Theater Preview: BERKELEY REP’s 2020-21 SEASON

Post image for Theater Preview: BERKELEY REP’s 2020-21 SEASON

by Jim Allen on October 24, 2020

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Virtual


As with most theater companies, Berkeley Rep’s season goes virtual. Titled Rep On-Air, it will include collaborations with Raúl Esparza, New Yorker cartoon artist Tom Toro, Pulitzer Finalist Eisa Davis, and Hershey Felder. The three projects listed below follow It Can’t Happen Here, the terrific radio play adapted from the novel by Sinclair Lewis now streaming thru Nov. 8. The productions feature the kind of innovative storytelling that speaks not only to our time, but also to the themes of hope, compassion, and connection. For more info, visit Berkeley Rep.

Hershey Felder
A Paris Love Story
Featuring the Music of Claude Debussy
Written and Performed by Hershey Felder
Directed by Stefano de’ Carli
Based on the Stage Play Directed by Trevor Hay
Livestream: Sunday, November 22, 5pm PDT (VOD plays after until November 29)

Piano Virtuoso and Actor Hershey Felder takes us on his own personal journey to Paris, live from where the story actually takes place as he explores the life and music of Impressionist composer Claude Debussy. In A Paris Love Story, Felder brings to life a visionary who proclaimed nature his religion – creating music of ravishing beauty, color, and compassion, from the sweeping “La mer” to the evocative “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” and the mystical “Clair de lune.” Join us live for a journey through the magical City of Light and its music.

The Waves in Quarantine: A Theatrical Experiment in 6 Movements
Conceived by Raúl Esparza and Lisa Peterson
Based on a stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves
Book by Lisa Peterson
Music and lyrics by David Bucknam
Additional music and lyrics by Adam Gwon
Directed by Lisa Peterson

Featuring three-time Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza, this exploration of Virginia Woolf’s innovative novel The Waves is transformed into a digital experience for our current time. The story follows the lives of six friends from first memory to the end of life, while also tracking the progress of the sun through one glorious day. The Waves in Quarantine incorporates dazzling choral music, passages from the novel itself, real-life situations of actors in quarantine, exquisite visual imagery, and more to create a truly unique work of interdisciplinary art.

Place/Settings: Berkeley 

Stories surround us everywhere, whether we can see them or not. Ten writers – including Eisa Davis, Tom Toro, Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, and Adam Mansbach – inspired by events in their own personal histories, take us on an aural adventure to specific locations around Berkeley. Audience members will receive a snail mailed surprise, lifting them out of the virtual realm and inviting them to explore the past hidden beneath the present.

The 2021 Season listed below will begin when it is safe to do so. Those renewing or purchasing a Rep 7-Play subscription will receive free access to virtual programming.


Cambodian Rock Band thrilled audiences across the country and off Broadway and now comes to Berkeley Rep! In this darkly funny, electric new play with music, a young woman attempts to piece together her family history and bring a Khmer Rouge war criminal to justice 30 years after her father fled Cambodia. With a live band playing contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies, this thrilling story toggles back and forth in time as father and daughter face the music of the past. San Francisco-born, Steinberg Award-winning playwright Lauren Yee receives her Berkeley Rep debut with Cambodian Rock Band, which was developed in our Ground Floor Summer Residency Lab. A Signature Theatre Production.

Berkeley Rep presents the world premiere musical Goddess, with a book by award-winning playwright Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play), a score by composer Michael Thurber, and conceived by director Saheem Ali. A young man returns home to the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya to marry his fiancée and step into his family’s political dynasty. But when he visits Moto Moto — a steamy afro-jazz club and the stomping ground of his youth — he finds himself drawn to a mysterious new singer. Inspired by the myth of Marimba, who created beautiful songs from her heartbreak, Goddess is infused with contemporary romance, ancient magic, and the irresistible vibes of African, jazz, and R&B music.

Three-time Tony Award nominee Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) makes his Berkeley Rep debut with his latest off-Broadway hit, Octet. Eight internet addicts gather IRL to share their stories via a transcendent score for an a cappella chamber choir and an original libretto inspired by online comment boards, scientific debates, religious texts, and Sufi poetry. More than a takedown of our smartphone addictions, Octet is a sublime and revelatory experience that asks how we can find ways to be truly present with each other. A co-production with Signature Theatre Company. Octet was commissioned and received its world premiere at Signature Theatre Company, where Dave Malloy is resident playwright.

In the world premiere of the ripple, the wave that carried me home, commissioned by Berkeley Rep and developed in our Ground Floor, Christina Anderson exquisitely evokes a story about justice, legacy, memory, and the ultimate challenge of forgiveness. Janice’s parents are prominent activists fighting for the integration of public swimming pools in 1960s Kansas. As injustice penetrates the warm bubble of her childhood, Janice grows apart from her family and starts a new life far away. When she receives a call asking her to speak at a ceremony honoring her father, she must decide whether she’s ready to reckon with her political inheritance and a past she has tried to forget. A co-production with Goodman Theatre.

In Sanctuary City two young DREAMers fight like hell to establish a place for themselves in America, the only country they know as home. Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok brings us an urgent story about the power of perseverance, the promise of safety, and the question of who is entitled to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring AwakeningHedwig and the Angry Inch) blew the roof off Berkeley Rep in 2009 with Green Day’s American Idiot. Now he returns with a captivating world premiere musical Swept Away, this time featuring a book by Tony Award-winning stage and screen writer John Logan (Red, Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!SkyfallGladiator), and music and lyrics by “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone) and multiple Grammy Award nominee The Avett Brothers. Originally scheduled for our 2019-20 season, Swept Away was necessarily postponed. Berkeley Rep is thrilled that the creative team along with Tony Award-winning actor John Gallagher, Jr. and Tony Award nominee actor Stark Sands, will all be able to join the world premiere production next spring.

Berkeley Rep welcomes back playwright Charles L. Mee and director Les Waters for Wintertime. Jonathan brings Ariel to his family’s summer house in the winter woods and plans to propose. Then his mother Maria arrives with her lover Francois, and his father Frank shows up with his lover Edmund — and soon nothing goes as planned. This exhilarating rollercoaster of a play whisks us up the peaks of romance, then down to the depths of jealous despair, never letting us forget that love, like life, is always in motion.

Leave a Comment