Tony-Winning Berkeley Rep Announces 1997-98 Season

Tony Awards   Tony-Winning Berkeley Rep Announces 1997-98 Season
Just 10 days after winning the 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre has announced its subscription season of productions for 1997-98.

Just 10 days after winning the 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre has announced its subscription season of productions for 1997-98.

Before leaving to run Seattle Rep, artistic director Sharon Ott gave Berkeley Rep her "parting gift:" a schedule that includes two world premieres, and productions that span South Africa, Miami and suburban London.

Here's the schedule:

Pentecost, by David Edgar, dir: Tony Taccone (Sept.-Nov. 1997)
While art historians decide whether a fresco in an abandoned church is a masterpiece, terrorists take over and have their own opinions on the matter. Taccone previously staged Pentecost at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Cast in this production are J. Michael Flynn, Julian Lopez-Morillas, Rod Gnapp and Lise Bruneau.

Evolution Of A Homeboy / Locked Down, written & performed by Danny Hoch. (Oct.-Nov. 1997)
Best known for his solo, Some People and for his appearance in Off Broadway's The Flatted Fifth this year, Danny Hoch (pronounced "Hock") will continue his look at urban, ethnic characters. [Note: This production will be performed at the Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley.] The Heiress, by Ruth & Augustus Goetz, adapting Henry James' novel, Washington Square; directed by David Wheeler (Nov.-Dec. 1997)
A young 19th century woman has good prospects, but is painfully shy and socially inept until a handsome suitor pulls her out of her shell...for a time.

Valley Song, by Athol Fugard (Jan-March 1998)
An old man and his granddaughter in post-apartheid South Africa.

The Birds, by Aristophanes, adapted by John Glore and Culture Clash. (March-April 1998)
Culture Clash, whose Radio Mambo was a lively look at the hispanic cultures of Miami, now turn their sights on Greece. When a couple of refugees decide to found their own republic, they end up residing with the birds -- and fighting off the humans below. South Coast Repertory is co producing this anarchic comedy.

Yohen by Philip Kan Gotanda, directed by Timothy Douglas; (April (April-May 1998)
An estranged couple, he African-American, she Japanese-American, try to rebuild their lives. The term "yohen" refers to an accident that happens in Japanese pottery during the firing process. [This world premiere will take place at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco.]

Skylight, by David Hare (May-June 1998)
Hare's Tony-nominated drama pits a young teacher and the former employer with who she had a long-standing affair. Politics, economics, guilt and love all rear their heads in this three-character piece.

Also on tap for the Berkeley Rep season is Alicia In Wonder Tierra, an educational touring show by Silvia Gonzalez S. [sic], directed by Miko Lee. Loosely based on Alice In Wonderland, the piece looks at Mexican folklore as a young girl learns to value her heritage.

For tickets and information on Berkeley Repertory Theatre, on Addison St. In Berkeley, call (510) 845-4700.

In January 1997, Seattle Rep artistic director Dan Sullivan announced his plan to end his 17-year tenure at the theatre in June 1996, his replacement being Ott, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. Ott announced her resignation from Berkeley Nov. 1996, at which point the search for a new head was on. On April 21, the Berkeley Rep Board of Trustees announed its choice: Tony Taccone, who has served as associate artistic director at the company since 1988. He begins his new tasks July 1.

Taccone will be only the third artistic director in the 30-year history of Berkeley Rep, which has won the 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Currently in Ashland directing Pentecost, 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.

Of Taccone, managing director Susan Medak said, "I'm delighted that Tony's fine qualities rose above the field."

When Ott resigned her Berkeley post, she said, "The great gift I received when I first arrived at Berkeley Rep was the wealth of talented artists who were in our circle of collaboration. It has been a circle of growth over the years...and it is a gift that will greet my successor in this enviable position."

"Sharon Ott has been a great artistic diector here for the past 13 years," noted Board of Trustees president A. George Battle. "She has brought this theatre to national rank, which will serve us well as we begin our national search for our next Artistic Director -- only the third artistic transition in the Rep's thirty seasons of production. We're optimistic about our future and the expansion plans we have in place, and we wish Sharon every success in Seattle."

Among the 20 plays Ott directed for Berkeley Rep (which grew to an annual budget of $5 million under her domain) were Dream Of A Common Language by Heather McDonald and Philip Kan Gotanda's Yankee Dawg You Die. Ott's final directing assignment at Berkeley Rep was Heather McDonald's An Almost Holy Picture in April, 1997.

-- By David Lefkowitz

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