"We're grateful that no one was inside at the time of this terrible accident," said artistic director Tony Taccone, "and truly appreciative of the firefighters who risked their own safety to put out the flames. Nevertheless, this is a terrible shock – a loss from both a practical and an emotional point of view. This building has been a critical part of our artistic success for 15 of our 38 seasons, and we are left without the workshop or the tools to create the magic our audiences expect."
No cause of the fire has yet been determined and total damages are unknown, but quick response by local firefighters salvaged neighboring buildings from being severely damaged. The company, however, is left without a space and equipment for building sets for the upcoming season.
Located at 1230 Fifth Street in Berkeley, (just off Gilman Street), the 7500-square-foot building — which is known for its history as the rehearsal space for Creedence Clearwater Revival in the 1960s — housed the theatre's scene shop for 15 years and contained hundreds of thousands of dollars of specialized carpentry, metalwork and painting equipment for the staff who build sets for as many as eight shows each year.
Scenery for nearly 200 shows had been built in this space, including those for productions such as Galileo, Execution of Justice, The Tooth of Crime, Kabuki Medea, Blue Window, Yankee Dawg You Die, Lulu, McTeague: A Tale of San Francisco, The Convict’s Return, The Woman Warrior, Pentecost, Metamorphoses, The Oresteia, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa, Homebody/Kabul, Ghosts, Master Class, Eurydice and The People’s Temple.
Work was also slated to begin for the company's upcoming season which includes Thorton Wilder's Our Town (Sept. 9-Oct. 23), Jordan Harrison's Finn in the Underworld (Oct. 6-Nov. 6), Tony Kushner and Hans Krása's Brundibár (Nov. 11-Dec. 28), Heather Raffo's Nine Parts of Desire (Jan. 20-March 5, 2006), Culture Clash's Zorro (March 3-April 2, 2006), Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie starring Rita Moreno (April 6-June 4, 2006) and Theatre de la Jeune Lune production Molière's The Miser (May 12-June 25, 2006). On par with theatre's die-hard attitude, Taccone also added "I suppose it’s appropriate that our upcoming season begins with a production of Our Town because we certainly will rely on the support of our community to make this show a reality. I am confident that the team at Berkeley Rep will pull together to open the season on schedule at our usual high standards. As always, the show will go on!”
Berkeley Rep hopes to find a temporary workspace within two weeks and is planning to search for a more permanent new home soon after. The company is currently accepting contributions to help support the establishment of a new scene shop.
To donate, please call (510) 647-2900 or write to Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. The company is located on the web at www.berkeleyrep.org.