This July, 40 of the nation's most prominent and promising writers, directors, and composers will be in residence at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in a new laboratory for collaboration. Today, the renowned nonprofit announced 13 selections for the inaugural summer lab at The Ground Floor, Berkeley Rep's Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. During an intense four-week period, dozens of artists will live, dine, create, and collaborate at the Theatre's new campus in West Berkeley. Seed money for these activities is provided by a $1 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation's Artistic Innovation Fund and a $750,000 grant from ArtPlace.
Residencies ranging from four days to three weeks have been awarded to local, national, and International Artists including Julia Cho, David Edgar, Amy Freed, Marcus Gardley, Madeleine George, Jessica Goldberg, Rinne Groff, Lauren Gunderson, Danny Hoch, Naomi Iizuka, Erin Kamler, Kathryn Keats, Carson Kreitzer, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Dan LeFranc, Ellen McLaughlin, Michael Mitnick, Richard Montoya, Itamar Moses, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Lynn Nottage, Dominic Orlando, Greg Pierotti, Amelia Roper, Erika Chong Shuch, Octavio Solis, Heidi Stillman, and Meiyin Wang.
Joining them to work on projects at The Ground Floor are directors, designers, musicians, and performers such as Matthias Bossi, Dexter Bullard, Brian Carpenter, Nils Frykdahl, David Warren Keith, Leigh Silverman, Tony Taccone, Eric Ting, Mark Valadez, and Beth Wilmurt – as well as dozens of local and out-of-town actors.
"It's tremendously exciting to gather so many artists of this caliber in one place at one time for one purpose: to make art," says Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. "This is a huge leap for us. We've been commissioning and developing plays for years – 61 world premieres at last count. By launching The Ground Floor we're transforming our approach to creating new work, and devoting more time, space, and resources to this part of the artistic process. The summer lab brings all these efforts under one roof right here in Berkeley. I can't wait."
The Ground Floor, Berkeley Rep's Center for the Creation and Development of New Work, is a bold new initiative designned to raise the bar on the Tony Award-winning nonprofit's already successful record of artistic innovation. Think of it as an incubator for theatrical start-ups or a top-notch R&D facility for artists. The Ground Floor promotes cross-pollination among artists and champions the spirit of innovation inherent to Berkeley and the Bay Area.
This new program became possible when Berkeley Rep united all its preproduction activities – its costume shop, prop shop, scene shop, and offices – at a spacious campus in West Berkeley. The Theatre is transforming a vacant warehouse on that site into a vibrant new creative center that will ultimately include rehearsal halls, intimate studios, and perhaps even housing for visiting artists. The result will be a dynamic home for play creation – an organic and energetic environment for artists where they can live, develop work in a flexible setting, challenge each other to expand the boundaries of theatre, and intersect with the public to create community. The leaders of this effort are Madeleine Oldham, Berkeley Rep's resident dramaturg and director of The Ground Floor, and Meghan Pressman, Berkeley Rep's associate managing director and managing director of The Ground Floor.