First a Thrust, But Soon a Proscenium, Too, For Expanding Berkeley Rep

News   First a Thrust, But Soon a Proscenium, Too, For Expanding Berkeley Rep The Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced plans Oct. 26 to build a 600-seat proscenium theatre adjacent to its current 401 seat thrust-stage space, creating a new performing arts center on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, CA.

The Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced plans Oct. 26 to build a 600-seat proscenium theatre adjacent to its current 401 seat thrust-stage space, creating a new performing arts center on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, CA.

The nonprofit resident theatre, which won a 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, plans to open the space by the 2000-2001 season.

A $14.5 million capital campaign is underway, and $9 million of it has already been raised, according to Berkeley Rep public relations director Kathleen Roldan. Total price tag is $17.6 million. The city of Berkeley has committed $4 million, and the Rep's board of trustees have contributed $2 million.

The new space will allow for the extension of high-demand shows, Roldan told Playbill On-Line, Oct. 30. In the past, shows such as How I Learned to Drive and Slavs! could have been extended due to ticket demand, she said, but the planned subscription season and lack of a second stage prevented such extensions. Rented second spaces were occasionally sought by the Rep, Roldan said.

"By adding a proscenium stage," said artistic director Tony Taccone, in a statement, "we will enlarge the spectrum of work we can produce...from epic theatre to contemporary musicals, without compromising the Rep's essential connection between the actors and our audience." The three-story new facility will include a balcony, an 80-foot scenery fly space and a trap room under the stage. No seat will be more than 49 feet from the stage (compared to 42 feet at the first facility).

The Rep was founded in 1968 in a 153-seat converted storefront on College Avenue. It moved to its current location in 1980. In its first year at the new space, it tripled its subscribership from 3,700 to 11,000. The annual budget there is $5.8 million.

The Rep's current season includes:

*Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Nov. 10-Jan. 8

*Donald Margulies' Collected Stories, Jan. 15-March 5, 1999

*Lee Breuer's J.M. Barrie adaptation, Peter and Wendy, Jan. 29-Feb. 21, 1999 (at the Florence Schwimley Little Theatre)

*Steve Mackey and Rinde Eckert's Ravenshead, March 5-April 4, 1999 (at the Florence Schwimley Little Theatre)

*Lillian Garrett-Groag's The Magic Fire, March 19-May 7, 1999

*Writer-performer Geoff Hoyle's new work May 14-July 10, 1999.

For Berkeley Rep information, call (510) 845-4700.

-- By Kenneth Jones

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