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.

In November, Mary Zimmerman presents an alluring adaptation of The Arabian Nights. The Tony Award-winning creator of Argonautika and Metamorphoses made her career by reanimating ancient myths; now she breathes new life into the legend of the 1,001 nights.

In January, it's the world premiere of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), an elegant comedy written by Sarah Ruhl and staged by Associate Artistic Director Les Waters.Following their national success with Eurydice, this prominent pair reunites to consummate another play of love and longing, commissioned by Berkeley Rep.

Then Sharon Ott directs a gripping production of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic Crime and Punishment. Performed with only three actors, this chamber piece compresses all the tension and pathos of the novel into 90 minutes of powerful theatre – under the sure hand of Berkeley Rep's former artistic director, who returns for the first time since leading the company to a Tony Award in 1997.

And, in April, Waters unleashes another vicious comedy from Martin McDonagh, the Academy Award-winning author of The Pillowman and In Bruges. Like all of McDonagh's work, The Lieutenant of Inishmore employs explosive dialogue and a perfectly oiled plot that is brutal, bloody, yet irresistibly funny.

You, Nero ends the season in place of the play originally scheduled in the seventh slot: Berkeley Rep has postponed its production of David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face and hopes to present that show in the fall of 2009 before touring it to other cities.

For its 40th birthday, Berkeley Rep launched an innovative series of initiatives to make theatre a luxury everyone can afford – and these new traditions will continue in the 2008/09 Season. The audience can enjoy free pre-show tastings with local culinary artisans, 30-minute docent talks before every Tuesday and Thursday performance, events like 30 Below and night/OUT that draw a new generation of theatregoers, and a local, organic, sustainable menu that offers delicious intermission treats and pre-show delights for discriminating palates. Even better, Berkeley Rep will retain its new pricing policy that lets more people experience the best theatre in the Bay Area. These ticket prices make Berkeley Rep more affordable to people in the community who are just starting school, starting careers, and starting families – because lower prices are now available for every performance.


Born in a storefront on

College Avenue, Berkeley
Rep has moved to the forefront of American theatre – and is still telling unforgettable stories. Founded in 1968 by Michael Leibert, the Theatre quickly earned respect for presenting the finest plays with top-flight actors. In 1980, with the support of the local community, Berkeley Rep built the 400-seat Thrust Stage where its reputation steadily grew over the next two decades. It gained renown for an adventurous combination of work, presenting important new dramatic voices alongside refreshing adaptations of seldom-seen classics. In recognition of its place on the national stage, Berkeley Rep was honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1997. The company celebrated by unveiling a new 600-seat proscenium stage in 2001, the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre. It also opened the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, a permanent home for its long tradition of outreach and education programs. The addition of these two buildings transformed a single stage into a vital and versatile performing arts complex, the linchpin of a bustling Downtown Arts District which has helped revitalize Berkeley. In four decades, four million people have enjoyed more than 300 shows at Berkeley Rep, including 50 world premieres. The Theatre now welcomes an annual audience of 180,000, serves 20,000 students, and hosts dozens of community groups, thanks to 1,000 volunteers and more than 400 artists, artisans, and administrators. In the last three years, Berkeley Rep has helped send five shows to New York: Bridge & Tunnel, Brundibar, Eurydice, Passing Strange, and Taking Over.


Berkeley Rep is located on

Addison Street
in downtown Berkeley, close to BART and AC Transit bus lines. This year of fearless theatre is supported by BART and Wells Fargo, the official sponsors of Berkeley Rep's 41st season. For more information, call the box office at 510.647.2949 or toll-free at 888-4-BRT-Tix – or simply click


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