Photo Flash: TINY KUSHNER At Berkeley Rep

This October, it's time for Tiny Kushner, a series of short scripts by the singular Tony Kushner. The legendary playwright returns to Berkeley Repertory Theatre to team up with Artistic Director Tony Taccone, who also staged Angels in America, Brundibar, Homebody/Kabul, and Slavs! Performed on Berkeley Rep's intimate Thrust Stage, this West Coast premiere begins previews on October 16, opens October 21, and closes November 29. The show is produced in association with the Guthrie Theater, where it debuted in May. The executive producer of the local run is the Strauch Kulhanjian Family, and the season sponsors for Berkeley Rep's 41st year of fearless theatre are BART and Wells Fargo.

"For people who think I'm an unbearably long-winded playwright, Tiny Kushner is proof that I can be unbearable in short plays as well!" Kushner remarks. "It's always a great moment for me when I have a play opening at Berkeley Rep. It means I get to spend time among the gorgeous and brilliant people of the Bay Area, torturing myself with questions about why I don't move there. And I get to work again with my great friend Tiny Taccone, oops I mean Tony Taccone - who isn't tiny in the least; his talent is gigantic! Though in fact he is considerably shorter than me."

Taccone comments, "The coolest thing about Tiny Kushner is its endless sense of surprise and delight: five little plays that show off the playwright's seemingly endless gifts with an economy that puts no pressure on the bladder. This is a man who can deliver words like food for every part of our starving bodies. And he is funny to boot. Welcome back, Tony Kushner. It's been too long."

In Tiny Kushner, the renowned playwright brings his brilliance and humor to bear in a sparkling string of one-act plays. And his gilded language is guided, as always, by an unwavering moral compass. Travel to the moon - and to the afterlife - with Laura Bush, Nixon's analyst, the queen of Albania, and a host of real-life tax evaders, all adrift in an increasingly fragile world. "A slam-bang series of five plays providing kaleidoscopic windows into the recesses of the artist's fertile mind...Tiny Kushner exists in its own imaginative realm, engaged in the process of working out the American experience without approval or condemnation," Variety avers. Don't miss these gems from a theatrical giant. Don't miss the West Coast premiere of Tiny Kushner.

A tale of two Tonys: Kushner and Taccone first collaborated on A Bright Room Called Day at the Eureka Theatre in 1987. Then Taccone commissioned the playwright's masterpiece, Angels in America, and co-directed its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in 1992. Berkeley Rep has presented five previous works by Kushner. Taccone staged Slavs! in 1996, Homebody/Kabul in 2002, and Brundibar in 2005, which featured designs by Maurice Sendak. The Theatre also produced The Illusion in 1991 and Hydriotaphia in 1998. Now it's time to get Tiny.

Tony Kushner is one of the most important and thought-provoking voices in American theatre. His many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Oscar nomination, an Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe. His plays include Angels in America, A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody/Kabul, Hydriotaphia, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, and Slavs! He also wrote the book and lyrics for Caroline, or Change, a musical composed by Jeanine Tesori. Kushner has translated and adapted the libretto for the children's opera Brundibar by Hans Krása, The Dybbuk by S.Y. Ansky, The Illusion by Pierre Corneille, and two scripts by Bertolt Brecht: The Good Person of Sezuan and Mother Courage and her Children. He penned screenplays for Mike Nichols' film of Angels in America and Steven Spielberg's Munich, and is currently working on a film about Abraham Lincoln. Kushner's books include Brundibar, The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present, and Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris, and is the subject of Wrestling with Angels, a documentary made by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock.

Tony Taccone is beginning his 13th year as artistic director of Berkeley Rep, where he has staged more than 35 shows - including world premieres by Culture Clash, Rinde Eckert, David Edgar, Danny Hoch, Geoff Hoyle, Quincy Long, and Itamar Moses. Taccone made his Broadway debut with Bridge & Tunnel, which was universally lauded by the critics and won a Tony Award for its star, Sarah Jones. This fall he returns to Broadway to direct Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking, which set box-office records at Berkeley Rep before enjoying a six-city national tour. In 2004, his premiere of Continental Divide transferred to the Barbican in London after playing the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, and England's Birmingham Rep. Taccone often works in Ashland, where he has also directed Coriolanus, Othello, Pentecost, and the American premiere of Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy. His other regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, the Guthrie, Hartford Stage, the Huntington Theatre Company, The Public Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and Seattle Repertory Theatre, as well as San Francisco's Eureka Theatre where he served six years as artistic director before coming to Berkeley.

There are no Tiny parts in this show: Taccone's cast features four actors known for their enormous talent. J.C. Cutler has performed in more than 25 productions at the Guthrie. During three seasons with The Children's Theatre Company (CTC), he appeared in Rembrandt Takes a Walk in both Minneapolis and Moscow. His other credits include Cricket Theatre, Florida Stage, Illusion Theater, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, Park Square Theatre, The Public, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Kate Eifrig has worked with Eye of the Storm Theatre, the Fifty Foot Penguin Theater, the Jungle Theater, the Guthrie, Ordway Center, the Outward Spiral Theatre Company, Park Square Theatre, and Ten Thousand Things Theater Company. Her film work includes Grown Men and Twin Cities. Jim Lichtscheidl last appeared at Berkeley Rep with Theatre de la Jeune Lune in The Miser. He has also performed with 15 Head, Brave New Workshop, Frank Theatre, the Guthrie, HBO Comedy Showcase, the Jungle Theater, Loring Playhouse, Open Eye Figure Theatre, Park Square Theatre, Ten Thousand Things Theater, Theater Latté Da, and Thirst Theater. Valeri Mudek has been seen at the Guthrie in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, with Hudson Valley Shakespeare in As You Like It and Richard III, with the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Corleone, and with Shakespeare on the Cape in Cloud 9.

Five accomplished designers also made big contributions to Tiny Kushner. Annie Smart (scenic design) has created sets and costumes for numerous theatres throughout the United States and her native England. Her credits include 13 previous shows at Berkeley Rep: Big Love, Fêtes de la Nuit, Finn in the Underworld, Heartbreak House, Honour, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Irma Vep, Passing Strange, Suddenly Last Summer, Taking Over, To The Lighthouse, Yellowjackets, and Yellowman. Anita Yavich (costume design) designed Berkeley Rep's productions of Civil Sex and The Oresteia. She received an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence for her contributions to off-Broadway shows such as Coraline, Coriolanus, Iphigenia 2.0, Kit Marlowe, Measure for Pleasure, New Jerusalem, The Orphan of Zhao, Pericles, Svejk, The Winter's Tale, and Wooden Breeks. She also designed the Broadway production of Anna in the Tropics. Alexander V. Nichols (lighting and video design) has de­signed scenery, costumes, lights, and projections for dance and theatre companies across Amer­ica, including 16 previous shows at Berkeley Rep: Civil Sex, Continental Divide, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa, Fêtes de la Nuit, The Guys, Honour, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Life of Galileo, Menocchio, Mother Courage, Ravenshead, Rhinoceros, Surface Transit, Taking Over, Yellowjackets, and Zorro in Hell. Victor Zupanc (sound design) has worked on more than 250 productions at noted institutions across America such as The Acting Company, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, CTC (where he has served as music director and composer since 1989), the Guthrie, the Jungle Theater, the Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Mixed Blood, the New Victory Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and San Diego Repertory Theatre. Marcela Lorca (movement director) has worked with BAM, the Goodman Theater, the Guthrie, Grupo del Centro, Jonathan Stone's Dinner, The Juilliard School, Long Wharf Theatre, the Missouri Repertory Theatre, Mixed Blood, National Opera of the Dominican Republic, New York University, OSF, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. The stage manager for this production is Kimberly Mark Webb.

Individual tickets start at the teeny price of $27 to ensure that more people can experience the best theatre in the Bay Area. Additional savings are available for groups, seniors, students, and anyone under 30 years of age - meaning discounted seats can be obtained for as little as $13.50. These new 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.

So give yourself a Tiny treat at Berkeley Rep! The Thrust Stage is located at 2025 Addison Street, near bus lines, bike routes, and parking lots - and only half a block from BART. For tickets or information, call (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix - or simply click berkeleyrep.org.

 

For more information, visit www.berkeleyrep.org.

Photo Credit: Michal Daniel

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