Two alumni and one faculty member are hitting “The Ground Floor” running at the Berkeley Rep this summer. Out of about 400 applications, two Creative Writing alumni and one lecturer have had their projects chosen for summer residency lab at The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work.
This initiative is designed to raise the bar on the Tony Award-winning company’s successful record of artistic innovation. It seeks to enhance and expand the processes by which Berkeley Rep makes theatre, by supporting commissioned artists and developing shows for the season, as well as The Ground Floor’s flagship program, the Summer Residency Lab.
Alum Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is working with performer Danny Scheie on an interactive theatre experience titled A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion, which takes the audience through an eccentric couple’s mansion, and tells the story of the couple’s journey toward their mysterious isolation from the outside world.
Nachtrieb, the Mellon Playwright-in-Residence at Z Space, expects a reading of the new play will be performed there in spring 2016. Nachtrieb (M.F.A., Creative Writing, ’05). He says his time as a student at San Francisco State helped him to open his mind to new ways of approaching theatre. “[Students are] given permission to find your own path,” he says.
Paula Vogel Playwriting Award winner Christopher Chen will work along international film and theatre director Mei Ann Teo on a collaborative retelling of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India as a contemporary fable that serves as a meditation on perception and power. Chen (M.F.A., Creative Writing, ’08) is “reimagining the story and themes as part of a minimalist fable” as well as infusing a more modern feel into the characters.
Playwriting Lecturer Anne Galjour will work on the third installment of her Alligator Tales series, which chronicles the lives of three Cajun families through hurricanes, oil spills and other disasters, natural and man made, in the Gulf Coast. Berkeley Rep produced the series’ first play, Hurricane, which Galjour credits with launching her theatre career, in 1993. She is very excited about the opportunity to work with that theatre again, this time on the tentatively titled Alligator Ball.
She says The Ground Floor offers the chance to “rediscover my characters and go deeper into the work. Not from a form of docudrama or journalism, but from the inside. From the poetry of my culture, the poetry of a landscape that is disappearing.”
The Ground Floor program is made possible by a $1 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation’s Artistic Innovation Fund, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts: ArtWorks, Bank of America and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. More than 300 artists working on 45 projects have participated since the lab’s inaugural year of 2012.—Lynn Brown
- Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Ground Floor
- Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
- Christopher Chen
- Anne Galjour
- Creative Writing Department
Anne Galjour. Photo by Kawakahi Amina.