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Carpenter and Grassle Lead Aurora Theatre's JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN, 4/8-5/9

Aurora Theatre Company continues its 18th season with Henrik Ibsen's rarely-produced masterwork John Gabriel BORKMAN, in a new version by David Eldridge. Aurora Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Barbara Oliver, who directed the company's hit production of Ibsen's The Master Builder, returns to helm this fiercely relevant drama, featuring Bay Area stage veteran James Carpenter (The Master Builder) in the title role, and stage and television actress Karen Grassle (Little House on the Prairie) in her Aurora debut.

Also featured are Karen Lewis, Jack Powell, Lizzie Calogero, Pamela Gaye Walker, and Aaron Wilton. John Gabriel BORKMAN plays April 2 through May 9 at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley. For tickets ($34-55) and information the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit

The Borkman family fortunes have been brought low by the imprisonment of John Gabriel Borkman, who used his position as a bank manager to speculate illegally with his clients' money, ultimately losing the financial investments of hundreds of people. After serving eight years in prison for embezzlement, Borkman has spent the last five years making plans for a comeback, pacing alone in an upstairs room. Meanwhile downstairs, his estranged wife and her sister vie for the loyalty of Borkman's only son. Written in 1896, and recently revived at London's Donmar Warehouse to great critical acclaim, Ibsen's penultimate play, hailed as a "magnificent" work of art by The Guardian (London), and called "riveting" by The Independent (London), reveals a family confined by an inescapable, unappeasable past, in a pointed indictment of capitalism, selfish ambition, and greed.

Aurora Theatre Company has assembled an extraordinary ensemble of company veterans and newcomers for John Gabriel BORKMAN. James Carpenter returns to Aurora Theatre Company in the title role as John Gabriel Borkman; he previously appeared in the company's acclaimed productions of The Master Builder (directed by Barbara Oliver), The Birthday Party, and The Homecoming, and has appeared in productions at American Conservatory Theater, TheatreWorks, Marin Theatre Company, and San Jose Repertory Theatre. Now in his tenth year as an Associate Artist at California Shakespeare Theater, Carpenter was most recently featured in the company's production of Romeo and Juliet. He has appeared in over 30 productions during his 12 years as an Associate Artist at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where he most recently appeared in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Other regional credits include productions at The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, and Huntington Theatre Company, among others. He is the recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle 2007 Barbara Bladen Porter Award for consistent excellence in theatre.

Broadway and television veteran Karen Grassle makes her Aurora Theatre Company debut as Gunhild Borkman in John Gabriel BORKMAN. Best-known for her eight-season turn as Caroline "Ma" Ingalls on the hit NBC television series Little House on the Prairie, Grassle is an accomplished stage actress with credits on Broadway and beyond. She appeared on Broadway in The Gingham Dog, for which she was nominated for a Tony, and in Butterflies Are Free. Additional credits include productions at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she was a company member for six years, the Tony Award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Shakespeare and Company, Pasadena Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, TheatreWorks, California Shakespeare Theater, and SF Playhouse, among others. Grassle is the founding Artistic Director of Resource Theatre Company in New Mexico.

Karen Lewis makes her debut at Aurora Theatre Company as Ella Rentheim. In addition to performing on and Off-Broadway, her regional credits include productions at American Conservatory Theater, Magic Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where she has appeared in over 50 productions.

Jack Powell returns to Aurora Theatre Company as Vilhelm Foldal in John Gabriel BORKMAN. For Aurora, Powell previously appeared in The Philanderer and Widowers' Houses (directed by Barbara Oliver), The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, and Split. Additional credits include productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Center REPertory Company, Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Marin Shakespeare Company, and the National Shakespeare Company, among others.

Lizzie Calogero makes her Aurora Theatre Company debut as Frida Foldal. Credits include productions with San Francisco Mime Troupe (Red State), Center REPertory Company, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, SF Playhouse, Magic Theatre, and New Conservatory Theatre, where she appeared in the World Premiere of Terrence McNally's Crucifixion. Calogero has also appeared in productions at Women's Will, of which she is a founding member.

Making their debuts at Aurora Theatre Company are Pamela Gaye Walker as Mrs. Wilton and Aaron Wilton as Erhart Borkman. Pamela Gaye Walker's credits include productions at TheatreWorks, Zephyr Theater (Los Angeles), and Victory Gardens (Chicago). Aaron Wilton's credits include productions at San Jose Repertory Theatre, Willows Theatre Company, and B Street Theatre.

Aurora Theatre Company founding Artistic Director Barbara Oliver returns to the company to direct John Gabriel BORKMAN. Oliver's Aurora directing credits include last season's acclaimed production of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple, the Professional World Premiere of Ellen McLaughlin's The Trojan Women, the West Coast Premiere of Ice Glen, Ibsen's The Master Builder, and Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation of The Persians. For Aurora Theatre Company, Oliver has also directed Seascape, The Belle of Amherst, Shaw's The Man of Destiny, Saint Joan, The Philanderer, Candida, Mrs. Warren's Profession, and Widowers' Houses, and World Premieres of Ira Hauptman's Partition, LeClanche Du Rand's Transcendental Wild Oats, and Dorothy Bryant's The Panel. She is the recipient of several Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, including the first Barbara Bladen Porter Award, as well as Drama-Logue awards for The Show Off and Dear Master. An accomplished Bay Area actress, Oliver has appeared in Aurora Theatre Company productions of The Chairs, The Gin Game, Holiday Memories, Bailegangaire, La Castrata, The Aspern Papers, and Dear Master. An instrumental figure in Bay Area theatre, Oliver stepped down from her role as Artistic Director at the end of the 2003-04 Aurora Theatre Company season.

Playwright David Eldridge's works for the stage include John Gabriel Borkman (a new version of a play by Henrik Ibsen), The Wild Duck (a new version of a play by Henrik Ibsen), Summer Begins (Donmar Warehouse); Market Boy (Olivier/National Theatre); Festen; Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness, Under the Blue Sky (Royal Court Theatre); MAD, Serving it Up (Bush Theatre); A Week With Tony, Fighting for Breath (Finborough Theatre); Babylone; Falling; Thanks Mum; and Dirty.

Playwright Henrik Ibsen is considered one of the greatest writers of 19th-century Norwegian literature, and is generally acknowledged as the founder of modern prose drama. In his plays, Ibsen focused on characters rather than situations, creating realistic dramas of psychological conflict. Ibsen's work is divided into three periods, the first ending in 1877 with the successful appearance of The Pillars of Society; the second covering the years in which he wrote mostly dramas of protest against social conditions, such as Ghosts (1881); and the third marked by the symbolic plays, including The Master Builder (1892), John Gabriel BORKMAN (1896), and When We Dead Awaken (1899). Other works by Ibsen include Peer Gynt (1867); The Emperor and the Galilean (1873); A Doll´s House (1879); An Enemy of the People (1882); and Hedda Gabler (1890). Ibsen continued to write until a stroke in 1900.

Following John Gabriel BORKMAN, Aurora Theatre Company closes its 18th season with the Bay Area Premiere of Stephen Karam's innovative comedy Speech & Debate, directed by Robin Stanton in June.

Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theatre. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, Aurora Theatre Company has been called "one of the most important regional theaters in the area" by the San Francisco Chronicle, while The Wall Street Journal has "nothing but praise for the Aurora." The Contra Costa Times stated, "perfection is probably an unattainable ideal in a medium as fluid as live performance, but the Aurora Theatre comes luminously close," while the San Jose Mercury News affirmed "[Aurora Theatre Company] lives up to its reputation as a theater that feeds the mind," and the Oakland Tribune declared "it's all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora."

DATES: Previews: April 2, 3, and 7 at 8pm; April 4 at 2pm
Opens: April 8, 2010
Friday Forum: Friday, April 23 - Taking Responsibility for Individual Choices
Script Club: Monday, April 26, 7:30-8:30pm - All My Sons by Arthur Miller
Stimulus Recovery: Friday, May 7 - John Gabriel Borkman's Family and Fortunes
Closes: May 9

SHOWS: Tuesdays at 7pm; Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm and 7pm

WHERE: Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA

TICKETS: For tickets (Previews $34; Regular Performances $34-45; Limited Opening Night Seating $55) the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit Student, senior, and group discounts available.

Photo of Karen Grassle and James Carpenter in John Gabriel Borkman. Photo by David Allen.


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