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InsidBayArea.com, October 2006

 

In South Berkeley, all the neighborhood's a stage

-- By Chad Jones


YOU'VE heard of community theater, well, Shotgun Players and playwright Marcus Gardley are taking that notion a step further.
With "Love Is a Dream House in Lorin," they're turning an entire neighborhood — the neighborhood outside their theater, as a matter of fact — into a piece of theater.

More specifically, they're looking at the history and people of South Berkeley's Lorin District, from the Ohlone Indians to the building of the Ashby BART station.

The world-premiere production is in previews today and Saturday and opens Sunday at the Ashby Stage.

With a cast of 30, and working from an original script developed by Gardley, this is probably Shotgun's most ambitious production to date.
Taking a cue from Cornerstone Theater in Los Angeles, director Aaron Davidman (artistic director of Traveling Jewish Theatre), puts residents up onstage alongside actors to help tell stories stretching back to the mid-19th century.

Among the stories collected by Shotgun's group of core artists are a young Japanese woman who moved back to the street her grandparents lived on before they were uprooted to internment camps; an elderly African-American woman whose family left the segregated South to find prosperity in California during the shipping boom; and a 19-year-old man struggling to find some sanity in his drug-riddled neighborhood.

Shotgun artistic director Patrick Dooley says when his company moved into the Ashby Stage, which began life as the Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Congregation, there was a strong desire to learn more about the neighborhood.

"We wanted to learn more and create a production that truly is community theater: both by telling a story about the community and by involving its members in the development and production itself," Dooley explains. "Creating work that starts a conversation about important issues in a community will allow us to process, explore and celebrate our vast diversity before it creates a greater divide."




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