About us > The Ground Floor
The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work seeks to enhance and expand the processes by which Berkeley Rep makes theatre. We strive to offer the most flexible environment possible for artists to come together and share ideas in person, to receive customized support on each individual project and to work together across disciplines. We will maintain an ongoing conversation with our audience and community about the work we are creating, and we will champion the spirit of innovation so inherent to Berkeley and the Bay Area.
The Ground Floor is the program that encompasses Berkeley Rep’s new work development activities.
Over the years, as we’ve increased the amount of new work we develop, it became clear to us that the regional theatre is very good at rehearsing and producing plays that have been done before and whose scripts are relatively set and fixed. But it is not set up well to foster the creation of a new piece of theatre from the ground up. No two projects require the same things, and the system we have now tries to shoehorn every process into the same structure. The Ground Floor aims to address this through a year-long series of commissions, workshops and a concentrated summer residency lab. We hope to incorporate a level of flexibility rarely allowed in an institutional theatre setting.
We emphasize process over product. We provide resources for artists to respond to the modern and changing world, promote cross-pollination among artists and place high value on face-to-face contact. We celebrate language in its broadest terms and define it as more than just the spoken word: we will use our theatrical medium to explore language in all its forms.
Our summer residency lab will bring artists to Berkeley to work on projects in June. Artists will be 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 will be highly encouraged. There will be 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.
Applications for 2014 will be accepted starting in September, 2013.
Lucy Alibar, playwright
A series of stories about pro-bono criminal defense law, Vacation Bible School and goats.
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 conventional 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.
César Alvarez, creator / composer
Sarah Benson, director
Ivan Safrin, creative technologist
The Universe is a Small Hat is an immersive electronic music theater 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.
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.
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.
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, playwright
The Theory of Rational Choice is a YouTube period piece about value—of girls, of women, of sex—on the internet.
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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.
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.
Karena Fiorenza Ingersoll
For questions regarding the application process, please email: email@example.com.
This program is made possible by The James Irvine Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and ArtPlace (artplaceamerica.org), a collaboration of top national foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts and various federal agencies to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S.