Place/Settings: Berkeley

Place/Settings: Berkeley

Place/Settings: Berkeley

By Eisa Davis, Philip Kan Gotanda, Daniel Handler, Aya de León, Adam Mansbach, Richard Montoya, Itamar Moses, Kamala Parks, Sarah Ruhl, and Sean San José
Sound design by Madeleine Oldham and Lane Elms
Debut January 12, 2021
10 episodes

Running time: each episode is approximately 10 minutes

Stories surround us everywhere, whether we can see them or not. Ten writers, inspired by events in their own personal histories, take us on an aural adventure to specific locations around Berkeley. You will receive, via snail mail, a physical map (or a digital version if you’d like to save a tree) of the locations illustrated by a New Yorker cartoonist, lifting you out of the virtual realm and inviting you to explore the past hidden beneath the present.

  • “The Fundamental Kiss, With Overtones” by Eisa Davis
    A young oboist kisses a pianist on a street corner. At long last! But the kiss unlocks pressures, expectations, dreams, and fears. Can we learn to live with uncertainty? To ask for what we need?
  • “night fishing” by Philip Kan Gotanda, read by Steven Anthony Jones and BD Wong
    On a chilly autumn night, an old fisherman makes his way to the lake in the dark. He casts a line…and reels in the ghost he’s been seeking.
  • “The Black Mass Sonata” by Daniel Handler, read by Lance Gardner
    Bored, lost, and lonely, a teenager stumbles into a café. While eating a cup of soup, he hears a wondrously inscrutable sonata, and begins to sense that being lost might not be such a lonesome condition after all.
  • “West Berkeley West Indian” by Aya de León
    How do you find your people in middle school—especially when you don’t quite fit the mold? A girl experiments, assimilates, adapts, and journeys towards genuine self-love and community.
  • “20 Weeks” by Adam Mansbach
    Hope, fear, excitement, and a dizzying array of possibilities unspool across an expectant dad’s imagination, as he and his partner navigate medical uncertainties and rediscover each other as almost-parents.
  • “Suicide on Telegraph” by Richard Montoya
    It’s 1959, and tobacco smoke snakes across the bustling café from its prized corner table, where artists and students debate political treatises, muse on philosophy, and share thrilling new poetry.
  • “The Slide” by Itamar Moses
    A neighborhood park—its playground, sloping hillside, and basketball court; its tunnel to a rose garden and many paths—bears witness to a boy, growing up and growing old.
  • “The Third Sphere” by Kamala Parks, read by Denmo Ibrahim
    Straddling the worlds of her divorced parents, Yasmine doesn’t feel fully at home in either. Desperate to see her best friend in San Francisco, she embarks on the voyage across the Bay alone, exhilarated at her newfound independence.
  • “The Character Actor” by Sarah Ruhl
    From a perch beyond this life, an actor observes as a group of masked people finally return to the courtyard of Berkeley Rep—to the theatre, the place we made to gather, breathe together, and share the stories that remind us of our humanity.
  • “For the Record” by Sean San José
    Sometimes music becomes indelibly linked to specific memories, invoking the people with whom we shared them. Songs by Isaac Hayes, Peter Tosh, Stevie Wonder, the Doors, the Knight Brothers, and Patti LaBelle conjure a deep friendship, one that began on a hot night in 1986 outside Leopold’s Records.

Small Plates

Is there a place in Berkeley that’s especially meaningful to you? Share your 100-word stories, which we’re calling Small Plates, by emailing and be sure to include your name and story location.

Check out previous Small Plates featured on the Berkeleyside website, a sponsor of the project.

Season sponsors

BARTPeet’s Coffee

Lead sponsor

The Bernard Osher Foundation

Place/Settings sponsor


Listening price

$10 for all 10 audio stories plus the illustrated map

Free for 2021 Rep 7-Play subscribers (includes 10 audio stories plus the illustrated map)

Extra Mile package: This $50 package goes the extra mile to help support Berkeley Rep, so we can continue to provide work for artists like those involved with Place/Settings: Berkeley. The package includes all 10 audio stories, the illustrated map, and a travel mug from Berkeley Rep and Peet’s Coffee to show our gratitude, which you’ll pick up from a Peet’s Coffee location in Berkeley.

Please note: The Place/Settings: Berkeley stories are available in text format for those with access needs. Upon purchase, instructions on how to request the text format will be available in the confirmation email and when you log in to your Berkeley Rep account.

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Purchase includes all 10 audio stories plus the illustrated map. After purchase, log in to your Berkeley Rep account to access the stories.

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Creative team

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Eisa Davis · “The Fundamental Kiss, With Overtones” author

Eisa Davis is a performer, composer, and writer working on stage and screen. A recipient of the 2020 Creative Capital Award, the Herb Alpert Award in Theater, and an Obie winner for Sustained Excellence in Performance, Eisa was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Bulrusher, and wrote and starred in the stage memoir Angela’s Mixtape. She has recorded two albums of her original music, Something Else and Tinctures, and performed her songs at numerous venues in New York and across the country. Current projects include her music theatre piece The Essentialisn’t (Ground Floor 2017), the libretto for an opera adaptation of Bulrusher, and the songs for a musical version of Devil in a Blue Dress. Eisa has appeared in Theatre For One’s virtual platform performances, The Secret Life of Bees (AUDELCO Award), Kings (Drama League nomination), Julius Caesar (Shakespeare in the Park 2017), Carrie Mae Weems’ Grace Notes, Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin’s Preludes, The Cradle Will Rock, The Piano Lesson (Berniece, music director and composer), This, and Passing Strange. Television work includes Pose (upcoming), Betty, Succession, Bluff City Law, Rise, Mare of Easttown (upcoming), God Friended Me, The Looming Tower, House of Cards, Hart of Dixie, and The Wire. Eisa wrote the narration for Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal and episodes for both seasons of Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, and is presently writing and executive producing a Little Rock Nine limited series for UCP. Eisa was born in Berkeley and lives in Brooklyn.

Eisa Davis

Philip Kan Gotanda · “night fishing” author

Over the last four decades, playwright Philip Kan Gotanda has been a major influence in the broadening of our definition of theatre in America. The creator of one of the largest canon of Asian American-themed works, he has been instrumental in bringing stories of Asians in the United States to mainstream American theatre as well as to Europe and Asia. Mr. Gotanda has specialized in investigating the Japanese American family writing a cycle of works in theatre, film, song, and opera that chronicle Japanese America from the early 1900s to the present. Mr. Gotanda holds a law degree from Hastings College of Law and studied pottery in Japan with the late Hiroshi Seto. Mr. Gotanda is a respected independent filmmaker. His three films: Life Tastes Good, Drinking Tea, and The Kiss, all have been official entries at the Sundance Film Festival. A CD of Mr. Gotanda performing his original songs in a 1980 concert with violinist DH Hwang is now available for purchase. Mr. Gotanda’s libretto for the opera, Both Eyes Open, with composer Max Duykers is scheduled to premiere later next year at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco. Mr. Gotanda is presently working on music projects with composer Shinji Eshima, and multi-instrumentalist David Coulter. Mr. Gotanda is the recipient of a Guggenheim as well as other honors and awards. Mr. Gotanda is a professor with the Department of Theater Dance and Performance Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He resides in the Berkeley Hills with his novelist wife, Alameda Arts Commissioner, Diane Emiko Takei, and their new dog, Cosmo Finn McCool.

Philip Kan Gotanda

David Coulter · “night fishing” composer

night fishing is David Coulter’s first commissioned score for Berkeley Rep and his first collaboration with Philip Kan Gotanda. Since the 1980s David has directed, recorded, produced, and played with numerous artists such as The Pogues, Kronos Quartet, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono, and Gorillaz. Credits include [Musical Director] The Black Rider (Robert Wilson/Tom Waits), Monkey: Journey to the West (Gorillaz), Double Fantasy Live, Rain Dogs Revisited, Discreet + Oblique: The Music of Brian Eno, Twisted Christmas, In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited, Jim Jarmusch Revisited, and Swordfishtrombones Revisited; [Composer] An Anatomy Act, A Thousand Splendid Suns (American Conservatory Theater), Hamlet (American Conservatory Theater), Ghosts (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Medea (Legion of Honor), Bakkhai (Legion of Honor), The Eldership Project (Improbable).

David Coulter

Steven Anthony Jones · “night fishing” performer

Steven Anthony Jones was the artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre from 2011 to 2017. He has worked professionally on stage and television and in film for 42 years. He has performed in the works of Wilson, (Charles) Fuller, Fugard, Stoppard, Gotanda, Becket, Pinter, Molière, Shakespeare, Chekhov, and others. Most recently, he played Becker in the Broadway tour of August Wilson’s Jitney and performed Wilson’s one-man autobiographical play, How I Learned What I Learned, which won the Theatre Bay Area Award for Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role and the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Excellence in Theatre, Solo Performance. He was in the original cast of A Soldier’s Play produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, which won an Obie Award for ensemble acting and the Pulitzer Prize for best drama. He performed, taught, and directed at American Conservatory Theater for 22 years as a member of the core acting company.

Steven Anthony Jones

BD Wong · “night fishing” performer

Films include Bird Box, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Jurassic World, The Normal Heart, Focus, Mulan (1 & 2), The Salton Sea, Executive Decision, Seven Years in Tibet, Jurassic Park, Father of the Bride (1 & 2), and The Freshman. He received the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theater World, Clarence Derwent, and Tony Awards for his Broadway debut in M. Butterfly—an achievement not yet duplicated by another actor. Recent television includes Whiterose in Mr. Robot (Emmy and Critic’s Choice nominations), Prof. Hugo Strange in Gotham, Baldwin Pennypacker in American Horror Story, and Wally in Comedy Central’s Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. Other television includes Law & Order: SVU, All-American Girl, Oz, And the Band Played On, and Awake. Other Broadway includes You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Pacific Overtures. Regional theatre includes The Orphan of Zhao (American Conservatory Theater, La Jolla Playhouse) and Herringbone (Williamstown Theatre Festival, McCarter Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse). He is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Following Foo: (the electronic adventures of the Chestnut Man) (Harper Entertainment). He has been honored by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian AIDS Project, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, The Anti-Violence Project, Lambda Legal, Museum of Chinese in America, and Marriage Equality New York. He is a board member of The Actors’ Fund and Rosie’s Theater Kids. BD Wong is a proud San Francisco native, a graduate of Lincoln High School, and holds an honorary MFA from American Conservatory Theater.

BD Wong

Daniel Handler · “The Black Mass Sonata” author

Daniel Handler is the author of seven novels, including Why We Broke Up, We Are Pirates, All the Dirty Parts, and most recently, Bottle Grove. As Lemony Snicket, he is responsible for numerous books for children, including the 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events, the four-volume All The Wrong Questions, and The Dark, which won the Charlotte Zolotow Award.  He has received commissions from the San Francisco Symphony, Berkeley Rep, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has collaborated with artist Maira Kalman on a series of books for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, including Girls Standing on Lawns, Hurry Up and Wait, and Weather, Weather. His books have sold more than 70 million copies and have been translated into 40 languages, and have been adapted for film, stage, and television, including the recent adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events for which he was awarded both the Peabody and the Writers Guild of America awards. He lives in San Francisco with the illustrator Lisa Brown, to whom he is married and with whom he has collaborated on several books and one son.

Daniel Handler

Lance Gardner · “The Black Mass Sonata” performer

Lance Gardner works as a live events producer at KQED in San Francisco. Before joining KQED, he performed in dozens of plays over 15 years as an actor and musician. Some theatrical highlights include An Octoroon at Berkeley Rep, War of the Roses at California Shakespeare Theater, and Superior Donuts at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Lance has earned multiple certifications in firefighting, rescue, and emergency medicine, and previously worked as an EMT in Santa Clara County. As an independent audio producer, he enjoys creating sound-rich narrative stories for public radio and podcast. Lance is a Bay Area native with numerous Berkeley stories of his own. He currently lives in Palo Alto with his wife and three children.

Lance Gardner

Aya de León · “West Berkeley West Indian” author

Aya de León directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley, teaching poetry and spoken word. Kensington Books publishes her award-winning feminist heist series, which includes Side Chick Nation, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In May 2020, Aya published her first children’s chapter book, Equality Girls and the Purple Reflecto-Ray, about an Afro-Latina girl who uses her superpowers to confront the president’s sexism. In December 2020 Kensington will publish her first standalone novel, A Spy in the Struggle, about FBI infiltration of an African American eco-racial justice organization. Aya is a founding blogger with The Daily Dose: Feminist Voices for the Green New Deal, and she organizes with the climate movement and the Movement for Black Lives. Her work has also appeared in Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, Mutha Magazine, VICE, The Root, Ploughshares, and on Def Poetry. In 2004, she was named Best Discovery in Theater by the San Francisco Chronicle for her solo show, Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip Hop. Aya is at work on a YA black/Latina spy girl series for teens called Going Dark. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA. Visit her online at, on Twitter at @ayadeleon, and on Facebook or Instagram at @ayadeleonwrites, where she writes about race, class, gender, sexuality, culture, and climate.

Aya de León

Adam Mansbach · “20 Weeks” author

Adam Mansbach is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, the novels Rage is Back, Angry Black White Boy, and The End of the Jews (winner of the California Book Award), and a dozen other books, most recently the bestselling A Field Guide to the Jewish People, co-written with Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel. Mansbach wrote the award-winning screenplay for the Netflix Original Barry, adapted his middle grades series Jake the Fake Keeps it Real series for Disney+ and DL Hughley’s How Not to Get Shot (and Other Advice From White People) for Comedy Central, and for the last six months has served as the artistic director of Colehouse Walker Political Outcomes, where he has written, produced, and directed videos starring Samuel L. Jackson (“Stay the Fuck at Home”; “Same Old Dirty Tricks”), Daveed Diggs (“What to My People is the 4th of July?”), Sarah Cooper, Sarah Silverman, Craig Robinson, Lewis Black, and W. Kamau Bell (“912, What’s Your White Emergency?”). His memoir in verse, I Had A Brother Once, is forthcoming from One World/Random House in January, and his next feature film, Super High, starring Andy Samberg, Craig Robinson, and Common, is forthcoming from New Line. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, Esquire, The Believer, The Guardian, and on National Public Radio’s This American Life, The Moth, and All Things Considered.

Adam Mansbach

Richard Montoya · “Suicide on Telegraph” author

Richard Montoya is a co-founder and principal writer for Culture Clash, the nation’s leading Chicano/LatinX performance trio established in 1984. Culture Clash began their performance history in the Bay Area at the height of many political movements and a performance art stand-up comedy boom, born in an art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District under the direction of curator and social justice warrior Rene Yanez. With Culture Clash, Montoya has appeared on the Berkeley Rep stage with Culture Clash in AmeriCCa and Zorro in Hell, both directed by Tony Taccone, and more recently Culture Clash (Still) in America, directed by Lisa Peterson. As a solo playwright he wrote Anthems, Water & Power (‘07 LA Drama Critics Circle Award), Palestine, New Mexico, and American Night for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His potent collaboration with Campo Santo Family and comrade Sean San José has led to a trilogy of plays: The River, Nogales, and Translating Selena, all produced by the amazing Joan Osato. A filmmaker and screenwriter of several films, including Almaraz: Playing with Fire currently on Netflix, Montoya is an alumnus of the Sundance Institute Director and Writers Labs and is an Annenberg Film Fellow. He studied at American Conservatory Theater an entire summer. The son of a poet and school teacher, he lived the first years of life at the Lockwood Housing Projects in Oakland’s Fruitvale Section at East 14th Street while his father Jose and uncle Malaquias Montoya attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in the early ‘60s. Montoya comes from a long line and family tradition of art and social justice. He is thrilled to be a part of Place/Settings: Berkeley—it brings great comfort to be working with Comrade Johanna Pfaelzer and the BRT Reptiles in these uncertain and critical times. Viva Berkeley Storytelling!

Richard Montoya

Itamar Moses · “The Slide” author

Itamar Moses is the Tony Award-winning author of the full-length plays Outrage, Bach at Leipzig, Celebrity Row, The Four of Us, Yellowjackets, Back Back Back, Completeness, The Whistleblower, and The Ally, the musicals Nobody Loves You (with Gaby Alter), Fortress of Solitude (with Michael Friedman), and The Band’s Visit (with David Yazbek), and the evening of short plays Love/Stories (Or But You Will Get Used To It). His work has appeared off Broadway and elsewhere in New York, at regional theatres across the country, and in Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Venezuela, Turkey, and Chile, and is published by Faber & Faber and Samuel French. Other awards for his work include Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle, and Obie awards in New York, as well as awards from the Portland, San Diego, Dallas, and Bay Area Theatre Critics Circles. He has received new play commissions from The McCarter, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Rep, The Wilma Theater, South Coast Rep, Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center, and The Goodman. Television work includes Men of a Certain Age, Boardwalk Empire, Outsiders, The Affair, and Brave New World. He holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and has taught playwriting at Yale and NYU. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. Born in Berkeley, CA, he now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Itamar Moses

Kamala Parks · “The Third Sphere” author

Kamala Parks lived in many San Francisco Bay Area cities growing up, but she always considers Berkeley to be her childhood home. She was raised by music lovers, resulting in equal passion for a diverse range of genres such as Stravinsky, the Beatles, and the Ohio Players. When Kamala was 15 years old, however, the punk scene of the 1980s was where she found the perfect combination of cathartic music, political activism, and strong community spirit. She became an eager scene participant, playing drums in bands, volunteering at and writing for MaximumRockNRoll zine and radio show, organizing gigs for local and touring bands, and booking international tours for acts as diverse as Operation Ivy, Citizen Fish, Neurosis, Dead and Gone, and the Offspring. She co-founded 924 Gilman in 1986, an all-ages, nonprofit, volunteer-run community space for music, art, and activism in Berkeley. Kamala served on the 924 Gilman fundraising board from 2014 to 2017 where she was instrumental in raising over $150,000 for the community space’s operation costs. She was featured in the 2017 documentary, Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk. She currently plays drums in Plot 66, a noir wave punk band that released its first record in November of 2020. She still “manages” bands she adores, like one of the most dynamic and under-appreciated Bay Area bands, The Love Songs. Kamala works as a senior station planner for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District and has been in the transportation profession since 2002. Previously, she was a Math and French teacher at Berkeley High School and an employee at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, among other money-earning jobs. LinkedIn for Kamala Parks. Facebook and Instagram @plot66theband.

Kamala Parks

Denmo Ibrahim · “The Third Sphere” performer

Denmo Ibrahim is an Egyptian-American actor and writer hailed as “a tower of strength in the Bay Area theatre scene” by the San Francisco Chronicle. She was last seen at Berkeley Rep in The Good Book, for which she won a San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Award (SFBATCC) for Best Featured Actress. Regional stage credits include Noura (Marin Theatre Company), The Who & The What (Marin Theatre Company), A Thousand Splendid Suns (Seattle Rep, The Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater, Theatre Calgary), and Much Ado About Nothing (California Shakespeare Theater). Awards include National Endowment for the Arts and Theatre Bay Area for Best Featured Actress in I Call My Brothers (Crowded Fire) and Best Original Script and Outstanding Solo Performance for BABA (Alter Theatre). She has collaborated with playwrights Mac Wellman, Eric Ehn, Yusef El Guindi, Kristoffer Diaz, Melinda Lopez, Dustin Chinn, and Tanya Saracho, and originated roles with composers Claudio Bohorquez, Rinde Eckert, and Carla Kihlstedt. Her devised work has toured to international festivals in Egypt, France, and Germany. Denmo holds an MFA in Lecoq-based Actor-Created Physical Theater from Naropa University and a BFA in Acting from Boston University. A pilot of her new interactive experience, The Brilliant Mind of Yusef El Musri, will have its world premiere at Marin Theatre Company (spring 2021). She lives in San Francisco and Brooklyn.

Denmo Ibrahim

Sarah Ruhl · “The Character Actor” author

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, The Clean House, Passion Play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Melancholy Play, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, The Oldest Boy, Stage Kiss, Dear Elizabeth, Eurydice, Orlando, Late: a cowboy song, and a translation of Three Sisters. She has been a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Tony Award nominee. Her plays have been produced on and off Broadway, around the country, and internationally where they have been translated into over 15 languages. Originally from Chicago, Ms. Ruhl received her MFA from Brown University where she studied with Paula Vogel. She has received the Steinberg Award, the Sam French Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Whiting Award, the Lily Award, a PEN Award for mid-career playwrights, and the MacArthur award. You can read more about her work on Her new book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was a New York Times notable book of the year, and she most recently published Letters from Max with Max Ritvo. She teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and she lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Sarah Ruhl

Les Waters · “The Character Actor” director

Les Waters, an Obie Award winner, was artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville from 2012 to 2018, where he directed The Thin Place, Evocation to Visible Appearance, Little Bunny Foo Foo, Recent Alien Abductions, Macbeth, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, The Glory of the World, Luna Gale, At the Vanishing Point, The Christians, Our Town, Gnit, Girlfriends, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Big Love. From 2003 to 2011, he served as associate artistic director at Berkeley Rep, where he has directed productions including Eurydice, In the Next Room, Three Sisters (all by Sarah Ruhl), The Pillowman, Big Love, and Fêtes de la Nuit. His productions have been seen in New York at Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theatre Company, The Public Theater, Second Stage Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Connelly Theater, Clubbed Thumb, Soho Rep, the Vineyard Theatre, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and regionally at theatres such as Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, Mark Taper Forum, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, and American Repertory Theater. In 2009, he made his Broadway debut with In the Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play. He led the MFA directing program at University of California, San Diego from 1995 to 2003.

Les Waters

Charles Shaw Robinson · “The Character Actor” performer

Charles Shaw Robinson’s work for Berkeley Rep includes the roles of the Father in Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice and Milton in Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul. Other favorite roles include Leonard in Seminar and Sorn in Stupid F**king Bird (both for the San Francisco Playhouse); Shag in Equivocation (Marin Theatre Company); Iago in Othello (California Shakespeare Theater); and Henri in Magic Fire, directed by Jack O’Brien (Berkeley Repertory Theatre/Old Globe). Regional theatre credits include the title roles in Hamlet (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Pericles (Centerstage, Baltimore), Scaramouche (The Empty Space Theatre, Seattle), and Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Word for Word, San Francisco). He was last seen in New York in the American premiere of Frank McGuinness’s Gates of Gold at 59E59 Theaters. He was honored to be a part of Public Enemy: Flint (Unicorn Theatre) for and with the residents of Flint, Michigan. He trained at Juilliard.

Charles Shaw Robinson

Sean San José · “For the Record” author

Sean San José is a writer, director, performer, and co-founder of Campo Santo, a new performances company for people of color in San Francisco. Founded in 1996, Campo Santo is an award-winning group committed to developing new performance and to nurturing people of color centered new audiences and has premiered nearly 100 new pieces. For 15 years he was the program director of performance for Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco’s oldest alternative arts space. He co-created Alma Delfina Group-Teatro Contra el SIDA and “Pieces of the Quilt,” a collection of 50+ short plays on AIDS. His writing commissions and productions include Play On! for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, Ictus Productions, Kronos Quartet, Kularts, and others. In his multi-genre work, San José has developed and directed the first performance pieces and plays with Jimmy Baca, Junot Diaz, Star Finch, Chinaka Hodge, Denis Johnson, Luís Saguar, Vendela Vida, and more and has enjoyed ongoing collaborations with creators Luis Alfaro, Jessica Hagedorn, Richard Montoya, and others. San José is a proud part of Colman Domingo’s new production company Edith Productions. He frequently teaches in the Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Department at University of California at Berkeley. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @camposantosf.

Sean San José

Tom Toro · Mapmaker

Tom Toro is a cartoonist and author. He has published over 200 cartoons in The New Yorker since 2010. He wrote and illustrated the children’s picture book How To Potty Train Your Porcupine (Little, Brown 2020) and he illustrated the civics book A User’s Guide To Democracy (Celadon Books, 2020). Tom is currently illustrating Simon Rich’s debut picture book I’m Terrified Of Bath Time (Little, Brown 2022). His cartoons appear in Playboy, The Paris Review, the New York Times, American Bystander, and elsewhere. In 2020, Tom was a finalist for the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for gag cartoonist of the year. Tom’s published writing includes short stories for the New Haven Review, Slush Pile, and Litro (UK), as well as a dozen essays for the New Yorker Cartoon Encyclopedia. His fiction has been shortlisted for the Disquiet International Literary Prize. Tom was an inaugural fellow at the Orchard Project Episodic Lab in screenwriting, where he developed a mixed animated TV series The Strip. He was also awarded a playwriting residency at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Ground Floor. Tom is a lecturer on cartoon art, represented by the Cassidy & Fishman speakers’ bureau, and he has given presentations at Columbia University, the Kansas City Art Institute, Litquake San Francisco, and Day of Knowledge in Mexico City. Tom attended NYU graduate film school, where he co-created films that played at Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes. Tom graduated cum laude from Yale, receiving the Betts Prize for his literary work while also serving as captain of the national-champion lightweight rowing team and cartoon editor for the Yale Herald. He grew up in El Cerrito, California, where he was valedictorian of the local public high school. Tom currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, kid, and cat.

Tom Toro

Additional credits

Brent Arnold · “20 Weeks” music
Helena Basilova · “The Black Mass Sonata” music
Gilbert Castellanos · “Suicide on Telegraph” music
Jerome Ellis · “The Fundamental Kiss, With Overtones” music
Addison and Angeline Elms · “The Slide” playground sounds
Andrew Jahn · “The Character Actor” music
Kitka · “The Character Actor” music
Buen Aurelio Malazar · Place/Settings: Berkeley theme music
Harout Senekeremian · “The Black Mass Sonata” music
Omar Sosa · “Suicide on Telegraph” music
Diane Emiko Takei · “night fishing” additional story consulting

Special thanks to Jon Wolanske and Sarah Rose Leonard.

Watch now

Introducing Place/Settings: Berkeley

Ten writers, inspired by events in their own personal histories, take us on an aural adventure to specific locations around Berkeley.

Behind the scenes: Place/Settings: Berkeley “The Black Mass Sonata”

Writer Daniel Handler talks about The Musical Offering Café, the location of his new story “The Black Mass Sonata,” now available as part of Berkeley Rep’s new podcast series, Place/Settings: Berkeley.

Behind the scenes: Place/Settings: Berkeley “For the Record”

Writer Sean San José shares his thoughts about what makes Berkeley Berkeley and his story “For the Record,” now available as part of Berkeley Rep’s new podcast series, Place/Settings: Berkeley.

Behind the scenes: Place/Settings: Berkeley “The Fundamental Kiss, With Overtones”

Writer Eisa Davis shares her thoughts on her story “The Fundamental Kiss, With Overtones,” now available as part of Berkeley Rep’s new podcast series, Place/Settings: Berkeley.

Behind the scenes: Place/Settings: Berkeley “The Slide”

Writer Itamar Moses shares more of his thoughts on his story “The Slide,” now available as part of Berkeley Rep’s new podcast series, Place/Settings: Berkeley.

Behind the scenes: Place/Settings: Berkeley “The Slide”

Writer Itamar Moses tells us the inspiration behind his story “The Slide,” now available as part of Berkeley Rep’s new podcast series, Place/Settings: Berkeley.

Live from the Peet’s

A conversation with Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer and Director of The Ground Floor Madeleine Oldham with three writers from Place/Settings: Berkeley—Itamar Moses, Eisa Davis, and Sean San José—took place on January 12, 2021.

Small Plates

In celebration of Place/Settings: Berkeley, we invited the community to share their stories of meaningful places in Berkeley. Here are a few stories from former members of our Teen Council.

Other stories are displayed on Berkeleyside’s website, a sponsor of the project.

Share your 100-word stories, which we’re calling Small Plates, by emailing and be sure to include your name and story location.

When I was a kid, my family lived in Los Angeles, but would travel up here to spend Thanksgiving. We would always visit Games of Berkeley. My cousins and siblings play a lot of board games, and this store fueled our imaginations. The store was a wonderland, as the six of us would excitedly find new games to play, and then beg our uncle to buy them. It was better than Toys “R” Us because the guys who worked there knew their stuff and gave brilliant suggestions. When I moved to Berkeley for real, this was the first spot I frequented. I still come here to connect to that time in my life.

Neo Barnes

Lunchtime: Saint Hieronymus Press. A flurry of hands and dishes, but I’m caught in a reverie. I’ve always been drawn to anachronistic places, caught in the past or that have captured it. Here, surrounded by posters stretching back half a century alongside tools and ephemera accrued over decades, I revel in knowledge dense and fleeting. David hasn’t taught anyone how to use his press, so when he stops, there will be one less running in the world. But for now, I sit and talk about ages past and changes future with two old men at what feels like the end of an epoch.

Milo Blue

Pass the grass where smoke curls up around half-clothed students. Pad over the small bridge where a girl you used to be friends with got broken up with, which you still remember each time you pass it even after she does not. Soak your jeans through leaning on the redwood sections you curled behind in the thunderstorm, before running into the rain, foolish and fourteen and freezing. Berkeley doesn’t really “do” seasons, so the masses of trees wrought with jaundice and eventually laid bare are a helpful reminder of what month it is. On the rest of the walk through campus you forget to look up sometimes, but the steepled branches never fail to draw you out of your phone, or further into a contemplative mood. There’s a comfort and a torture in this inevitably cyclical backdrop. Not consistently similar enough to keep all the memories flooding back at once, but when a new season rolls around—it›s a good thing there are always more walks to take.

Marina Carlstroem

There are imprints, patterns, in the sidewalks of Berkeley. The physical patterns of lips or ears made of cement along Addison Street, with a grid of bricks overlaid that my sibling and I used to balance on when we were younger. Because each beat of footsteps of people I’ve never met, as we cross the street in unison, shouldn’t mean so much. But that was the first way I learned freedom. Because middle school sucked but at least I had the freedom to walk down Shattuck Avenue and look up at the buildings, early morning. The sun still new, and thinking, this is it.

Jade Rogers

I was drawn to the Campanile one night while walking with my friends. It was almost magnetic. We sat near its feet, making haikus, laughing, and ate our Happy Donuts we got for $1.99. Our conversation was one of wonder. We asked each other what was in store for our futures. In our eyes the world was huge and all-consuming, but when I pictured looking down from the Campanile I realized the world was small in reality. We drove home, screaming lyrics to our childhood songs like “I Don’t Care” by Icona Pop and “Umbrella” by Rhianna at the top of our lungs. That night was magical and one I will never forget.

Simon Bhuller-Riordan

The place becomes a map of the past. In the towering seats is the place where I—where I—places where I suddenly felt completely changed inside. Where I saw something that would play in my loop of good thoughts forever. I can tell you about the architecture of the place. All the opportunities, such a peculiarly shaped stage, holds for seeing things differently. The blue-lit area below a backstage staircase where we celebrated, and the sofa where I felt capable for the first time. But I think the most important part of the Peet’s Theatre is the air of the place. Filled so deafeningly by the air conditioner’s hum the first time you watch your words performed. So saturated with catharsis and why you love theatre.

Eleanor Boes

I get the same two-word text from my dad every other day. “Berkeley Bowl.” This is his way of asking me what I want from the grocery store. Ever since he retired a few years ago, he goes almost every day. When people find out, they ask, “Why?” And he always has the same answer: “They have everything.” he beams, with so much pride that you’d think he owned the place. Berkeley Bowl reminds me of my dad, Berkeley Bowl reminds me of the privilege and abundance of where I am from. For my dad, Berkeley Bowl has everything. And each time I wander through the aisles I am overcome with a wave a gratitude, “I have everything.”

Dina Fukunaga

Almost everyone who grew up in Berkeley has a scar from the Codornices Park Cement Slide. We actually pronounce it “Cordonices” even though that’s wrong. Shortened to “Cordo” in High School, when it wasn’t a place our parents pushed us on swings anymore. Where we flew down the hazardous slide on cardboard. Where the kids in our class had their birthday parties. No, it became reserved for the dark. For cast parties. And other parties. Second base multiple times. Substances passed in circles. Skipping me because I was straight edge. Running from the cops across the baseball field. The big bonfire the end of 10th grade. When our friends were too proud of their As to burn their homework like they planned. Years later telling this to new friends from around the world. And then coming home. Walking up the hill to Cordo again. Eating Gordos on picnic blankets. Watching babies try to walk. Wondering if I’ll ever live in Berkeley again. So I can take my kids here. If they’ll get their own cement slide scars, and have their own secret nighttime Codornices Park stories. By the way, if anything I’ve said sounded illegal, it was either a metaphor or a lie.

Lucy Urbano



Peet’s Theatre
2025 Addison St, Berkeley CA 94704

Roda Theatre
2015 Addison St, Berkeley CA 94704

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