In a downsizing world, Aurora Theatre Co. expands!

At this bleak moment in history, when it seems the roof is crashing down on arts organizations all around us, it’s refreshing to hear about on theater company literally knocking down a wall and expanding.

Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company, a 17-year-old troupe known for its intimate, highly literate productions, has announced plans to expand its downtown theater space.

On Jan. 12, the Aurora will officially break through the wall connecting its current space to an adjacent space, which will house a new rehearsal space, readings, workshops of new productions, offices for artistic staff and increased set-building space.

News of the expansion comes halfway through the Aurora’s $2.1 million capital campaign. The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust of New York City announced its support of the campaign with a $200,000 grant, which will help underwrite the development of new work as well as he adaptation of large-scale classics, endeavors which the expanded space will also help to make possible.

The Aurora began life at the 67-seat drawing room in the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club. In 2001, the Aurora moved to its 150-seat theater in downtown Berkeley on the same block as Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s two stages and Jazzschool.

“It’s remarkable to me that in its 17 years, Aurora Theatre Company has grown from a single theater production produced in a room where women once played cards into a thriving Bay Area institution that continues to grow, both artistically and once again physically,” said Tom Ross, the Aurora’s artistic director, in a statement. “This is the next logical step in our development. The impact of the new space will be strongly felt by the artists who work here as well as our audience.”

The project, which was ended up being the last project for the late acclaimed theater designer Gene Angell (and his partner Brian Rawlinson), is set for completion in the summer of 2009. The expanded space will be named The Nell and Jules Dashow Wing in honor of donors Deborah and Leo Ruth, who have chosen to name the wing after Deborah’s parents.

Now at the Aurora is The Coverlettes Cover Christmas, an original musical revue about a fictitious ’60s girl band celebrating the season. Darby Gould (of Jefferson Starship), Katie Guthorn (A Karen Carpenter Christmas) and “Star Search” winner Carol Bozzio Littleton, star. The show continues through Dec. 23.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org for information.

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