BRT@40: A theatrical timeline

In celebration of Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s 40th anniversary season, which officially opens Sept. 5 with Heartbreak House, here’s a timeline featuring key moment’s in the company’s journey toward becoming one of the nation’s most vital regional theaters.

A theater is born. Michael Leibert’s production of Woyzek at the International House on the UC Berkeley campus is a hit, so he rents a storefront at 2980 College Ave. and transforms it into an 85-seat theater. This is BRT’s home for the next 12 years.

BRT stages the first of what will become 44 world premieres (and counting): Pigeon, Pigeon, a one-act by John Chioles.

Mitzi Sales begins an 18-year tenure as BRT’s managing director.

People start to notice Berkeley’s little storefront theater with the “Summer of Shakespeare, Sheridan and Shaw,” which proves to be popular.

World premiere of Dracula, A Musical Nightmare, written by two company artists, Douglas Johnson and John Aschenbrenner.

Joe Spano plays Hamlet and captures some national attention. Leibert’s revival of The Iceman Cometh sells out.

Tenth anniversary season begins with world-premiere comedy called Rep! and a board of directors is formed.

BRT breaks ground on its new theater on Addison St., which will come to be known as the Thrust Stage. The theater opens in …

The 400-seat theater opens with a successful production of Galileo.

Albert Takazauckas directs Heartbreak House, the Shaw play that will become the only play to be produced in each of the theater’s four decades.

Leibert departs the office of artistic director. Joy Carlin septs in as acting AD for a year. BRT teams with Milwaukee Rep to present Mamet’s American Buffalo. Geoff Hoyle makes the first of many (and counting) appearances on the Thrust Stage.

Sharon Ott is named the new artistic director, a position she will hold until 1997.

Philip Kan Gotanda begins a long association with BRT when Ott directs the world premiere of Yankee Dawg You Die.

Tony Taccone joins the staff as associate artistic director. Mary Louise-Parker stars in Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss.

Justine Bateman (of “Family Ties” fame) stars in Ott’s staging of Lulu and attracts a stalker who shows up at the theater with a gun.

Sales departs and Susie Medak steps in as managing director.

BRT presents its first commissioned play: McTeague: A Tale of San Francisco. Tony Kushner’s The Illusion kicks off a long (and counting) relationship with the writer who will return frequently to BRT.

Stephen Wadsworth’s An Ideal Husband becomes a huge hit.

BRT presents Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles: 1992 at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Mary Zimmerman makes her first (of many and counting) trip to BRT with Journey to the West.

BRT receives the regional theater Tony Award. Taccone is named artistic director.

Mabou Mines’ Peter & Wendy and Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses run at BRT and become take their places as two of the most beautiful shows ever seen in the Bay Area (OK, that one is highly subjective but I stand fully behind the statement).

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in BRT’s Closer.

BRT opens the 600-seat Roda Theatre and unveils the new Berkeley Rep School of Theatre.

Taccone’s production of Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul extends for five weeks, playing more performances than any show in Berkeley Rep history.

Les Waters signs on as associate artistic director. Taccone’s staging of David Edgar’s two-part Continental Divide becomes the company’s first coproduction with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Berkeley resident Rita Moreno makes her first of several (and counting) appearances at BRT in Terrence McNally’s Master Class.

BRT hosts Taccone’s workshop of Bridge & Tunnel by the extraordinary Sarah Jones. The show will go on to win a Tony Award for its star. The theater also premieres The People’s Temple, a piece of documentary theater abut the Rev. Jim Jones and the massacre at Jonestown.

And that, more or less, brings up to date.
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One thought on “BRT@40: A theatrical timeline

  1. We’re trying to find the rights to perform the 1974’s Dracula: A Musical Nightmare, but are having a hard time finding contact information or publisher on this. Can you help me out with any information?


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