Berkeley Rep to End 2008/2009 Season with 'You, Nero'

Tony Taccone, the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, announced today that the Tony Award-winning company will conclude its 2008/09 Season with the world premiere of You, Nero, a new comedy written by Amy Freed and directed by Sharon Ott, will rule the Thrust Stage from May 8 through June 21, 2009. Starring Danny Scheie as the preposterous emperor of ancient Rome, You, Nero will be produced in association with South Coast Repertory, where it debuts in January. Press notes state "It crowns an ambitious season that starts with the premiere of Itamar Moses' Yellowjackets and then brings a parade of brilliant artists back to Berkeley Rep's stage, including Delroy Lindo, Martin McDonagh, Sarah Ruhl, Les Waters, and Mary Zimmerman. This is the latest coup for Berkeley Rep: the Theatre repeatedly set box-office records in recent months while celebrating its 40th birthday – even after reducing ticket prices to the lowest level in ten years – and it has a Tony Award-winning musical on Broadway and two celebrated solo shows touring the nation".

"You, Nero is the perfect way to end the coming year, on a high note of incisive, satiric wit," Taccone remarked. "Modern American life bears a remarkable resemblance to Nero's Rome, and Amy Freed mines the parallels to wonderful comic effect. I've admired her work for quite some time and have been waiting for the right opportunity to introduce her to our audience. Since the show is being staged by Sharon – who makes up for lost time by directing two plays for us this season – it seems like the stars are aligned for this project."

"I've been pining to work at Berkeley Rep since I first started seeing shows there," Freed commented. "I love and admire the theatre. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most exciting theatres in the country, and I'm beside myself with jubilation that this day has arrived. The play is a full-throttle comedy that just exploded into my brain. It's great fun for the audience while also saying something that I passionately believe. And I wrote this part with Danny in mind – he's a terrific performer. So to see it come to fruition right here in our community is truly thrilling."

The press materials say "not only does Nero fiddle while Rome burns, he fills the Colosseum with an incendiary mix of sex and decadence. The egotistical emperor commands a washed-up scribe to create an extravaganza that flatters his regime. But to stage the script he must survive the real spectacle at the palace, where his mother, his mistress, and an entourage of eunuchs play an elaborate game of deceit and seduction. You, Nero is the third collaboration for this talented team: Freed is a Pulitzer Prize-nominee known for hilarious scripts such as The Beard of Avon and Restoration Comedy, both of which enjoyed acclaimed productions under Ott's direction. Now she lets loose the tigers on a crumbling empire obsessed with shallow celebrities, violent sports, and sensational entertainment. When Rome unravels like its reality TV, everyone wants to get in the emperor's new clothes."


This Roman romp wraps up Berkeley Rep's 2008/09 Season, an ambitious line-up of adventurous plays that combines beloved artists with the Theatre's commitment to commission 50 new plays by 2013:

The season takes flight when Taccone directs the world premiere of Yellowjackets, a provocative new play commissioned by Berkeley Rep. Set at BerkeleyHigh School and written by Berkeley native Itamar Moses, this compelling collision of race and class forces us to examine familiar surroundings with fresh eyes.

Next, renowned actor Delroy Lindo returns to Berkeley Rep with the play that netted him a Tony nomination – but this time, he's in the director's chair. Following last year's triumph with Tanya Barfield's Blue Door, Lindo takes on August Wilson's African-American epic, Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

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