The Ground Floor

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Funding Received: 2011
Berkeley, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 18, 2011

Berkeley Repertory Theatre tackles vacant industrial district to prove once again that art can bring new life to cities.

Last year, Berkeley Repertory Theatre realized a dream. It acquired a gorgeous new campus, where its staff – previously scattered across multiple locations in two cities – could work together under one roof for the first time in 30 years. We are only beginning to discover the benefits of this incredible new facility, for our theatre and for the community as a whole. It’s going to be a vibrant place, welcoming artists from every discipline and encouraging them to develop new work. Think of it as an incubator for theatrical start-ups or a top-notch R&D facility for artists.

Just as Berkeley Rep made an impact when we moved into a new theatre space downtown over twenty years ago, we hope that our move to Harrison Street will initiate positive community changes as well. This is an industrial district, which the city has identified as needing attention. In recent years, some businesses have been struggling or closing. There are a lot of vacancies in the vicinity. Just across the street from our campus, there’s a post office that fills an entire block and has been closed for a number of months and grows derelict. The neighborhood is really lacking an anchor tenant that will help tie together the community.

Madeleine Oldham, our literary manager, will play a leading role in launching the center:

"The center will allow us to at long last develop work at home, in our own space, allowing our artists to connect with the culture of both our organization and our city, and allowing our staff to interact with our artists and the work much more directly. We believe that the art we make will benefit exponentially from this cross-pollination - both of artists with each other during our summer lab, and among our year-round visiting artists, BRT staff, and the larger community of Berkeley.”

So we have high hopes. We’re aiming to attract new and exciting artists to our center for innovation, but we’re also hoping that all this creative activity will strengthen our community by attracting businesses, increasing neighborhood vibrancy, and drawing more visitors to the area. Working together with the city, cultural organizations, entrepreneurs, and local residents, we can create a more livable community.