Imagine: The vision
Berkeley Rep is a home for stories. A repository of ideas. A place for artists and audiences to engage and to think. A place to inspire and be inspired. Berkeley Rep is also a place that has made an impact on artists and the community—locally, regionally, nationally. And it is poised to do so again. For over four decades, Berkeley Rep has been crafting stories that challenge, confound, transport, and entertain. What drives us is the constant desire to create.
The story of Berkeley Rep itself is a compelling one. Born out of the regional theatre movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, the Theatre has grown from modest beginnings in a storefront on College Avenue to one of the premier theatres in the country. Bolstered by the generosity of our community, the Theatre moved to Addison Street in 1980 and two decades later, we opened our second theatre—the Roda—and our School of Theatre. Along the way, attendance has soared to 200,000 annually, over 20,000 young people are served by our School programs each season, and the Theatre has been honored with numerous awards, including the Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
At the center of each of these chapters in our history is Berkeley Rep’s unwavering commitment to the creation of new work and to new ideas. We’ve premiered over 65 new plays and fostered the careers of the country’s greatest voices. We not only introduce their work to Bay Area audiences, but also place them into the American theatrical canon.
Today, Berkeley Rep turns the page on a new chapter. Just like the transformative moments that preceded it, this one is bold and ambitious. Its impact will be significant—on artists, on audiences, on the community. By 2017, Berkeley Rep will be home to one of the most vibrant and respected centers for the creation and development of new work in the country. We embark on the Create Campaign to raise $20 million to support two key initiatives: $12.5 million to develop our Harrison Street campus as a center for new work, and $7.5 million to reinvest in Berkeley Rep’s signature Thrust Stage.
These initiatives are part of a $50 million comprehensive campaign which also seeks to strengthen the Theatre’s annual fund, capital reserve fund, and invest in its staff. With $37 million already raised to date, including over $14.5 million toward our two key initiatives, we invite you to help us realize this vision by making a gift to the Create Campaign. Create the story with us.
Michael Leibert Artistic Director
David Henry Hwang
Anna Deavere Smith
Create Campaign Steering Committee
Thalia Dorwick, PhD · Co-Chair
Marjorie Randolph · Co-Chair
Sandra R. McCandless
Roger A. Strauch
Ways to give
Individual Giving Manager
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Attn: Development Office
999 Harrison St
Berkeley, CA 94710
Innovate: A center for new work
A blueprint for innovation:
Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work
The development of Berkeley Rep’s Harrison Street campus into a center for artistic innovation is more than the sum of its walls. It’s about creating an environment for both artists and the community to engage in the art of making theatre. And in turn, it’s about providing a source of inspiration for people to think differently.
By 2017, Berkeley Rep will complete the expansion of its Harrison Street campus by converting its undeveloped warehouse space into rehearsal halls and studios, artist live/work spaces, and a public forum, serving as an R&D center for the creation of new work. This space will allow us to fully realize our new works program, The Ground Floor, and provide the necessary capital resources to allow the program to flourish.
Learn more about this $12.5 million initiative by opening the sections below. Click invest for more information about supporting the Create Campaign.
Architectural design by Patricia Motzkin Architecture.
The story of the Harrison Street campus
August 2010 was a game-changing moment for Berkeley Rep. The Theatre acquired a 62,000 square foot facility on Harrison Street (at 9th Street) in West Berkeley which brought together all of its pre-production operations for the first time in over 30 years. Nearly every department of the organization, from administration to production, was now under the same roof. Staff was no longer working in four separate facilities spread across two cities.
The move has fostered not only newfound cross-departmental collaboration, but it has opened the door to something far greater—the opportunity to make Berkeley Rep one of the most vibrant and respected centers for the development of new work in the country.
Berkeley Rep has always produced new plays, ever since its beginnings in a storefront theatre on College Avenue. But in the last decade, as we’ve increased the number of commissions to playwrights and attempted to offer the kind of support artists require to bring their work to the stage, we’ve come to realize that what artists need are collaborators who can help foster the creation of a new piece of theatre from the ground up. We want to support artists in a meaningful way, where our staff is there from the nascent stage of a new work and helps move it forward by providing thoughtful stewardship throughout the development process.
Transforming the campus
A Center for the Creation and Development of New Work
Because of the close proximity of this artistic hub to Berkeley Rep’s staff and production shops, artists in residence will have unparalleled support in the development of their work. From costumes and props staff to an in-house videographer, playwrights and directors will have a wealth of resources available to them at a moment’s notice. The development of the campus will not only have an impact on the artists and staff working here, but it is our hope to inspire neighborhood revitalization, attracting like-minded businesses to the area. Through Berkeley Rep’s partnership with the City of Berkeley, we anticipate that the Harrison Street campus will have a transformative effect on West Berkeley, much in the same way as the opening of the Roda Theatre in 2001 helped to change downtown Berkeley into a destination arts district. The project is already attracting local and national attention—in 2011, Berkeley Rep was the recipient of a $750,000 ArtPlace grant, awarded to arts organizations aiming to revitalize a community. And the Theatre has also been nominated by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance for its Innovation Award as a “cutting-edge innovator in business.”
The new facility will include:
- 14 living units providing housing for up to 75 actors and designers each season, including laundry and exercise facilities
- 4 rehearsal halls
- A flexible space for large gatherings and meetings
- Many semi-private meeting alcoves for one-on-one conversations
A home for The Ground Floor
The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work aims to support artists in a meaningful way, through a year-round series of commissions, workshops, and a concentrated Summer Residency Lab. By bringing the full measure of our institution’s resources to bear, we are giving resident artists the flexibility to experiment and discover.
The Ground Floor emphasizes process. It allows artists to respond to the modern and changing world, promotes cross-pollination among artists, and places high value on face-to-face contact. It celebrates language and defines it as more than just the spoken word: we will use our theatrical medium to explore language in all its forms—be it dance, music, or new technologies. Our ultimate goal is to engender the creation of exceptional work for the American theatre.
In summer 2012, after fielding over 200 applications, The Ground Floor held its first Summer Residency Lab, which brought over 90 artists to Berkeley Rep to work on 14 individual projects. The visiting artists were encouraged to interact with other artists, staff, supporters, and the public. While no final presentation was required at the end of the lab, a number of artists invited audiences for a public reading of their projects. The Ground Floor’s staff was there to help support the artists in the development of their work, and to move it to the next stage, whatever that stage may be.
Construction on the Harrison Street campus will commence once the $12.5 million needed for development is raised. To take a tour of the campus, click the invest tab. For a virtual tour, click the images below.
Inspire: A theatre for the 21st century
Preserving intimacy, advancing technology:
A Thrust Stage for tomorrow’s audiences
Built in 1980, the Thrust Stage is Berkeley Rep’s signature 400-seat theatre, which has seen well over 15,000 performances in that time. Audiences and artists alike enjoy the theatre’s intimacy—whether the production is a solo performance by Anna Deavere Smith or a musical like Party People.
In the 35 years since the Thrust opened, the theatre hasn’t been able to keep up with some of the technological advances that are now available to today’s artists. The limitations of the space have become a source of frustration for artists who are afforded the tools of their craft in other theatres, such as the Roda. The Thrust Stage is in urgent need of an infrastructure upgrade. Its outdated electrical and plumbing systems are in need of replacement, as is its theatrical equipment.
At the same time, our move to Harrison Street has opened up space in the Thrust and created an opportunity to expand audience amenities. In our former costume shop, we already have created a new bar where audiences can grab a bite and a drink before or after the show. The bar can also serve as an intimate 45-seat performance space, ideal for docent talks, readings, and music.
Learn more about this $7.5 million initiative by opening the sections below. Click invest for more information about supporting the Create Campaign.
Architectural design by .
A state-of-the-art sound system
When Berkeley Rep moved to its current home on Addison Street, the new theatre was hailed as state-of-the-art, a unique venue for theatre artists to produce plays. Fast-forward 35 years and the Thrust Stage is woefully outdated technologically, especially compared to other theatres today where theatre directors and designers have a broader set of tools to work with to support an ever more diverse body of work.
To meet the demands of both artists and audiences, the Thrust will be outfitted with Meyer Sound’s award-winning Constellation system. This unique system can transform the Thrust Stage into an acoustically flexible venue: a rich concert hall for a pianist and solo performer, an intimate stage for the spoken word, a showcase for musicals. Instead of changing architecture, Meyer Sound’s technology can transform a space to support the needs of the work being presented, while providing the finest sound clarity.
Meyer Sound’s Constellation Acoustic System is an extraordinary breakthrough in acoustical science. Informed by decades of research into exceptional listening spaces, Constellation’s patented technology allows for a nearly miraculous flexibility in room acoustics, all attainable with the simple press of a button.
Patrons benefit in a number of ways:
- Berkeley Rep will offer optimal room acoustics to every audience member no matter where a seat is located.
- Berkeley Rep will work with sound designers in a groundbreaking way with the ability to alter room acoustics to suit individual performers, directors, or production styles, and to shift acoustics scene by scene within a specific play to allow audiences to feel as if they are in the same room or environment as indicated by the script.
- Audiences will experience artists performing at their peak, as Constellation offers artists nearly unconstrained freedom and flexibility of movement on stage without concern for voice projection.
This groundbreaking new technology created by Berkeley’s own Meyer Sound is not an amplification system. Constellation provides audibility and clarity of sound by capturing the spoken word from multiple directions and enhancing the delivered sound using patented acoustic technology. Because of the Thrust’s unique configuration, with audience members seated on three sides of the stage, invariably actors and performers turn away from one section of the audience, sometimes making it challenging for patrons to hear or understand the actors, no longer having the benefit of lip-reading. Constellation mitigates this with its extraordinary clarity.
New energy-efficient lighting technology
Take a backstage tour of the Thrust Stage, and you’ll see evidence of a jerry-rigged wiring and infrastructure. A sign on the microwave in the green room implores actors not to use the device during a performance, lest it push a breaker over the edge. When the Thrust was built in 1980, you didn’t see computerized consoles, lighting instruments were simpler, and equipment systems didn’t demand as much power. But times have changed, and the Thrust Stage is in urgent need of an upgrade.
The theatre needs to be rewired, not only to support today’s theatrical equipment, but also to provide greater energy efficiency through improved lighting technology and fixtures. Modern lighting not only uses less power, it also emits less heat, mitigating the demands placed on the HVAC system to keep the theatre cool. And like the new Constellation sound system, our new lighting technology will give directors and designers the tools they need to produce the finest work for the stage.
Expanding audience accessibility
Along with the technological upgrades to the Thrust Stage, we want to expand its accessibility, safety, and comfort for our audiences. Additional accommodations will be made for wheelchair-accessible seating, handrails will be installed so that patrons can safely alight and descend the stairs, and a gender-neutral bathroom will be installed to allow patrons to be assisted by a partner.
A refurbished theatre
What’s not changing about the Thrust Stage is its hallmark intimacy. The seats will be refurbished, but not replaced. The house will receive a much-needed facelift, replacing the 30-year-old carpeting, updating the light fixtures to more energy-efficient models, and improving the flow of the lobby. The box office, originally built to handle ticketing for just the Thrust Stage, will be moved and enlarged, to be more accommodating for both theatres and the Osher Studio. Its location will be more central, housed between the two theatres and can be accessed from the street, as well as from within the courtyard, allowing staff to assist patrons readily pre-show and during performance.
See our progress
Renovation of the Thrust Stage began in early 2015 with the construction of the new box office. The Thrust Stage closed for the renovations in May 2015 and will re-open in January 2016 as the Peet’s Theatre. To see our progress, click the images below.
Invest: Create the story with us
Support the Create Campaign
Be a part of the next chapter in Berkeley Rep’s history and create the story with us. Explore the recognition opportunities below to see how you can leave your mark on Berkeley Rep.
To make your donation, call 510 647–2906 or send your gift by mail using this form.
Why your gift to the Create Campaign matters
Berkeley Rep was built on the generosity of this community. It was the contributions of Bay Area donors that helped to construct the Thrust Stage in 1980, and again, the community generously supported the building of the Roda in 2001. Today, Berkeley Rep needs your help to reinvest in our beloved Thrust and to create a center for the development of new work on Harrison Street. Large or small, every gift counts and helps support the creation of theatre for generations to come.
In appreciation of your support of the Create Campaign, we are happy to offer you the following naming opportunities:
Be a star!
With your gift of $1,000–$2,999, place your name in our constellation of supporters in the Thrust lobby.
Take a seat!
With your gift of $3,000–$4,999, name a refurbished seat in the Thrust.
With your gift of $5,000–$9,999, name two refurbished seats in the Thrust.
Dedicate a courtyard square
With your gift of $10,000+, place your personal dedication on a square in the Narsai M. David Courtyard.
For additional naming opportunities, call Laura Fichtenberg, Director of Individual Giving, at 510 647–2907 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the press is saying
It’s enough to make you want to be not one but a dozen flies on various walls.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Berkeley Rep’s choices for its 2014 Ground Floor Summer Residency Lab for New Works continue to fulfill its inaugural promise of nurturing and fostering exciting work from a diverse group of experienced, emerging, and even first time playwrights.”—Theatre Play by Play
“The Ground Floor is a bold new initiative designed to raise the bar on the Tony Award-winning nonprofit’s already successful record of artistic innovation.”—Broadway World
For many playwrights, the chance to collaborate with artists in the Berkeley Rep complex was extremely enticing. ‘You don’t always get the opportunity to have workshops on something that is not necessarily a commissioned project,’ said Heidi Stillman, a Chicago playwright and artistic director of new work at Lookingglass Theater Company. She arrives in July to work on a piece inspired by Marguerite Duras. ‘It’s exciting to see what happens with the cross-pollination, being there with the other artists,’ Ms. Stillman said, adding that while other summer programs, like Sundance Institute’s theater lab, exist, Berkeley Rep is refreshingly ‘artist-focused.’”
New York Times
What artists are saying
I love this atmosphere…you walk around and you can just feel creativity exuding from the walls.”
Barbara Babcock, Playwright and The Ground Floor 2014 Summer Residency Lab Artist
“What is so compelling about the Create Campaign is how it envisions this idea of an artistic home that begins at the very beginning of an artistic process and continues beyond production to an ongoing conversation with the larger community. When I worked at Berkeley Rep, I felt keenly both that sense of an artistic home and that deep sense of community. It was such an inspiring home to make and share new work. I am so excited to see Berkeley Rep take its historic commitment to new work to a new level, and I cannot wait to see the new works that emerge from this visionary initiative.”—Naomi Iizuka, Playwright
“Berkeley Rep was one of the first theatres in the country to do my work, ten years before it became ‘known.’ They have been big enough for experiments, but savvy enough to become a mainstay of American arts. They are the symbol of their next generation: an exemplary one!”—Anna Deavere Smith, Playwright, Performer, and MacArthur “Genius,” and The Ground Floor 2014 Summer Residency Lab artist
On a very basic level, storytelling is what sustains us as people.”
Sarah Burgess, Playwright and The Ground Floor 2013 Summer Residency Lab artist
“I’ve never been part of something so thoughtful, so collective. This is a super-innovative program, but that’s not surprising at Berkeley Rep. They are always taking things to the next level.”—Lauren Gunderson, Playwright and The Ground Floor 2013 Summer Residency Lab artist
“What became apparent to me in my conversations with Madeleine Oldham and The Ground Floor staff was their clear intentionality in creating a new kind of residency system that was flexible and responsive to the diverse artists who were creating work through vastly different processes. The Ground Floor was a dream residency.”—Meiyin Wang, Playwright and The Ground Floor 2012 Summer Residency Lab artist
“Working at Berkeley Rep is like playing with the smart kids: fun, challenging, surprising, and fulfilling. There is a unique alchemy of audience and artists and staff at play here, and that makes it a magnetic operation.”—Lisa Peterson, Obie Award-winning Director and The Ground Floor 2013 Summer Residency Lab artist
What Berkeley Rep patrons are saying
Berkeley Rep is at an exciting inflection point; it is poised to build on its current success and leap even higher. The possibilities presented by the Harrison Street campus and The Ground Floor are thrilling, and this is why I am glad to support the Create Campaign.”
“Berkeley Rep is the most vibrant theatre company in the Bay Area and the Create Campaign promises to ensure that it will remain so for the foreseeable future. It means a lot to me to be part of a Bay Area legacy.”—Gail Wagner
“The Harrison Street complex gives Berkeley Rep the opportunity to develop the most advanced multi-use campus in the theatre industry, which will assure the theatre’s ability to remain on the leading artistic edge of dramatic productions for the entire Bay Area.”—Bill Falik
“Although we are supporting Berkeley Rep’s Create Campaign because it is vital to the Bay Area’s innovative theatre scene, most of all we just enjoy and are entertained enormously by the Theatre’s varied and creative productions.”—David Fleishhacker