Tony Taccone's first season as artistic director of Berkeley Rep in California has led the theatre to range from Eastern Europe to rich, 19th Century Greenwich Village to multi-cultural, urban, modern Manhattan.
After sheltering Danny Hoch's Homeboy (which just announced a brief return, Feb. 12-21) and hosting Ann Torsiglieri in The Heiress, Berkeley Rep offers the West Coast premiere of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Jan. 14. (Hoch's Off-Broadway-bound Homeboy, directed by Jo Bonney, follows Drive as a late show on the mainstage.)
Drive replaces Philip Kan Gotanda's premiere of Yohen, and moves Athol Fugard's Valley Song to an off-site mounting at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco. Drive is co-produced with SF's Magic Theatre as the first production of 1998. Gotanda's play, which has received two workshops at the Rep, is being considered for a future production.
In announcing the program change, Taccone said, "Our decision to alter the original season line up began when we met with Philip last week and he mentioned that it would be his preference to have more time to work on Yohen. Our interest in and the availability of Paula's play coupled with the Magic's strong history with her history with her work made the move a natural."
Gotanda said, "Though I've had two productive workshops and gone through several workable drafts of Yohen, I still feel I haven't found the heart of the piece. And instead of being bound by a production date while feeling this way, I'd rather be patient and take the time to further develop it." Gotanda is in residency at Berkeley Rep and premiered two previous plays there. As for How I Learned To Drive, this winner of the 1997 NY Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards, tells of a young woman's troubled relationship with her uncle. The show is currently in an open commercial run at Off-Broadway's Century Theatre.
At Berkeley, Cindy Basco and Paul Vincent O'Connor, both Oregon Shakespeare Festival veterans, star, under Molly D. Smith's direction. Smith has a long history with Vogel, having staged Hot N' Throbbing at the Minneapolis Playwright's Center, and The Mineola Twins at AK's Perseverance Theatre, where Smith is artistic director. She recently was appointed artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington DC. Also starring in Drive are Denise Balthrop, Tina Jones and Rod Gnapp.
Designing the show are Kate Edmunds (set), Lydia Tanji (costumes), James F. Ingalls (lighting) and Mitchell Greenhill (sound). How I Learned To Drive began previews Jan. 9 and runs to Feb. 27.
Berkeley Repertory artistic director Taccone served as artistic director of San Francisco's The Eureka Theatre for seven years before joining Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 1988. Tony Kushner's Angels In America was commissioned at Eureka during those years, and Taccone co-directed the epic with Oskar Eustis when it world premiered at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum. Taccone's stagings at Berkeley Rep include Serious Money, Slavs! and The Birthday Party.