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Central Works reopens March 19 with Escape from the Asylum by Patricia Milton!  (Download PDF)

World Premiere #67: Escape From the Asylum
written by Patricia Milton and directed by Gary Graves

CENTRAL WORKS begins its 32nd season on Mar 19 with the world premiere of a madcap mystery Escape From the Asylum written by Patricia Milton from the Central Works Writers Workshop. Patricia Milton’s Escape From the Asylum is directed by Gary Graves running Mar 19–Apr 17 at the historic Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley. Central Works is committed to premiering new works inspired by social issues, contemporary texts, and history. This 32nd season continues in the summer with Dreaming in Cuban a new adaptation by Cristina García of her celebrated novel, directed by Gary Graves, Jun 25–Jul 24. And fall brings a new comedy from the Central Works Writers Workshop The Women’s Annex written by Mildred Inez Lewis, Oct 15–Nov 13. (Performances Thur & Fri 8pm, Sat 7pm, Sun 5pm)

“Physicians in Victorian times insisted that about twenty-five percent of all women suffered from hysteria. In England and the U.S., families used ‘madness’ as an excuse to lock up women who were not mentally ill, but fed up, unconventional, openly liked sex, or wanted political power. Women today who have similar traits are often marginalized as ‘crazy’ or ‘trainwrecks.’ ” –Patricia Milton

In 2019, Central Works premiered an award winning play by Patricia Milton, The Victorian Ladies Detective Collective–three determined “lady” sleuths fight crime and prejudice in Victorian London. Now they’re back at it! A famous female explorer has been committed to Belfry, a notorious asylum for the mentally ill. Has her unscrupulous husband had her falsely committed just to gain her fortune? The intrepid lady detectives are on the case! Escape From the Asylum features Chelsea Bearce, Alan Coyne, Danielle O’Hare and Jan Zvaifler. This production has stage management by Natalia Rivera Ramos, costume design by Tammy Berlin, prop design by Debbie Shelley and sound design by Gregory Scharpen.

Patricia Milton (playwright) is a Resident Playwright for Central Works and a long-term member of the Central Works Writers Workshop. Plays written for Central Works include: Bystanders (audio play produced in 2020), The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective (2019), Bamboozled (2018 Outstanding Production; Ensemble; Finalist, Outstanding World Premiere Play, TBA Awards), Hearts of Palm (2016), Enemies: Foreign and Domestic (2015), and Reduction in Force (2011). She is a recipient of the 2015 Outstanding World Premiere Play by Theatre Bay Area for Enemies: Foreign and Domestic. The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective was presented by the International House of Theatre outdoors in Copenhagen in July 2020. Her comedy Believers has enjoyed productions in Monterey and San Francisco, and played for three years in Istanbul, Turkey. Her drama about the death penalty, Without Mercy, was presented at the Newfoundland Women’s Work Festival and was produced in 2017 by Off Broadway West Theatre Company in San Francisco. Upcoming at New Conservatory Theatre is an audio version of her comedy The Law of Attraction, commissioned by NCTC. Ms. Milton has had more than one hundred productions and readings of her plays both locally and internationally, including at 3Girls Theatre, San Francisco Exploratorium, PlayGround SF, Woman’s Will, Women’s Theatre Project, Bay Area One Acts, and City Lights Theatre. She is Northern California Regional Rep for The Dramatists Guild, and produces a monthly podcast for the Central Works Script Club.

Central Works: The Company
For over three decades Central Works has filled a special niche for theater artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, producing more new plays by local playwrights than any other company in the region. “The New Play Theater” utilizes three basic strategies: some are products of the Central Works Method, some are developed in the Central Works Writers Workshop, and some come to the company fully developed.

Central Works Method plays bring together writer, actors and director at the very outset of the playwriting process. In a supportive workshop environment, group research and collective brainstorming contribute to the entire development of the script.

The Central Works Writers Workshop is an ongoing commissioning program established in 2012. Twice a year, in 12-week sessions, 8 local playwrights are selected to develop projects through informal readings and carefully directed discussions. Last season, both Cristina García’s King of Cuba and Patricia Milton’s Bamboozled emerged from this program, followed by two more this season. For more information, visit our website:

Company co-directors Jan Zvaifler and Gary Graves remain steadfast in their mission to develop and produce new works. “New plays are the lifeblood of the theater,” says Ms. Zvaifler. “We look at current events, politics, classic literature and traditional storytelling to bring our audience face to face with the challenges of our lives everyday, juxtaposed against the reflections of history, both recent and far-reaching. Given our current harrowing times, we all need an opportunity to pause, feel, think and act.” The special intimacy of the Central Works theater offers this in a truly unique package.