It Can’t Happen Here

It Can’t Happen Here

It Can’t Happen Here

Adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen from the novel by Sinclair Lewis
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Main Season · Roda Theatre
September 23–November 6, 2016
World premiere

Running time: 2 hours, plus one 15-minute intermission

Written in 1935 during the rise of fascism in Europe, Sinclair Lewis’ darkly satirical It Can’t Happen Here follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness. Witnessing the new president’s authoritarian tyranny from the sidelines is a liberal, middle-class newspaper editor from Vermont who is caught in the chaos of social upheaval. Sound familiar? Called “a message to thinking Americans” upon its publication, this eerily prescient book receives a new adaptation just in time for election season.

Creative team

Tony Taccone · Adaptor
Bennett S. Cohen · Adaptor
Lisa Peterson · Director
Rachel Hauck · Scenic Design
Meg Neville · Costume Design
Alexander V. Nichols · Lighting Design
Paul James Prendergast · Composer / Sound Design
Madeleine Oldham · Dramaturg
Amy Potozkin · Casting
Alaine Alldaffer · Casting
Michael Suenkel · Production Stage Manager
Christina Hogan · Assistant Stage Manager
Danielle O’Dea · Fight Director


Scott Coopwood · Shad Ledue
Deidrie Henry · Lorinda Pike
William Thomas Hodgson · Dr. Fowler Greenhill
Anna Ishida · Mary Jessup Greenhill / Jaime Johnson
David Kelly · Buck Titus / Buzz Windrip
Sharon Lockwood · Emma Jessup / Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch
Alexander Lydon · Julian Falck
Gabriel Montoya · David / Mr. Dimick
Tom Nelis · Doremus Jessup
Charles Shaw Robinson · Frank Tasbrough / Bishop Prang / Effingham Swan
Gerardo Rodriguez · Karl Pascal
Will Rogers · Philip Jessup
Carolina Sanchez · Sissy Jessup
Mark Kenneth Smaltz · R.C. Crowley / John Pollikop

It Can’t Happen Here is beautifully directed by Berkeley Rep’s new associate director, Lisa Peterson. She makes exquisite use of her 14-person ensemble; they magically build and take apart endless sets in perfectly timed beats, keeping the stage bustling with an appealing flurry of activity. In more harrowing moments, lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols keeps characters isolated in ghoulish cones of light, accentuating the show’s point that demagogues flourish when thinking but complacent members of a society fail to rise up and act as a collective.”

San Francisco Chronicle

…virtual and visceral reality, delivered with high velocity…the play’s thrust was in what happens between politics’ extremes and how that affects the future of everyday people in a small Vermont town…[Director Lisa] Peterson wielded a deft hand, directing the cast with perfect balance…Tom Nelis showed terrific nuance as the protagonist Doremus Jessup…Deidre Henry as Lorinda Pike managed to win hearts while grafting herself onto a role with ambiguous morality…and also, a heroic figure in the fight for democracy.”

East Bay Express

Briskly staged by Lisa Peterson, this new version is pithy and animated…A story of the indomitable spirit of those who can’t simply stand by and watch this happen.”

Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s It Can’t Happen Here is a nightmare on so many levels, and that’s mostly a good thing. This is the right story at the right time…In [Sinclair] Lewis’ novel, which has been freshly adapted by Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, the United States is a country at odds with itself…This well-produced gloom features a marvelous and quite active ensemble that also includes some standout work.”

Theater Dogs

Proves to be some strong medicine for liberals in this deeply divided political era. Because, of course, it can happen here…[It Can’t Happen Here] is a thought-provoking and effective reminder that democracies are fragile things.”


Watch now

Behind the scenes: The cast

It Can’t Happen Here cast members reveal what it’s like to perform a play that mirrors our current political climate.

Official trailer: It Can’t Happen Here

Get a sneak peek at this new adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, just in time for election season!

Behind the scenes: Adaptor Tony Taccone

“The parallels to what’s going on now are so astonishing…” Tony Taccone unpacks the relevance of It Can’t Happen Here.

Behind the scenes: Director Lisa Peterson

Get a glimpse at the rehearsal process for It Can’t Happen Here.

Behind the scenes: Scenic art

See how our scenic artists created backdrops for It Can’t Happen Here based on the iconic national parks posters.

Teaser: It Can’t Happen Here

Our new adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel begins September 23!

See photos

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Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Photos may not be used for commercial or personal use without written permission from Berkeley Rep, and unauthorized alteration, reproduction, or sale of these images is strictly prohibited. Journalists and other members of the media, please visit our online press room.

A nationwide reading

In 1936, Sinclair Lewis adapted his novel into a play under the auspices of the Federal Theatre Project, and 21 theatres across the country opened productions on the same night.

During the week of October 24, 2016—the 80th anniversary of that nationwide opening—Berkeley Rep was joined by 50 organizations across 24 states for a series of free, public readings of the new adaptation by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen. Host organizations included 20 theaters, 12 universities, 12 libraries, a high school, a coffee house, and four in-home readings.

The nationwide reading was made possible thanks to the generous support of Barbara and Rodgin Cohen and Orin Kramer, with the cooperation of the Sinclair Lewis Estate.

Participating organizations


Ozark Living Newspaper at The Rep Annex
Little Rock, AR


Berkeley Public Library Playreaders
Berkeley, CA

Calabazas Branch Library
San Jose, CA

Coffee Bandits
Merced, CA

Custom Made Theatre Co.
San Francisco, CA

Mary L. Stephens Davis Library, sponsored by Yolo County Library
Davis, CA

University of Redlands Department of Theatre Arts
Redlands, CA

USC School of Dramatic Arts
Los Angeles, CA

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Topanga, CA


Curious Theatre Group
Denver, CO

Su Teatro
Denver, CO


Connecticut Heritage Productions at Russell Library
Middletown, CT


American Stage
St. Petersburg, FL


16th Street Theater
Berwyn, IL

Aurora University Department of Art and Theatre
Aurora, IL

Chicago Dramatists
Chicago, IL

Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance
Normal, IL

The Upstagers—A Playreading Group
Evanston, IL


Butler University Department of Theatre with cooperation from Indiana Repertory Theatre
Indianapolis, IN

University of Notre Dame Department of Film, Television, and Theatre
Notre Dame, IN


Lisbon Public Library
Lisbon, IA


Emporia State University Theatre Arts
Emporia, KS


Jefferson Parish Library
Metairie, LA


Portland Stage
Portland, ME


Vineyard Haven Public Library
Vineyard Haven, MA

Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater
Wellfleet, MA


Detroit Repertory Theatre
Detroit, MI


St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, MN

University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Theatre
Duluth, MN


The Arts At Page Library, Inman E. Page Library
Jefferson City, MO

New Hampshire

Keene Public Library
Keene, NH

Matchbook Players Monadnock at Jaffrey Public Library
Jaffrey, NH

New Jersey

The Collaboratory at Rutgers University–Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, NJ

New Mexico

FUSION Theatre
Albuquerque, NM

New York

Cooperstown High School
Cooperstown, NY

Hobart and William Smith Colleges Department of Theatre
Geneva, NY

Metropolitan Playhouse
New York, NY

Pendragon Theatre
Saranac Lake, NY


Yellow Springs Theater Company at Yellow Springs Library
Yellow Springs, OH

South Carolina

The Village Repertory Co. in residence at Woolfe Street Playhouse
Charleston, SC


Austin, TX


Deborah Rawson Memorial Library
Jericho, VT

Hartland Public Library and Windsor Public Library
Hartland and Windsor, VT

Mad River Valley Libraries
Warren, VT

The Manchester Players
Manchester, VT

West Virginia

Fairmont State University Departments of Communication and Theatre Arts and Language and Literature
Fairmont, WV

Plus private in-home readings

Saratoga, CA
Woodside, CA
Holyoke, MA
New York, NY



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