Berkeley Repertory Theatre recently launched The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. The Ground Floor will promote artistic research and development by supporting theatrical start-ups and artistic research and development for established artists. Funded in part by The James Irvine Foundation and ArtPlace, Berkeley Rep will be using a vacant warehouse at its new West Berkeley campus to house rehearsal halls, intimate studios and possibly even housing for visiting artists. The new program is led by Berkeley Rep’s resident dramaturg Madeleine Oldham (who will serve as director of The Ground Floor), Berkeley Rep’s associate managing director Meghan Presman (who will serve as managing director) and artistic associate Mina Morita. It kicks off with a summer residency lab in July 2012. Visit berkeleyrep.org/about/groundfloor.
There’s That ArtPlace Again
Two San Jose arts organizations will receive $500,000 each from ArtPlace, a unique private-public initiative of 11 foundations working with the National Endowment for the Arts and seven federal agencies. Zero1 and 1stAct Silicon Valley will be using the monies to continue the transformation of the downtown South of First Street arts district (SoFA). This comes on the heels of the announcement in August of a grant of $250,000 to the same two organizations from NEA’s inaugural round of Our Town funding to help the arts and local governments create distinctive identities of communities. Funds from both programs will work together in transforming the area that anchors the south entrance to downtown San Jose.
A nationwide initiative to drive revitalization in cities and towns announced this September, ArtPlace integrates artists and arts organizations into local efforts in transportation, housing, community development and job creation. 1stAct plans to use the grant monies to turn Gore Park at William and South First streets into an urban plaza that would create an outdoor living space for San Jose Stage Company, MACLA, City Lights Theater Company and the multitude of small museums and arts galleries that populate the area. Zero1 will be moving into the SoFA district with the creation of the Zero1 Garage (an allusion to the birthplace of Hewlett-Packard), billed as a place where real-world challenges can be met head-on by the principles of artistic creativity.
In San Francisco, Intersection for the Arts also received a $777,000 grant, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre received $750,000 that it is using toward its new works program, The Ground Floor (see “BRT R&D”, above).
$11.5 million in 34 locally initiated projects from Honolulu to Miami made up the first round of grants, and ArtPlace has initiated its second funding cycle. Submissions may be made through November 15. For more information about ArtPlace, visit artplaceamerica.org. —Lee Kopp
ODC Welcomes ED
ODC has announced the appointment of Victor Gotesman as executive director of the company. Gotesman has worked in arts management for over 25 years. Highlights of his career include serving as president and cofounder of the Center for Creative Resources, at which he consulted on dozens of arts projects; tenure as managing director of Jaffe Holden Acoustics; six years as president of Theatre Projects Consultants; and five years as executive director of the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.
A Not-So-Grim Fairy Tale
The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Opera San Jose a $25,000 grant to support its one-act touring opera based on Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, in addition to other educational programs such as history seminars, lectures and vocal and drama master classes.
Arts educator and actor Rachel Robinson was recently hired as the new conservatory director at Willows Theatre. Robinson has recently moved from New York, where she worked at a number of East Coast theatre training programs, including Stage Left Children’s Theatre, Imagination Stage and Long Lake Camp for the Arts. She will continue to expand Willows’s outreach and education programs.
Will Plié for Money
Ballet San Jose has been awarded a Fellowship Initiative grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet. The curiously specific $13,545.35 award will support the development of new choreography in a studio setting by helping fund a 10-day development workshop led by choreographer Dalia Rawson. Rawson will work with nine dancers and explains, “My goal for the workshop is to incorporate improvisation into our creative process and to combine floor work and acrobatics with classical ballet in order to push the dancers and myself beyond our usual vocabulary.” She ultimately hopes to develop the movement explored in this workshop into a story ballet based on Egle, Queen of Serpents, a fairy tale that explores human-to-reptile and human-to-tree shape shifting.
Arts Council Silicon Valley is accepting applications for its Community Arts Fund and Regional Arts Fund grants programs. The grant application process will now be strictly online, and guidelines and instructions can be found at artscouncil.org or by calling (408) 998-2787. The Community Arts Fund provides support of up to $4,000 to Santa Clara County arts, cultural and community organizations. Emerging groups do not need IRS tax-exempt status to qualify. The application deadline is March 2012. The Regional Arts Fund provides general operating support to arts organizations in Santa Clara County with budgets between $100,000 and $2,000,000. The RAF provides grants to a maximum of $5,500, $9,000 or $10,000, depending on the size of the organization. The application deadline is February 2012. Application workshops will be scheduled to help first-timers through the process. —Lee Kopp
Executive director/director of education Jerry R. Foust has departed Berkeley Playhouse after three successful years with the company. In that time, he has guided the merger of Berkeley Playhouse with the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, formed a combined board, merged resources and created a new staffing model. Under his tenure, audiences have grown from 12,000 to over 30,000 per year, and the budget has grown to nearly $1.5 million. Foust will be relocating to Chicago but will continue to consult with Berkeley Playhouse through this season.
Director, stage manager and theatre educator Lynda Bachman has been named the new casting director of Berkeley Playhouse, the job recently vacated by Melissa Hillman. Bachman moved to the Bay Area from Boston after receiving her B.A. in theatre arts education from Brandeis University and has served as director of theatre arts at Ramah in Wisconsin, where she directed musicals and developed and taught theatre curricula for students aged 10 to16.
Theatre Bay Area has announced the recipients of its October theatre CA$H Grants. Individual artist grantees include performer/director Christine Marie for Signaling Arcana, a 3D shadow theatre collaboration with composer Dan Cantrell; solo performer Thao P. Nguyen for Fortunate Daughter; director Rebecca Novick for Erik Ehn’s genocide play Dogsbody; writer/producer/performer Khamara Pettus for the radio variety podcast 915 Cayuga; and playwright Elizabeth Spreen for The Laurette Taylor Experience, about the actress who originated the mother’s role in The Glass Menagerie. Organizations receiving grants include AlterTheater Ensemble for its new works development program, AlterLab; Just Theater for its New Play Lab; and Mugwumpin for Future Motive Power, its devised work about Nikola Tesla.
PlayGround has announced the third round of its New Play Production Fund, which will distribute at least $25,000 to Bay Area theatres in 2012 for full productions of local playwrights’ work originally commissioned by PlayGround. In addition to the many short plays created by its pool of playwrights every month, the company has commissioned 34 full-length works to date, with seven more under way for its Best of PlayGround Festival in May, and the funds are designed to support works that have not yet premiered in full productions. Productions must be between August 2012 and July 2013. The deadline for applications is December 5, and selected theatres and productions are to be announced December 15. Guidelines and applications are available at playground-sf.org/productionfund.
At the close of the 20th annual San Francisco Fringe Festival in September, 17 of the 44 participating acts were chosen for Best of the Fringe awards. This year SF Fringe decided to do away with awarding shows by category. “We decided to award the artists on the basis of purely good work,” says Exit Theatre artistic director and festival producer Christina Augello. This year’s local awardees include Phoenix Arts Association’s Afield, Catherine Debon’s Alma Colorada, Gregory Kloehn’s Elite Waste, Lorraine Olsen’s Lorraine Olsen Is Figuratively Speaking, Dirty Swan Projects’ Quatre-Vingt-Quatre, Sarah Lau’s The Secret Adventures of Fat Woman & Remedial Girl, Kurt Bodden’s Steve Seabrook: Better Than You, The Crew's Submarine and Genevieve Jessee’s Girl in, but Not of, the ’Hood. Eight out-of-town acts were also selected.
Dancers in the Limelight
What do dancers do when they retire? Some branch out into new careers in theatre. Case in point: Three major dance talents are being showcased in Bay Area theatres this season. Dance legends Rita Moreno and Mikhail Baryshnikov star in plays at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, while former San Francisco Ballet ballerina Muriel Maffre has found a home for her project The Soldier’s Tale at the Aurora Theatre. Maffre is working with multiple collaborators including Aurora artistic director Tom Ross, who will codirect with her. “Muriel is a brilliant dancer,” says Ross. “She has a keen sense of theatricality that is an optimal quality for a piece like this that synthesizes actors, musicians, dance—and in our case a puppet—to tell a story that plays out like drama.”
The Soldier’s Tale was originally workshopped by Aurora in 2010 and has now evolved into an interpretation of the 1918 Stravinsky score that will be read, played and danced. While Stravinsky is best known for his score The Rite of Spring, many choreographers, including George Balanchine, have been inspired to create dances for The Soldier’s Tale. The piece has a libretto by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz and is based on a Russian folktale about a soldier who makes a deal with the devil by trading his fiddle for a book that tells the future. It’s an antiwar tale with Faustian overtones.
Maffre and Ross are engaging four musicians to play a reimagined arrangement of Stravinsky’s score by Jonathan Khuner. The production also features a musical collaboration with the cutting-edge chamber music collective Earplay, directed by Mary Chun. Pocket Opera founder Donald Pippin translates the Ramuz libretto, and actors L. Peter Callender and Joan Mankin join Maffre onstage.
With so many collaborators, it’s hard to imagine how the production will take place on the Aurora’s intimate stage. “The dance in this piece is three solo dances,” says Ross. Maffre dances as well as acts as a puppet master. Ross believes that the intimacy of Aurora’s space will only add to the power of Maffre’s dancing and choreography. —Kathryn Roszak