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.”
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.
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)
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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 developing script is read around the table, 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.
with Gary Graves, Company Co-director
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.
NEXT MONDAY GROUP: TBA
FALL SATURDAY GROUP: 12 meetings, 3 hours each, Saturdays, 11am to 2pm: 9/1, 9/8, 9/15, 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20 and 4 hours each, Saturdays, 10am to 2pm: 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17. FILLED
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.
NEXT WORKSHOP WITH STAGED READINGS: TBA
Contact Gary Graves (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about playwriting programs at Central Works.
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.
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 email@example.com or P.O. Box 9771, Berkeley CA 94709. We’ll keep your materials on hand for consideration in future projects.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with a proposal.
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)