Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit
By Daniel Handler
Directed by Tony Taccone
Main Season · Peet’s Theatre
October 5–November 19, 2017
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
The genius behind Lemony Snicket brings his relentlessly mischievous style to a new play for adults. Sarah’s father is dead, her mother is in hysterics, and the new rabbi totally bungled the funeral. To further the absurdity, the ghost of a rabbit hops into her life, pushing her to confront her deepest issues. Fantastical and wise, hilarious and sobering, Imaginary Comforts celebrates ordinary people trying to make sense out of life in the midst of endless, comedic chaos.
Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit was developed in The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work.
Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. This show has none. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.
Daniel Handler · Playwright
Daniel Handler is the author of six novels, including Why We Broke Up, We Are Pirates, and, most recently, All The Dirty Parts. 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 Composer is Dead, which was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and then adapted for Berkeley Rep in 2010. Other collaborations include a series of books with artist Maira Kalman for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and serving as an adjunct accordionist for the Magnetic Fields. 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. 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.
Tony Taccone · Director
Tony is celebrating his 20th anniversary season. During Tony’s tenure as artistic director of Berkeley Rep, the Tony Award-winning nonprofit has earned a reputation as an international leader in innovative theatre. In those 20 years, Berkeley Rep has presented more than 70 world, American, and West Coast premieres and sent 23 shows to New York, two to London, and one to Hong Kong. Tony has staged more than 40 plays in Berkeley, including new work from Julia Cho, John Leguizamo, Culture Clash, Rinde Eckert, David Edgar, Danny Hoch, Geoff Hoyle, Itamar Moses, and Lemony Snicket. He directed the shows that transferred to London, Continental Divide and Tiny Kushner, and two that landed on Broadway as well: Bridge & Tunnel and Wishful Drinking. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, Tony served as artistic director of Eureka Theatre, which produced the American premieres of plays by Dario Fo, Caryl Churchill, and David Edgar before focusing on a new generation of American writers. While at the Eureka, Tony commissioned Tony Kushner’s legendary Angels in America and co-directed its world premiere. He has collaborated with Kushner on eight plays at Berkeley Rep, including The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Tony’s regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, the Eureka Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, the Huntington Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Public Theater, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. As a playwright, he debuted Ghost Light, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, Game On, written with Dan Hoyle, and It Can’t Happen Here, written with Bennett S. Cohen. In 2012, Tony received the Margo Jones Award for “demonstrating a significant impact, understanding, and affirmation of playwriting, with a commitment to the living theatre.”
Todd Rosenthal · Scenic Design
Todd previously designed Treasure Island, X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story), Tribes, and Ghost Light at Berkeley Rep. Broadway credits include August Osage County (Tony Award), The Motherfucker with the Hat (Tony Award nomination), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Of Mice and Men (filmed by National Theatre Live), This Is Our Youth, and Fish in the Dark. Upcoming Broadway: Roman Holiday and Straight White Men. Select off-Broadway credits include Red Light Winter (Barrow Street), Domesticated (Lincoln Center), Close Up Space (Manhattan Theatre Club), and Qualms (Playwrights Horizons). Todd was the set designer for six years for Big Apple Circus. International credits include August Osage County (London and Australia), The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Ireland), Madama Butterfly (Irish National Opera), and Nice Fish (London’s West End). Regional work includes Steppenwolf Theatre (30 productions), Goodman Theatre (artistic partner), the Guthrie Theater, the Mark Taper Forum, American Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and many others. Museum exhibitions include “Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition” and “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes.” He has received many other accolades, including the Laurence Olivier Award, the Helen Hayes Award, the Ovation Award, the Backstage Garland Award, the Joseph Jefferson Award, the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award, and the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration. Todd is a full professor at Northwestern University and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Meg Neville · Costume Design
Meg’s recent Berkeley Rep credits include Hand to God; It Can’t Happen Here; Macbeth; One Man, Two Guvnors; and Party People. She also worked on X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story); Tribes; The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures; Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Ghost Light; In the Wake; Yellowjackets; Eurydice; TRAGEDY: a tragedy; Suddenly Last Summer; Dinner with Friends; Closer; and The Life of Galileo. Meg’s other recent credits include Party People at the Public Theater and Baltimore Waltz at the Magic Theatre. Her Oregon Shakespeare Festival credits include Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Cocoanuts, Taming of the Shrew, and Ghost Light. Her California Shakespeare Theater credits include Lady Windermere’s Fan, An Ideal Husband, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, and lots of Shakespeare. Other Bay Area theatre credits include Marin Theatre Company, the Cutting Ball Theater, American Conservatory Theater, Joe Goode Performance Group, and Magic Theatre. Regional credits include Second Stage Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Center Stage in Baltimore, South Coast Repertory, Atlantic Theater Company, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chicago Opera Theater, NY Stage and Film, Hartford Stage, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Portland Stage Company, and Dallas Theater Center. Meg’s upcoming projects are Heisenberg at ACT and Blithe Spirit at the Guthrie Theater. Meg is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Brown University and resides in Mill Valley with her family.
Nick Solyom · Lighting Design
Nick is thrilled to return to Berkeley Rep after being the associate lighting designer on Amélie. His other recent designs include The Christians (Gulfshore Playhouse); The Prince of Players, Slow Dusk, and Markheim (Little Opera Theatre of NY); The Way We Get By (American Theater Group); and Generation Me and The Fourth Messenger (New York Musical Festival). Visit solyomdesign.com.
Jake Rodriguez · Sound Design
Jake is a sound designer and composer based in the San Francisco Bay Area who last worked with Berkeley Rep on An Octoroon. His regional credits include the world premieres of X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story); Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright; Girlfriend; and Passing Strange at Berkeley Rep; The Christians at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Playwrights Horizons, and the Mark Taper Forum; the world premiere of A Thousand Splendid Suns at American Conservatory Theater and Theatre Calgary; Hamlet (2012) at California Shakespeare Theater; the world premieres of Bruja and Oedipus el Rey at Magic Theatre; and The Events at Shotgun Players. Jake is the recipient of a 2004 Princess Grace Award.
Madeleine Oldham · Dramaturg
Madeleine is the director of The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work and the Theatre’s resident dramaturg. She oversees commissioning and new play development, and dramaturged the world premiere productions of Aubergine, The House that will not Stand, Passing Strange, and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), among others. As literary manager and associate dramaturg at Center Stage in Baltimore, she produced the First Look reading series and headed up its young audience initiative. Before moving to Baltimore, she was the literary manager at Seattle Children’s Theatre, where she oversaw an extensive commissioning program. She also acted as assistant and interim literary manager at Intiman Theatre in Seattle. Madeleine served for four years on the executive committee of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and has also worked with ACT (Seattle), Austin Scriptworks, Crowded Fire, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, the Kennedy Center, New Dramatists, Playwrights Center, and Portland Center Stage.
Amy Potozkin, CSA · Casting
This is Amy’s 28th season at Berkeley Rep. Through the years she has also had the pleasure of casting plays for ACT (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre Company, B Street Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Marin Theatre Company, the Marsh, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Social Impact Productions Inc., and Traveling Jewish Theatre. Amy cast roles for various independent films, including Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton; Haiku Tunnel and Love & Taxes, both by Josh Kornbluth; and Beyond Redemption by Britta Sjogren. Amy received her MFA from Brandeis University, where she was also an artist in residence. She has been an audition coach to hundreds of actors and a presentation/communication coach to many businesspeople. Amy taught acting at Mills College and audition technique at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, and has led workshops at numerous other venues in the Bay Area. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, she was an intern at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Amy is a member of CSA, the Casting Society of America, and was nominated for Artios Awards for Excellence in Casting for The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures and One Man, Two Guvnors.
Michael Suenkel · Production Stage Manager
Michael began his association with Berkeley Rep as the stage management intern for the 1984–85 season and is now in his 23rd year as production stage manager. Some of his favorite shows include 36 Views, Endgame, Eurydice, Hydriotaphia, and Mad Forest. He has also worked with the Barbican in London, the Huntington Theatre Company, the Juste Pour Rire Festival in Montreal, La Jolla Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Public Theater and Second Stage Theater in New York, and Yale Repertory Theatre. For the Magic Theatre, he stage managed Albert Takazauckas’ Breaking the Code and Sam Shepard’s The Late Henry Moss.
Suzi Young · Assistant to Daniel Handler
Cassidy Brown · Michael
Cassidy is thrilled to make his Berkeley Rep debut. He has appeared at TheatreWorks in Fallen Angels, Doubt, Distracted, The 39 Steps, and The Loudest Man on Earth, and at San Jose Repertory Theatre in Game On. Other Bay Area credits include Center Rep in Ella, The Underpants, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and The 39 Steps; Aurora Theatre in Bosoms and Neglect and Safe House; Marin Shakespeare Company in Don Quixote and Othello; San Jose Stage in The 39 Steps; and Golden Thread in Autobiography of a Terrorist. Regionally he has appeared in The Totalitarians, The North Plan, and Hunter/Gatherers at Capital Stage and in A Servant of Two Masters, God of Carnage, Twelfth Night, Doubt, and The 39 Steps at Pacific Repertory Theatre. Visit cassidybrownactor.weebly.com.
Michael Goorjian · Clovis
Michael is making his Berkeley Rep debut. A Bay Area native, his theatre credits include title roles in Modigliani, The Apollo of Bellac, and J.B. (Buffalo Nights Theatre Company, Los Angeles). He won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the television movie David’s Mother, and was a series regular on Fox’s Party of Five. Other television credits include Lie to Me, House, Alias, Monk, Covert Affairs, and HBO’s The Wizard of Lies. Film credits include Newsies, Chaplin, Leaving Las Vegas, Hard Rain, SLC Punk, and Illusion, a film Michael wrote, directed, and starred in alongside Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas. Michael’s first novel, What Lies Beyond the Stars, was released in 2016. He is currently working on a follow-up novel due out in 2018. More at michaelagoorjian.com.
Sharon Lockwood · Mrs. Gold
Sharon was last seen at Berkeley Rep in the world premiere of It Can’t Happen Here. She also appeared as Sonia in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, for which she received the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for lead performance. Other favorite Berkeley Rep credits include Zorro in Hell, Volpone, The Alchemist, Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Triumph of Love, Pentecost, and The Magic Fire. Sharon has also performed extensively at American Conservatory Theater, most recently in Love and Information. She originated the role of Barbara in the world premiere of Nickel and Dimed under the direction of Bartlett Sher, which premiered at Intiman Theatre in Seattle and played the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Other local credits include appearances at California Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, the Aurora Theatre, and many years with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Regionally, she has performed at La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, the Alley Theatre, and Long Wharf Theatre. Sharon was honored with the 2016 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship and participated in the Master Class at Ten Chimneys in Wisconsin with master teacher actor Jason Alexander.
Julian López-Morillas · Dr. Marcus Gold
Julian has previously appeared at Berkeley Rep in The Winter’s Tale, Volpone, Pentecost, Much Ado About Nothing, Homebody/Kabul, and Fraülein Else. A resident of the Bay Area for the past 45 years, he has worked at virtually all the major theatres in Northern California, including the American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, San Jose Stage, TheatreWorks, Marin Theatre Company, Pacific Repertory Theatre, and for many years with the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival/California Shakespeare Theater, where he directed a dozen Shakespeare productions and played roles including King Lear, Prospero, Shylock, Malvolio, and Brutus. A well-known authority on Shakespeare, he also teaches verse technique at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre and has taught at UC Berkeley, Mills College, and San Jose State University. Julian has acted professionally in all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays and was a two-day winner on Jeopardy!
Susan Lynskey · Sarah Gold
Susan is unabashedly delighted to be returning to Berkeley Rep and to be working with Tony, Daniel, and this cast of Bay Area luminaries for this world premiere. Following last season’s tour in Roe (Berkeley Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Arena Stage in Washington, DC), some of her other favorite regional credits include Well, Noises Off, The 39 Steps, Proof, Body Awareness, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Living Out, The Laramie Project, Ghost-Writer, Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, Richard II, Ben Uchida, and The BFG (at Arena Stage, Olney Theatre Center, Theatre J, Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, MetroStage, the National Theater, and the Kennedy Center, respectively.) Dedicated to the development of new plays, Susan was so pleased to be a part of the The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. Susan is a professor at Georgetown University, received the DC Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Award, and has garnered multiple Helen Hayes Award nominations and awards. In January 2018, Susan will be channeling Margaret Thatcher in the first U.S. production of Handbagged.
Jarion Monroe · Jack
Jarion is delighted to be back at Berkeley Rep once again where he has been seen in Volpone, Rhinoceros, House of Blue Leaves, Our Country’s Good, Hard Times, and many others spanning back to 1986. He was in one of the first Seinfelds and one of the last Frasiers; his films include The Game, and he was seen as Not-Professor-X in The Internship, where he got to punch out Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson from a wheelchair. He is Lynch in Kane & Lynch. Other theatres in which he has performed include American Conservatory Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater, Marin Shakespeare Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Arizona Repertory Theatre, and the Magic Theatre. He has also played Wotan in Teatro ZinZanni’s Dinner at Wotan’s, and participated in a tribute performance honoring Robin Williams along with comedians Mort Sahl and Rick Overton. While at UCLA, he won the Natalie Wood Award for best actor, and immediately went on a Bonanza episode where Michael Landon punched him out to start his professional career.
Danny Scheie · Ghost
Danny previously appeared at Berkeley Rep in the world premieres of Chuck Mee’s Fêtes de la Nuit and Dan LeFranc’s Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, as well as Cloud Nine; One Man, Two Guvnors; and Amy Freed’s You, Nero (Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Leading Actor). Recent credits include Freed’s The Monster Builder at South Coast Rep and Aurora Theatre, You Never Can Tell (Critics Circle Award for Supporting Actor) at California Shakespeare Theater, and two plays at Z Space by Peter Nachtrieb: The Making of a Great Moment (also at Merrimack Rep) and A House Tour… originally developed at Berkeley Rep’s The Ground Floor. He has also acted at Arena Stage, Folger Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Trinity Repertory Theatre, Asolo Rep, Actors Theater of Louisville, the Old Globe, Pasadena Playhouse, A Noise Within, TheatreWorks, The Marsh, the Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, and Theatre Rhinoceros. He received his Equity card playing Damis in Tartuffe at the Los Angeles Theater Center. He holds a professorship at UC Santa Cruz and a PhD from UC Berkeley.
Marilee Talkington · Naomi
Marilee is an actor, writer, director, and activist. And is thrilled to be back to Berkeley Rep! She was previously seen at Berkeley Rep in X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story). Some of her other Bay Area credits include Little Erik; Rapture, Blister, Burn; and Salomania (Aurora Theatre), She Rode Horses, The Taming, and The Secretaries (Crowded Fire), Lily’s Revenge with Taylor Mac (Magic Theatre), and A Christmas Carol (American Conservatory Theater). Some of her NYC credits include A Nervous Smile and The Middle Ages (Theater Breaking Through Barriers, off Broadway), The Last Day and What’s His Name (Ensemble Studio Theatre), and Truce: Solo Show (NYC Fringe, BBC Radio). Her recent original film, Sisterly Love, was nominated for best filmmaker and best actor. Marilee has an MFA in Acting from ACT and is a proud MacDowell Fellow, Center for Cultural Innovation Award winner, and Carol Channing Trouper Award winner. She is also a fierce advocate for performers with disabilities. Please visit marileetalkington.com.
The cast and stage manager are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
There is a delight in the absurd that runs through [Imaginary Comforts], as well as compassion for its characters, however they may be flawed. And in tackling adult ideas of loss, loneliness, addiction, self-medication, and delusion, [Daniel] Handler has given us a compelling, often funny, non-linear play…The ideas about the real or imagined comforts of stories and storytelling, no matter how grisly, didactic, or baffling…are where Handler’s play succeeds the most…Tony Taccone’s direction is brisk and comical in all the right ways.”
An absurdist delight…Under Tony Taccone’s sure hand, this world premiere about the power of storytelling—and love, and ghosts—to console and redirect lost souls, is funny and affecting…[Daniel] Handler is delightfully on his game here.”
San Francisco Examiner
[Daniel] Handler (who also writes children’s books under the nom de plume Lemony Snicket) forges a new mythos…Handler’s point, though, is that any story, even an absurd one, can become your rock, your origin story, your comfort animal. In his vision, our universe is gentle enough, charmed enough, to supply founts of myth and solace to us bumbling humans wherever our imagination might land.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Behind the scenes: Childhood stories
We asked the actors in Daniel Handler’s Imaginary Comforts to share a childhood story that influenced them. See which story Jarion Monroe mentions.
Behind the scenes: Childhood stories
We asked the actors in Daniel Handler’s Imaginary Comforts to share a childhood story that influenced them. See which stories Susan Lynskey mentions.
Behind the scenes: Childhood stories
We asked the actors in Daniel Handler’s Imaginary Comforts to share a childhood story that influenced them. See which story Marilee Talkington mentions.
Official trailer: Imaginary Comforts
Get a glimpse at the mischievous new play (that’s not for children) by Daniel Handler, the genius behind Lemony Snicket.
Behind the scenes: Storytime
We asked the actors of Daniel Handler’s Imaginary Comforts to tell The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit in their own words.
Behind the scenes: Daniel Handler
The genius behind Lemony Snicket talks about his new play for adults, Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre
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Docent talks and discussions
Pre-show docent talks
Meet us in the Theatre an hour before the show on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings and Sunday matinees for an engrossing presentation about your subscription-season play. Hear about the playwright’s perspective, dive into the historical context, and discover why the script is relevant right now. Each 30-minute talk includes plenty of time for your questions.
Post-show docent-led discussions
Join your fellow audience members after all matinees and share your thoughts on the show.
Page to Stage
Every season, Berkeley Rep hosts Page to Stage, a series of free discussions with eminent theatre artists, designed to give audiences additional insight into the plays and playwrights produced at Berkeley Rep. Past programs have featured theatre luminaries such as Tony Kushner, Mary Zimmerman, Emma Rice, and Mira Nair.
- Monday, October 30, 2017
Resident Dramaturg Madeleine Oldham interviews acclaimed author Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, about his new play Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit in the Peet’s Theatre
Each talk starts at 7pm and runs about 60 minutes. No tickets are necessary for these free events, but seating is limited. The lobby opens at 6:15pm, and doors to the Theatre open at 6:30pm for general admission seating. Berkeley Rep donors at the Contributor level or higher ($150+) enjoy reserved seating. For more information about Page to Stage or how to become a donor, call 510 647–2906.
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, October 6, 2017
Stick around after select performances for lively Q&A sessions with our artists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
- Thursday, October 26, 2017
- Tuesday, October 31, 2017
- Friday, November 10, 2017