Tony Taccone, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Tony Taccone, the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, has been selected to receive the prestigious Margo Jones Award. This honor recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a significant impact, understanding, and affirmation of the craft of playwriting and who has encouraged the living theatre everywhere.

When the award is presented on October 12 at Berkeley Rep, Taccone will join the illustrious company of past winners such as Edward Albee, Jane Alexander, André Bishop, Anne Cattaneo, Gordon Davidson, Christopher Durang, Jon Jory, John Lion, Lucille Lortel, Lynne Meadow, Gregory Mosher, Marsha Norman, Joseph Papp, Bill Rauch, and Lloyd Richards. The Margo Jones Award is bestowed annually by the Ohio State University Libraries and OSU Arts and Humanities.

“All the sparkling, descriptive words and phrases we use to define the legacy of Margo Jones – impact, understanding, affirmation, encouragement, commitment to the craft of playwriting, encouragement of new writers — are woven into Tony’s inspiring and creative work at Berkeley Rep,” said Deborah Robison, a member of the awards committee. “We are happy, in Margo’s name, to be honoring and celebrating his significant contribution to the theatre.”

“I consider it a privilege to have enjoyed a long and prolific career in the theatre,” Taccone said. “In addition to generous helpings of luck, success in this field depends on spectacular collaborators – and the archetypal collaborator for anyone in regional theatre, the standard-bearer of our movement, was Margo Jones. She was committed to creating art for her community while simultaneously crafting new work that would speak to a larger audience across the nation and across time. So it is an honor to receive this award, a compliment to be considered alongside so many other accomplished artists, and a tribute to all the collaborators who helped Berkeley Rep reach its present level of achievement.”

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Margo Jones was an influential director and producer best known for creating the model for the American regional theater movement. The co-director of the original Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, in 1947 she made the decision to create a theatrical life away from the lights of New York City and established the nation’s first professional regional theatre company in Dallas. She staged 85 plays there, including 57 new works such as William Inge’s Farther Off from Heaven, Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, and Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Inherit the Wind. Although her professional accomplishments were cut short by her untimely death in 1955, the pattern Jones created for developing theatre works became a standard for producing new plays.

The Margo Jones Award celebrates her work in support of theatre: her pioneering efforts in the development of professional regional theatre, her tireless championing of new plays, and her nurturing of new playwrights. The award was established in 1961 by Lawrence and Lee, and has been administered by the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at the Ohio State University since 1993. Additional support for the award is made possible by a bequest from Jones’ colleague J.B. (Tad) Adoue III.

Tony Taccone has served as artistic director of Berkeley Rep since 1997. During his tenure, the Tony Award-winning nonprofit has earned a reputation as an international leader in innovative theatre and an incubator of new plays. In those 15 years, Berkeley Rep has presented more than 60 world, American, and West Coast premieres and sent 18 shows to New York, two to London, and many more on tour. Next year, the company will take a show to Asia for the first time when its production of Chinglish heads to Hong Kong.

As a director, Taccone has staged more than 35 plays at Berkeley Rep, including new work from Culture Clash, Rinde Eckert, David Edgar, Danny Hoch, Geoff Hoyle, Quincy Long, Itamar Moses, and Lemony Snicket. In the last decade, seven shows developed in Berkeley landed on Broadway, including two that he directed: Sarah Jones’ Bridge & Tunnel and Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking. He directed the productions that transferred to London as well: Continental Divide at the Barbican and Tiny Kushner at the Tricycle Theatre.

Before coming to Berkeley Rep, Taccone served six years as artistic director of San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre, where he commissioned Tony Kushner’s legendary Angels in America. He went on to co-direct its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum, and has collaborated with Kushner on seven projects including Berkeley Rep’s Brundibar, which featured designs by beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak and played off Broadway.

Taccone’s directing credits also include numerous shows at other respected regional theatres such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Arizona Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre Group, the Guthrie Theater, Hartford Stage, the Huntington Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Last season, Taccone turned his hand to playwriting and debuted Ghost Light and Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup.

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