Aurora Theatre, Berkeley
Global Age Project, Aurora Theatre

Berkeley’’s acclaimed Aurora Theatre Company announced the directors for the company’s sixth Global Age Project (GAP) festival of new works: Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director chose Allen McKelvey, M. Graham Smith, Jonathan Spector, and Tracy Ward to sit on this year’s GAP Director’s Council. Over the next several weeks, the directors, along with Ross, will select finalists from an international pool of play submissions dealing with global age concerns. Four plays will be chosen to be presented as staged readings during the GAP festival, scheduled for February of 2011. The GAP festival will coincide with the company’s fully-staged World Premiere of 2010 GAP finalist Allison Moore’s new comedy, Collapse, the second main stage production to develop from the GAP.

Deadline for play submission was August 1, 2010. The competition was open to playwrights from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Each of the four finalists will receive a $1,000 award and their work will be considered for further development and production during Aurora Theatre Company’s regular season; out of town artists will receive travel and accommodation expenses. Finalists will be announced in early December 2010.

Allen McKelvey founded the AmeRican CitiZeNs’ TheatRE, which garnered numerous Bay Area awards for excellence in directing, technical achievement, and performance under his artistic direction. Additional directing and design credits include productions at Encore Theatre Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, B Street Theatre in Sacramento, and the radio drama Path to the New Music for the American Baroque Ensemble.

M. Graham Smith, Artistic Director of Precarious Theatre, returns to Aurora Theatre Company for a second season as GAP producer. He has directed productions at the Walnut Theater in Philadelphia and the HERE American Living Room series in New York City. Bay Area credits include Yerba Buena Garden’s Festival, Bay Area Playwright’s Festival, American Conservatory Theater’s Masters program, EXIT Theatre, Asian American Theatre Company, Playground, BRAVA, Berkeley Playhouse, Golden Thread, and New Conservatory Theatre, and Ray of Light Theatre. He teaches in American Conservatory Theater’s MFA program.

Jonathan Spector is the Co-Artistic Director of Just Theater. He is a former Associate Artistic Director of Playwrights Foundation, and has developed new plays with writers including Marcus Gardley, Sharyn Rothstein, Sheila Callaghan, Erin Bregman, Thomas Bradshaw, Rachel Axler, Julia Jarcho, Madeleine George, Madelyn Kent, and Peter Morris; he also co-created and directed a new work for Muwmumpin. He spent four years in New York as a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, The Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, and a frequent collaborator with the Obie-winning company The Civilians.

Tracy Ward’’s recent directing credits include The Horses by Brian Thorstenson at AlterTheatre, The Shaker Chair by Adam Bock at Shotgun Players/Encore Theater, JUANA, a new opera by Carla Lucero at Theatre Artaud, and the critically-acclaimed, award-winning production of Hunter Gatherers by Peter Nachtrieb at Thick House. Other directing credits include productions at Theatre Rhinoceros, Lunatique Fantastique, Word for Word, Oakland Public Theatre, Z Space, and the Summer Plays Festival New York City. Upcoming productions include the National Tour of Strega Nona with Active Arts/Maximum Entertainment.

Also returning is GAP Associate Producer Deborah Taylor. Taylor has worked in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York as a producer and actor for the last 12 years. Most recent producing credits include the Broadway productions of American Idiot and La Cage Aux Folles starring Kelsey Grammer. Additional producing credits include Killer Joe at Magic Theatre, NuWerks at Marin Theatre Company (Producing Director), and The Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, where she started the Zephyr Reading Series and produced the West Coast Premieres of Allison Moore’s Slashed and The Last Schwartz by Deb Zoe Laufer.

Allison Moore’s Collapse, which originated as one of the GAP finalists this past season, is the second GAP World Premiere. Director Jessica Heidt, as well as the original GAP cast, Aldo Billingslea, Gabriel Marin, Carrie Paff, and Amy Resnick, will all reprise their roles for Aurora’s main stage production. The play will also be seen by a national audience as part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, a collaboration between Aurora Theatre Company, Curious Theatre in Denver, and Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas.

The Global Age Project is a discovery and developmental vehicle established to encourage playwrights to address life in the 21st century and beyond. Seeking forward-thinking work from both established and emerging playwrights, the festival provides a development opportunity for plays that directly respond to our complicated present and our possible future. Writers were encouraged to submit works that explored and/or examined the changing state of human relationships in this new century; submissions did not need to be about science or technology. The company also encouraged submissions that transcend traditional forms of theater presentation.

Over the past five years, the GAP has established an astounding track record for nurturing new playwrights. During the first year, Dan Hoyle’s early draft of Tings Dey Happen was a GAP prize-recipient and received its first public showing at Aurora Theatre Company; since then, the show has gone on to become a huge success in New York and San Francisco, where it won the Glickman Award. Laura Jacqmin, whose play Happyslap was a GAP prize-recipient during the festival’s second year, recently won the Wasserstein Award for an outstanding script by a young woman who has not yet received national attention. Additionally, playwright Zayd Dohrn, whose play Sick was a 2008 GAP prize-recipient, garnered the first Sky Cooper New American Play Prize at Marin Theatre Company. Our Dad is in Atlantis by Javier Malpica, translated by Jorge Ingacio Cortiñas, was published in its entirety in American Theatre Magazine following its GAP reading in 2008. Joel Drake Johnson’s The First Grade received its World Premiere last season; it originated as a GAP finalist and is the first main stage production to develop from the Global Age Project.

Aurora Theatre Company opens its 19th season in August with Alice Childress’ stunning Trouble in Mind, starring Bay Area favorite Margo Hall and directed by Robin Stanton. Acclaimed solo performer David Cale returns to the Bay Area in October with the Bay Area Premiere of his new one-man play Palomino. In January, Aurora Theatre Company presents the second main stage production to develop from its Global Age Project, the World Premiere of Allison Moore’s Collapse, directed by Jessica Heidt. In honor of Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday, Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross helms Williams’ rarely-produced stage gem The Eccentricities of a Nightingale in April. Closing the season is the first American professional production of British director David Farr and Icelandic actor-director Gísli Örn Gardarsson’s thrilling avant garde adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, directed by Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson in June.

Nominated for 27 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for 2009, Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theater. 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” and “a must-see midsize company” 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.”

Monica Turner
Contributor to Stark Insider for tech, the arts and All Things West Coast for over 10 years.