About Central Works

Marvin Greene* and Catherine Castellanos* in Blessed Unrest, 2008 (photo: David Allen)

Central Works’ mission is to enrich the cultural environment of our community through the collaborative development and production of new plays for the theater. We are “The New Play Theater.”

  • We write, develop, and produce world premieres, offering our community daring, intimate productions at affordable prices.
  • We bring local theater artists together as partners in the creation and development of challenging new works, while maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and excellence.
  • We think globally, and act locally:  we make plays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua Schell in RICHARD THE FIRST, 2012 (photo: Jim Norrena)

“Central Works probably sets the highest standard in the Bay Area for consistently intelligent, provocative and relevant drama.” —Huffington Post

For more than a quarter century, Central Works has played a vital role in its community; we support local artists while bringing affordable, provocative world premiere plays to Bay Area audiences. Now in our 27th season, we develop challenging new works by local playwrights. Each season, 60 or more artists, workers and volunteers participate as we perform for approximately 4,000 patrons in our unique 50-seat home at the Berkeley City Club.

Central Works fills a special niche for theater artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. We produce more new plays by local playwrights than any other company in the region. Having established a distinctive environment equally inviting to writers, designers and performers, our goal is to create a unique theatrical experience for artists and audience alike. “Central Works is a gem-like Berkeley institution that goes on renewing itself,” Berkeley Daily Planet.

  • In the fall of 1990, Jan Zvaifler and Søren Oliver founded Central Works as an actor-driven ensemble. The company produced its first collaboratively developed new play in 1997. Since then, current co-directors Gary Graves and Jan Zvaifler have produced 37 world premieres using a distinctive process, the Central Works Method.
  • The company established residency at the Berkeley City Club in 2002.
  • Five years later, in 2007, the East Bay Express named Central Works “Best Small Theater Company—consistently smart, thought-provoking, and unflinching: theater for people who want to stretch their brains and have their assumptions challenged.”
  • In 2009, the Wilder Green Art Fund awarded Central Works a grant of $30,000 to support the company’s New Play Program 2010–2012, a three-year initiative to develop and produce nine world premiere plays utilizing the Central Works Method. The following year, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation contributed an additional $20,000 to the program.
  • In 2010, The Huffington Post declared, “Central Works probably sets the highest standard in the Bay Area for consistently intelligent, provocative and relevant drama.”
  • In 2011, Central Works received the Paine Knickerbocker Award for outstanding achievement from the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Four BroadwayWorld San Francisco awards followed, including “Best New Local Play” (Reduction in Force by Patricia Milton).
  • In 2012, Central Works presented a Central Works Method Trilogy; RICHARD THE FIRST, Parts 1, 2, 3, performed in rotating rep with two sold out 8-hour marathon days. It was described in the Huffington Post as “an extremely rare theatrical event which offers a severely limited number of lucky people the chance to get the biggest bang for their theater-going bucks.”
  • In 2013, the SFBATCC nominated two out of three plays in the Central Works 2012 season for “Best Original Script.” Mesmeric Revelation by Aaron Henne went on to win for “Best Original Script” and “Best Sound Design” by resident designer Gregory Scharpen.
  • In 2014, the company garnered four more Critics Circle nominations for its 2013 season, including “Best Original Script” for our first Central Works Method musical, Red Virgin, a Central Works Method Play. With the introduction of the Theatre Bay Area Awards in May, both of Central Works subsequent productions received “recommended” recognition along with 3 TBA award nominations.
  • In 2015, Central Works 25th anniversary season, every production received “Recommended” recognition by the TBA awards, following with another 8 nominations, including “Outstanding Production of a Musical,” “Outstanding World Premiere Musical,” (for Project Ahab, our 2nd musical) and “Outstanding World Premiere Play.” Patricia Milton’s play, Enemies: Foreign and Domestic, a product of the Central Works Writers Workshop, which opened our 25th season, garnered that final award over all of the companies in the Bay Area. Central Works also 3 received nominations from the SFBATCC for its 2014 productions, including “Original Script” for Dracula Inquest by company Co-director Gary Graves.
  • In 2016, Enemies: Foreign and Domestic by Patricia Milton was nominated by the SFBATCC in 3 categories: “Original Script,” “Entire Production, East Bay” and “Entire Production, Bay Area.” Theater Bay Area named Central Works as finalists in 6 categories, including “Outstanding Production of a Play” for Ada and the Memory Engine by Lauren Gunderson.

At Central Works, we take risks. We fearlessly embrace edgy, controversial issues; “Thought provoking theater not to be missed!” – Pat Craig, Bay Area News Group. We are committed to developing and producing challenging new works with talented local artists, while maintaining affordable admission prices. We are “The New Play Theater.”

 

Marissa Keltie and Theo Black in A Man’s Home…, 2011 (photo: Jay Yamada)

Gary Graves
Company Co-director
gary@centralworks.org

Jan Zvaifler
Company Co-director
jan@centralworks.org

Vanessa Ramos
Production Stage Manager
vanessa@centralworks.org

 

Tammy Berlin
Resident Costume Designer

Deb Fink
Artistic Associate

Patricia Milton
Resident Playwright

John Patrick Moore
Artistic Associate

Gregory Scharpen
Resident Sound Designer

Debbie Shelley
Resident Prop Designer

 

Dennis Edds
Administrative Volunteer

Cheshire Isaacs
Website Design

Robin Valerie Low
Box Office Manager
centralworks@um.att.com

Patricia Milton
Social Media Director

Jim Norrena
Photographer

Kendra Lee Oberhauser
Program Design Specialist

Guenet Sebsibe
Patron Services Manager
centralworks@um.att.com

 

This website was made possible with the generous support of:

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Linda Schieber
Board President

Peter Klehm
Secretary

Jeffrey Price
Treasurer

Board Members:
Deborah Fink
Gary Graves
John Harris
Sherry Smith
Jan Zvaifler

Central Works produces new plays utilizing three basic strategies: (1) some plays are developed using the Central Works Method, (2) some are developed in the Central Works Writers Workshop, an ongoing commissioning program where twice a year, in 12-week sessions, 8 local playwrights are selected to develop projects through informal readings and carefully directed discussions, and (3) some come to the company after being developed elsewhere.

The Central Works Method is a method of collaborative play development. Though only one writer, the playwright, actually does the writing in this method, all the “collaborative partners” (the director, the actors and a few others, in addition to the playwright) are involved in the development of the script from its inception.

THE POINT OF DEPARTURE: We begin with a story, a “foundational narrative” of some sort. It can come from anywhere: a myth, an historical event, an existing short story, a classic play, any source. The writer proposes a story he or she wants to treat in the form of a play. We agree on a director. We set an opening date for the production, and we’re off. The director assembles a cast. The whole team—writer, director, actors (and maybe a few others, like our resident sound designer, Greg Scharpen)—the whole team assembles for the first workshop.

WORKSHOPS: There are ten 3-hour workshops, spaced out over approximately 6 months (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter); this is the development phase of the project. In these ten workshops, we begin by collectively researching the subject matter, we brainstorm, we problem solve, we analyze the issues involved, we uncover themes and related ideas. We follow the news. Everyone brings in anything of interest: books, articles, DVDs, music, personal experience, special experts or guests who might be able to attend workshop meetings, maybe even a field trip!—anything related to the subject matter in any way is welcomed into the formative mix.

SCRIPT SESSIONS: At some point in the workshop schedule, usually around the fourth or fifth meeting, the playwright begins to bring written material into the group as the script evolves. The actors read their roles and the group discusses the material in dramaturgical terms. What seems to be working? What doesn’t? And why? We reason it out together. More brainstorming.

THE WORKSHOP DRAFT: The minimum objective of the workshop process is a complete first draft of the play by the last meeting. Sometimes playwrights complete second, third, or even subsequent drafts before the last workshop. Sometimes they don’t. But nothing has a way of focusing a playwright’s imagination (the entire partnership’s imagination) like an opening date. The fact is, you never really know what you’ve got with a new play till you open it. And run it.

THE RUN: There is no substitute for the crucible of rehearsal, opening, and run, when it comes to new play development. You need to see the play grow and settle in performance before you can tell what it really is, how audiences react to it, where it still needs work, and when you’ve got a hit on your hands. This is just one way to make a play. It takes a special set of circumstances, and, above all, a very special team. But we’ve had a lot of success with it.

 

The Lion and the Fox workshop:
(top image) Vanessa Ramos, Jan Zvaifler, Benjamin Stowe, Gregory Scharpen
(lower image) Gregory Scharpen
(Photos: Jim Norrena)

PLAYWRITING PROGRAMS – SUMMER 2017

June – September

with Gary Graves, Company Co-director

WRITERS GROUPS

These programs are intended to assist playwrights at all levels of experience with the development of their scripts in the context of a writers group.  Writers meet regularly, present their work in readings, and respond constructively to one another’s works-in-progress.  All meetings are held at the Berkeley City Club.

MONDAY GROUP: 10 meetings, 2 hours each, Mondays, 12 noon to 2pm: June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, Aug 7   Cost: $200.  SPACES OPEN

PLAYWRITING WORKSHOPS WITH STAGED READINGS

These programs are for playwrights who are interested in an intensive developmental workshop schedule of meetings followed by a staged reading of the work in an open workshop setting. Writers all participate as readers in workshop presentations. Summer Workshops/Series of Readings are limited to 8 writers/8 projects.

WORKSHOP & STAGED READING SERIES 1 (at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre): 8 workshop meetings, 7pm to 10pm, Tuesdays: June 20, 27, July 11, 18, 25, Aug 1, 8, 15, and a showcase of new work presented over 5 days, Aug 16-20, at the Rep School.  7 SPACES OPEN Click here to learn more

WORKSHOP & STAGED READING SERIES 2 (at Central Works): 6 workshop meetings, 10am to 2pm, Saturdays: July 15, 22, 29, Aug 5, 12, 19, and a showcase of new work presented over 5 days, Aug 30-Sept 3, at Central Works.  FILLED    

Contact Gary Graves (gary@centralworks.org) with questions about playwriting programs at Central Works.

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GARY GRAVES is a director and playwright living in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Since 1998, he has been a company co-director of Central Works in Berkeley, California, where he has overseen the development of over 50 world premiere productions.  He holds an MFA in Playwriting from Southern Illinois U., a Ph.D. in Dramatic Art from U.C. Berkeley, and he has been teaching playwriting at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre for 15 years.

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ACTORS

If you’d like to be a part of the development and production of a new play at Central Works, give the Central Works Method a careful read, and then send us your picture and resume at centralworks@um.att.com or P.O. Box 9771, Berkeley CA 94709.  We’ll keep your materials on hand for consideration in future projects.

WRITERS

We’re always looking for writers.  But please don’t send us a script you want us to produce.  If you’re an experienced playwright, and you think you might like to develop a play with us, give the Central Works Method a careful read, and then contact us at gary@centralworks.org with a proposal.

VOLUNTEERS

Would you like to be a part of Central Works?  We always need volunteers to help in the box office, ushering, or ESPECIALLY at our mailing parties.  Just contact us and let us know how you’d like to help.

Maggie Mason and Brian Trybom in Pitch Perfect, 2013 (photo: Jim Norrena)