The $54,000 grant will allow for extra rehearsal time for the 2009 production, to be directed by Les Waters, who worked with Ruhl on the acclaimed Eurydice.
Berkeley Rep commissioned the comedy from MacArthur fellow Sarah Ruhl. The show's working title had simply been The Vibrator Play. Waters is Berkeley Rep's associate artistic director and is an Obie Award winner.
In the Next Room, according to Berkeley Rep, "illuminates the lives of six lonely people seeking relief from a local doctor — but, despite his expertise with a strange new technology, all they really need is intimacy. It's a tender tale that takes place in the twilight of the Victorian age, a comedy lit by unexpected sparks from the approaching era of electricity, equality, science, and sexuality."
The show will begin previews in the Roda Theatre on Jan. 30, 2009, open on Feb. 4, and play through March 15.
"I am thrilled to continue collaborating with Sarah," Waters remarked, "and enormously grateful to the Edgerton Foundation. This award provides us with the rare luxury of an extended rehearsal period for a new play. Sarah has become one of the country's most important writers, and I'm honored that Berkeley Rep has played a vital role in her career. I trust that our work on Eurydice and this new commission are only two steps in a long and fertile relationship." The Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, according to the July 28 announcement, "is given to select theatres that have demonstrated a strong and consistent track record of producing new work. In the last three years, the Foundation has disbursed more than $1.4 million to noted theatres across the nation. By guaranteeing extra rehearsal time for a promising new play, the program aims to deliver a stronger first production and thereby increase the chances that a script will enjoy continued life and become a mainstay of the American repertoire. For Waters, who is renowned for collaborating with emerging and established authors on new plays, this is the second production honored in this way: earlier this year, his world premiere of Stephen Greenblatt and Charles Mee's Cardenio also earned an Edgerton grant."
In addition to the New Play Award, the Edgerton Foundation supports the environment, global security, and important institutions in Los Angeles.
"We want to encourage and thank the theatres that are taking on the risk of producing new plays," stated Dr. Brad Edgerton, co-director of the foundation along with his wife, Louise. "We hope that this extra rehearsal time with the whole creative team in place, including the playwright, will help these excellent plays become great plays destined for future productions."
The last time Waters and Ruhl teamed up in Berkeley, they created Eurydice, which went on to New Haven and New York and made the year's Top 10 list in The New York Times and Time Magazine.
Ruhl's plays include The Clean House, Dead Man's Cell Phone, Demeter in the City, Eurydice, Late: a cowboy song, Melancholy Play, Orlando and Passion Play: a cycle.
For more information about Berkeley Rep, call (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix or visit berkeleyrep.org.