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Berkeley Rep's THE GROUND FLOOR Returns

Research and development facility for theatre invites artists for ninth Summer Residency Lab.

This morning, Berkeley Rep's Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer announced the return of The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep's Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. Thirteen projects from 29 talented artists across the Bay Area have been selected for its Summer Residency Lab.

As part of an extraordinary laboratory for collaboration, some of the Bay Area's most prominent and promising theatre makers will unite at the Theatre's Harrison Street campus and virtually over an intense four-week period to exchange ideas, incubate new theatrical work, and build artistic community.

Residencies have been awarded to Debórah Eliezer in collaboration with Vidhu Singh, Noor Adabachi, and Cynthia Ling Lee (Burning Wild); Bennett Fisher (Cry Havoc); Denmo Ibrahim and Kate Bergstrom (Beyond the Ocean's Edge); Josh Kornbluth (The Bottomless Bowl); Jeffrey Lo (Delano Love Song); Leigh M. Marshall (The Rosaline Play); Ashley Smiley, Margo Hall, Sean San José, and Joan Osato (Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad); Ari'el Stachel and Tony Taccone (Untitled); Madison Wetzell and Ciera Eis (Untitled: Faust on 4Chan); Dawn L. Troupe, Jeff Liu, and Adrienne Shamszad (Riding the Light); Erika Chong Shuch, Ryan Tacata, and Rowena Richie (The Welcoming); Chris Steele, Sean Owens, NJ Bice, and Nic Candito (Gaslit: A Trans Drag Parody); and Molly Van Der Molen (Never Sink River).

"Theatre isn't meant to be made in isolation," says Madeleine Oldham, director of The Ground Floor. "Connecting with our local artistic community feels not only right, but essential after such a long period where we couldn't be together. The Bay Area has such a vibrant creative pulse, and we are so excited that The Ground Floor can play a small role in getting our collective blood flowing again."

Artists and projects selected for the ninth annual Summer Residency Lab:

· Debórah Eliezer, Vidhu Singh, Noor Adabachi, and Cynthia Ling Lee - Burning Wild: How does climate disaster affect our sense of belonging? Burning Wild, created by Debórah Eliezer in collaboration with Vidhu Singh, Noor Adabachi, and Cynthia Ling Lee, is a devised performance, incorporating physical theatre and dance, created in response to the California wildfires of 2020. It began as a community-gathering circle to support Northern Californians affected by the wildfires. Recent 2020 fire survivors themselves, Debórah and Noor draw from their lived experience using personal stories of their relationship to home and placemaking from the Middle East to the Bay Area told through devised text, song, movement, documentary video, and puppetry to tell a collaged docu-myth about the land, displacement, trauma, and renewal, offering artists and audiences an opportunity for resilience, hope, and community healing in a time when a prolonged megafire season is an annual occurrence.

· Bennett Fisher - Cry Havoc is a dark comedy inspired by the attempted kidnapping of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. A hybrid of live and digital performance, the play unfolds across a series of platforms - Zoom meetings, phone calls, texts, chan boards, social media posts, video, and more - following a group of conspirators in far over their heads. With unexpected humor and biting satire, Cry Havoc explores the allure of conspiracy theories, the rise of far-right extremist groups, and the sense of desperation created by the pandemic.

· Denmo Ibrahim and Kate Bergstrom - Beyond the Ocean's Edge: May Ziadeh, an influential feminist of the 1920s, was a prolific writer, translator, and critic of Palestinian-Lebanese descent. Fluent in nine languages, her work paved the way for the Arab Renaissance. But May suffered a deep sense of isolation during her life. An advocate for women's rights and a leading intellectual of her time, she was often undermined by her peers, being praised for her beauty alone. In love, she had many suitors but rejected them all for a man she never met. Her greatest love was with the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran - a relationship in letters maintained over 19 years and until his death.

· Josh Kornbluth - The Bottomless Bowl: The Zen Hospice Project of San Francisco was a remarkable institution - providing expert, loving comfort to people at death's door. For several years Josh Kornbluth - haunted by his father's death - spent countless hours at the hospice, first as an artist-in-residence and later as a volunteer. His experiences with numerous "residents" (as they were called), nurses, and volunteers transformed his attitudes toward both death and life.

· Jeffrey Lo - Delano Love Song: Set against the backdrop of the 1960's Delano grape strike and the formation of the United Farm Workers, Delano Love Song is a sweeping romance about Lester, a migrant farmworker and one of the early Filipino-American immigrants, and Kathy, the daughter of one of the farm owners pushing back against the mounting protests led by Dolores Huerta, César Chávez, and Larry Itliong.

· Leigh M. Marshall - The Rosaline Play: Rosaline Velasco, an A&R executive at a major music label, strikes platinum when she discovers a pair of young trap hitmakers who spin yarns about self-destruction - but when she uncovers true danger underlying the lyrics, she battles against a system that profits off of martyrdom to save her artists from themselves.

  • Ashley Smiley, Margo Hall, Sean San José, and Joan Osato - Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad is a statement and a deep-dive emotional state for the Black and Brown San Franciscans watching their home be overrun by silent harbingers of doom and sleek reflections of otherness.

· Ari'el Stachel and Tony Taccone - Untitled is a semi-autobiographical solo show about Ari'el's pursuit to understand his lifelong battle with anxiety after winning a Tony Award. It examines his identity and the years he spent hiding his Yemenite Israeli American Jewish heritage in the aftermath of 9/11.

· Madison Wetzell and Ciera Eis - Untitled Faust on 4Chan: A loose adaptation of Faust, in which jokes are very serious, things get out of hand, and the internet is a demonic Greek chorus. A young man in his Nietzsche phase makes an anonymous online joke that accidentally spawns a conspiracy theory. A YouTuber of questionable politics offers him fame, fortune, and endless entertainment to keep the conspiracy going - as a joke, of course. When his girlfriend's graduate school roommate threatens to expose him, he sends his bloodthirsty following after them.a??

· Dawn L. Troupe, Jeff Liu, and Adrienne Shamszad - Riding the Light is a musical about a brilliant young Afro-German prodigy whose love of astronomy and astrophysics offers her a deep spiritual connection to her ancestors, the universe, and ultimately her greatest self.

· Erika Chong Shuch, Ryan Tacata, and Rowena Richie - The Welcoming is devised in collaboration with 12 elders and performed live for small audiences at sites throughout San Francisco specific to each elder. A shared theme of "returning" runs through each performance and recurring motif: for example, one character's "welcoming gestures" are performed as neo-folk dances. The Welcoming serves as a theatricalized greeting ceremony that places those most vulnerable at the center of our creative embrace.

· Chris Steele, Sean Owens, NJ Bice, and Nic Candito - Gaslit: A Trans Drag Parody is an intentionally queer, trans, and feminist takedown of an accidentally impactful theatre classic: Angel Street. This immersive solo performance is told through the eyes of the unwitting ghost of Bella Manlyhands, formerly Bella D'Balle. It's a full-length solo adventure that features drag lip sync, storytelling parlour games, murderous intrigue, and edible soap.

· Molly Van Der Molen's currently untitled "Van Der Molen Project" captures the relentless, tragic, and fervently loving story of her grandparents through a series of "episodes" that culminate in an epic using non-linear narrative, American folk music, and mixed media.

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