Central Works concludes its 25th season with a commissioned new work by local playwright Lauren Gunderson, Ada and the Memory Engine, opening October 17 (previews Oct 15 & 16), and running through November 22 at the historic Berkeley City Club. It is the story of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), countess, metaphysician, and the world’s first computer programmer. Created using the Central Works Method of collaborative play development Ada and the Memory Engine features original music composed and performed by local musical luminaries, The Kilbanes. The estranged daughter of the flamboyant and notorious leader of the Romantic Movement, Lord Byron, young Ada only knows her father through his poetry—nothing more than a haunting memory from the past. At 19 she befriends Charles Babbage and together they would imagine the future—a world where a thinking engine could not only do complicated calculations, but talk to itself, predict outcomes, and even make music. A gifted mathematician in her own right, Ada alone foresees the boundless creative potential of Babbage’s engine.
Ada and the Memory Engine is a tale of prescient technology, proto-feminism, love and engineering, and the convergent dance of art and science that would eventually create the modern world. The production is directed by Gary Graves and features Kevin Clarke*, Josh Schell, Kathryn Zdan*, and Jan Zvaifler (*member AEA), with costume design by Tammy Berlin, prop design by Debbie Shelley, sound design by Gregory Scharpen and stage management by Vanessa Ramos.
“Ada is a play I’ve been wanting to write for years,” says Ms. Gunderson. “When Central Works approached me to consider working with them on a new play, I immediately thought it was a perfect match. Their commitment to producing brand new plays, their interest in history onstage, and their flexible aesthetic and productive process meant we could make this thing together and make it something special.”
The script was created using the Central Works Method of collaborative play development. In a supportive workshop environment, group research and collective brainstorming contribute to the development of the script. The play emerges as a rich mix of group research, dramaturgical analysis and shared imagination. “The creative simmering that takes place gives a Central Works production a different brand from other more conventionally created productions…a unique style of theater not to be missed”—San Jose Mercury News.
Ada and the Memory Engine Creative Team
Lauren Gunderson (Playwright) is the 2014 winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for I and You. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), The O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, and Toil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a Playwright in Residence at The Playwrights Foundation, and a proud Dramatists Guild member. She is from Atlanta, Georgia and lives in San Francisco.
The Kilbanes (Composers) are an Oakland-based theatrical rock band who have created a performance style that blends the raucous energy of a rock show with the mesmerizing storytelling found in raw, experimental theater. The musical experiment of Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses, a songwriting duo who also happen to be married, The Kilbanes presented two original rock operas in 2012, both based on ancient Greek myths – Weightless, which won “Best of Fringe” at the SF Fringe Festival in September 2012, and The Medea Cycle, which was released as a full length record in June 2012. Featured in American Theater’s July, 2014 article, “9 Musical Theatre Writers You Should Know,” The Kilbanes have established themselves as up and coming theater composers on the west coast. “An outright revelation” – SF Chronicle.
KEVIN CLARKE* (actor) makes his debut with Central Works on this production.. His recent appearances include Antigonick and The New Electric Ballroom (Shotgun Players). Other favorite roles: Salomania (Aurora), She Rode Horses Like The Stock Exchange (Crowded Fire), Woyzeck, God’s Plot, BEARDO, Cryptogram, Death of Meyerhold (Shotgun Players) as well as the feature film TEST. He directed I Am Hamlet (Art Street Theatre) and co-directed Faust Part 1 with Mark Jackson (Shotgun). Kevin is a company member of Shotgun Players, a frequent collaborator with choreographer Chris Black and a co-founder of the performance duo Hagen & Simone with Monique Jenkinson.
GARY GRAVES (director) is a director and playwright living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1994, he received a Ph.D. in the Directing Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1998, he became a resident playwright and company co-director at Central Works.. Since then, he has overseen the development of 48 world premiere plays with the company, many of which he has either written and/or directed. Titles of plays he has written include: Project Ahab; or, Eye of the Whale, Dracula Inquest, RICHARD THE FIRST, Parts 1, 2, & 3, Machiavelli’s The Prince, The Grand Inquisitor, Chekhov’s The Duel, and Penelope’s Odyssey. He also leads the Central Works Writers Workshop, an ongoing commissioning program that develops new works. Since 2002, he has taught playwriting year-round at the Berkeley Repertory School of Theater, including the annual Summer Playwriting Workshop that develops and presents a series of staged readings of eight new plays.
JOSH SCHELL (actor) is pleased to be back at Central Works where he previously appeared in Dracula Inquest and Richard the First. He has performed at Aurora, Marin Theatre Company, SF Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire, Cutting Ball and the Eugene O’Neill Foundation among others and has understudied at Cal Shakes and Berkeley Rep. His independent film credits include For the Coyotes, The Whistler, Pleased to Meet You, The Anniversary at Shallow Creek, Before the Cabin Burned Down and Maker’s Mark. He is an alum of the University of Southern California and ACT’s Young Conservatory, is a TheatreFIRST company member, and was named “Best Actor” by SF Weekly in 2012.
KATHRYN ZDAN* (actor) previously appeared as Rachel/Balian in the Richard the First trilogy. As an actor, creator, singer, mover, teacher and director, she has worked extensively around the Bay Area with Marin Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire, CenterREP, Magic Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Cal Shakes, Livermore Shakes, and Berkeley Playhouse, among others. A Mill Valley native, Zdan received a BFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA in ensemble based physical theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. After graduate school, she performed and toured Europe with the internationally acclaimed, Amsterdam-based street theater and performance art group Warner & Consorten.
JAN ZVAIFLER (actor) is Co-director of Central Works along with Gary Graves and a founding member of the company. Her most recent acting credits include Enemies: Foreign and Domestic and Recipe with Central Works. She has also appeared onstage at the Berkeley Rep, Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, Marin Theater Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Artaud, Theatre on the Square, Young Vic (London) and twice at the Edinburgh Festival, among others. Her Central Works collaborations over the past twenty-five seasons include acting, directing and producing.