BERKREP_MAR15

In late 2011, Berkeley Rep launched The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. The Ground Floor is part of an ambitious initiative that is transforming vacant buildings in West Berkeley into a vibrant campus where local and international artists from diverse disciplines can collaborate. By championing the spirit of innovation inherent to the Bay Area, Berkeley Rep also seeks to strengthen the community by bringing jobs to West Berkeley, attracting energetic new businesses, drawing visitors to the area, and increasing neighborhood vitality.

ArtPlace spoke with Meghan Pressman, managing director of The Ground Floor, about the benefits and pitfalls of collaboration:

Collaboration is at the heart of all of our work at Berkeley Rep. One of the toughest things about collaboration is that even if you are committed to the same thing and share the same values, everyone comes to the table with a different personal agenda. The challenge of working together is that you have to be able to find that place where all the agendas merge. And where the differences are minimized.

At this stage in our process of expanding our program and facilities, we are heavily involved in both our own negotiations with the city staff over our building plans, as well as supporting local businesses in their negotiations with the city over revisions to the West Berkeley Plan. We have found that it has been immeasurably helpful to be active in these important community initiatives, as they serve not only to strengthen the community in which we live and work, but also serve to expedite our own process. We don’t always have the same interests, but we all care about the vitality of our neighborhood and that is truly where our agendas merge and the differences are few.

We learn a lot about collaboration from our artistic process and we can take those lessons with us as we build new relationships externally. Here are the top 5 pearls of wisdom about collaboration from Madeleine Oldham, director of The Ground Floor and resident dramaturg for Berkeley Rep’s mainstage productions:

1. Practice mental yoga: it’s important to have your own strength, but maybe the most important thing is to cultivate flexibility.
2. Somebody once said that it’s not about what you say; it’s about when you say it. I believe this.
3. There will always be someone you don’t like, and right as you get comfortable feeling superior, they’ll bust out with a brilliant idea. Never fails.
4. Keep in mind there is always more than one right answer.
5. Anything can be said, and should be, no matter how hard, if it’s said in the right way.

-Meghan Pressman

PHOTO: Currently in production at Berkeley Rep, David Chandler portrays renowned painter Mark Rothko in the Tony Award-winning play Red. Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

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