call to check on the status of your application. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Other important information
Housing and transportation
There is no housing available. There is free street parking available adjacent to our offices.
Berkeley Rep provides a small stipend to assist with transportation.
If your school would like to translate your ambassador experience into academic units, Berkeley Rep is happy to work with your school advisor. Please provide any necessary paperwork with your application.
Berkeley Rep is only able to accept applicants who have taken care of the necessary documents to work in the United States (i.e. visas, green cards, citizenship, etc.). The Theatre cannot sponsor or assist applicants in the visa application process. For more information, please contact the United States embassy in your country.
Questions? Email the staff of The Ground Floor at firstname.lastname@example.org. No phone calls, please.
Frequently asked questions
Are you looking for applicants to have a specific level of education?
This ambassadorship is aimed for applicants looking to make the jump in to the professional world of theatre. While a college degree is not required, we ask that applicants have some practical knowledge and experience in theatre. We do not accept high school students.
Can I hold a job during my ambassadorship?
For maximum learning opportunities, The Ground Floor ambassadorships are designed around the regular workings of the Summer Residency Lab and we expect them to take up 40+ hours per week with a schedule that may vary day-to-day. We strongly recommend against attempting an outside job during this program, but we are open to discussing any previous commitments you might have.
Frequently asked questions
What is the selection process?
We receive many hundreds of applications every year, half of which come in over the last four days leading up to the due date on October 15. (Shout out to you, procrastinators!) Each person on the reading committee (5–6 members of The Ground Floor staff) reads every single application.
To evaluate each proposal, we consider—Do I want to know more? Does this project excite me, or raise good questions? Responses tend to break down as follows: Yes! I can’t get this project out of my head, I want to know the person making this art; Maybe! I’m curious and I want to know more; or No, this doesn’t spark my interest.
The selection committee then gathers together to spend a full and lively day talking through each application. If a project garnered a unanimous “yes” or “no,” there isn’t much discussion. If a project garners a mixed response, we discuss it thoroughly. At the end of the day, the Director of The Ground Floor is faced with a stack of projects and a mission to learn more about them through conversations, work samples, or both.
Based on subsequent whittling down, a finalist list is created. At this point, Berkeley Rep’s artistic staff discusses the finalists’ applications, what’s too good to say no to, and what makes a balanced, exciting lineup: Is this an interesting cross-pollination? Is this an inclusive and diverse lineup? Is there a balance of geography? Is there a variety of form and content? Are these theatre makers all different from each other? Then invitations go out to roughly fifteen to eighteen projects.
Should my application describe the bare-bones or the dream version?
Both! We want a sense of what developing the piece would ideally look like in your head, in all its glory. However, it is also helpful for us to know what resources you’d need, at a minimum, for the residency to be effective in helping you move the project along to its next stage of development.
The Summer Lab exists like a small theatre company within a big one. We have a great staff and shops, but they are often working on Berkeley Rep’s shows during the Lab. Therefore, our resources are limited. However, we enjoy getting creative and trying to realize our projects’ needs as best we can. So tell us about your dream—and we’ll do what we can to make it manifest in a rehearsal room.
Do you need my résumé?
Yes, please. Your application is not considered complete without one. You must upload one PDF of your résumé and the résumés of any key collaborators (the online application form will prompt you to do this). Each résumé should be no more than one page long. Please title the résumé “Project Title, Name(s) on Résumé(s).pdf.”
Why don’t you want to read my script?
Ew, plays!?! We hate plays. Just kidding.
We’re about process, not about product, so asking people for a draft to evaluate right away felt weird to us. We’ve designed the application form to get a sense of the artist and the project first. We also wanted people to be able to apply with just an idea, so artists who don’t have anything written or created yet would be on an even playing field with people on their seventh draft of something.
How long is a residency?
Anywhere from one week to four weeks. Most residencies end up being in the one–two week range. You tell us in your application what your ideal length would be.
Do you accept musicals?
Yes! We love music.
Can I receive feedback on my submission?
Sadly, we do not have the capacity at this time to offer feedback on submissions.
Do you pay me and fly me out and put me up?
Yes; if you are a lead artist and/or co-collaborator, we provide travel, housing, nightly dinners, and a small stipend.
Can I re-submit the project I applied with last year?
Yes. However, if you are applying again, please do consider what makes this year, this project, and this moment in time different from the last.
I’m working on a few things. Can I submit more than one application?
Absolutely. There is no limit on the number of times you can apply to the Summer Lab. However, we can tell you that submitting four applications in one year seems excessive to us. Three is the magic number. Two or one are also good.
Can I bring my own actors? Director? Dramaturg?
When you apply for a project, you are invited to list your co-collaborators. We think of these people as the artists you could not make the project without. These are the folks who also need a plane ticket and housing.
We want to make sure you have the people in the room you need to make the work you want to make. That said, budget is an issue, and housing in the Bay Area…enough said there. So this might be another opportunity to let us know your dream scenario, as well as other less elaborate options if those exist.
We frequently hire local artists to work on Summer Lab projects. In the past, we’ve hired actors, directors, designers, musicians, consultants, and more. We adore matchmaking!
We’ve had some artists who brought four collaborators; and some who’ve only brought themselves. Some collaborators have stayed for the entire residency, and some have just come for a few days. When in doubt, let us know what you are thinking. You can say “It would be great to have my composer come out for two days to work on the music, but I also would be fine to write in a room without them.” You can say, “I might need a director, but I don’t know right now.” And anything in between. Letting us know where you are in your process is key to helping you figure out who you need in the room to do your best work.
Keep in mind that we are a very flexible program. We have hosted composers, musicians, playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, actors, dancers, and visual artists. We thrive on experimentation in form. If your collaborators are a xylophone player and a scarf dancer then great. Be you.
Email email@example.com. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.