Berkeley Rep Theatre to open up downtown housing for checking out artists

AUG.31- Medak Center, Berkeley Rep artist housing
Susie Medak stands in the courtyard of the new checking out artist’s housing in Downtown Berkeley. It’s a LEED Gold setting up manufactured with viewing artists’ wants in brain. Credit rating: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

On a typical evening when a clearly show is in city at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, actors, directors and personnel devote hours rehearsing into the evening, busing again and forth among residences rented by the theater scattered about the city.

The expenses for this housing have skyrocketed in tandem with Berkeley rents about the final decade. A spending plan of all-around $300,000 has jumped to almost $2 million and, in dire conditions, the theater has had to cough up month-to-month hire as much as $6,800 for corporate-owned flats.

But the theater’s a long time-extended eyesight to home artists on its personal house is at last coming to fruition with the debut of the Medak Center this tumble. The 45-unit artist housing complicated is approximately completely ready to open up in the Downtown Berkeley accomplishing arts hub of Addison Avenue, adjacent to the fantastic firm of Aurora Theatre, Freight and Salvage, the California Jazz Conservatory and the UC Theatre.

It is named just after Susie Medak, the theater’s departing managing director, who led the team for 32 several years until eventually August. It also consists of new classrooms, a extra practical loading lender for sets, a gallery and studio place, offices, storage, outdoor courtyards and socializing place.

“Berkeley’s identity is tied up in our political activism, as properly as currently being a town that values tradition and art,” Medak mentioned Wednesday afternoon, standing within a person of the brilliant new studio residences in the setting up. “If we drop the up coming technology of artists, then what kind of town will we be 10 years from now?”

Susie Medak, who retired in August after a 32-calendar year tenure at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, poses for a portrait in just one of the new Medak Center’s studio models. “We wanted the place to be a house absent from property for the folks visiting,” she reported. Credit history: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/ CatchLight

Most persons staying at the Rep’s housing will be site visitors. However, Medak claimed 30% of the theater’s everlasting team is sourced from its annual fellowship program, which will soon have entry to suite-style residences in the housing complex adjacent to studio units for artists in shows.

The Rep is also in the early levels of deciding no matter whether it can hire out rooms to neighboring arts corporations who need to have housing or other nonprofits. Medak claimed the requests have previously began rolling in, and the Berkeley Rep hopes to offer very discounted rent if their artist schedules depart open rooms through the 12 months.

It’s sector conventional for theaters to lease housing to their hired artists for absolutely free, and although some theaters all around the region possess their qualities for housing, it’s nevertheless uncommon for this housing to be on-web-site and thoroughly integrated into the residence.

In decades earlier, Medak reported Berkeley Rep housed artists all about the metropolis they stayed at a creating in North Berkeley on Delaware Road (not so affectionately called “smell-o-wares”), squeezed into models on Regent Road and apartments on Addison Street that Medak stated were being “simply awful.” In a college town, it was also challenging for team to uncover a residence exactly where artists could relaxation quietly soon after prolonged times and evenings of rehearsal.

“I walked every single one empty developing in Berkeley for many years on the lookout for appropriate housing,” explained Medak, who never envisioned herself in the “building” sector. But she did oversee the development of the 600-seat Roda Theatre in 2001, the renovation of the 400-seat Peet’s Theatre in 2016 and the generation of the College of Theatre in 2001 for the duration of her tenure.

The Medak housing is her previous undertaking prior to leaving Berkeley Rep, and it is envisioned to welcome its initial established of fellows this tumble and browsing artists with the solid of Wuthering Heights demonstrating in November.

Pam MacKinnon, creative director of the American Conservatory Theatre throughout the bay in San Francisco, directed a exhibit at the Berkeley Rep in her former freelance occupation. Having traveled throughout the place for exhibits, she claimed a substantial component of a theater’s get the job done is making a supportive atmosphere for artists.

“It can be months and months of currently being away from dwelling, it’s inherently stressful,” MacKinnon explained. “If this housing will allow for Berkeley Rep to have far more adaptability in what they’re putting on their stages and tends to make artists feel taken care of, I feel that serves the local community.”

A studio device inside of the new Medack Center upcoming to the Berkeley Rep. Credit history: Ximena Natera for Berkeleyside/CatchLight

The COVID-19 pandemic approximately squashed the housing task

Like each individual arts establishment in Berkeley, the Berkeley Rep shuttered its doorways and halted programming when information of the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020.

In a extraordinary board assembly the adhering to month, Medak and other people weighed the existing chaos with the future of the theater.

“It was a culmination of 20 many years of arranging,” Medak claimed. “We came so close to pulling the plug, but I recognized — if we never build it now, we’ll in no way, at any time make it.”

Berkeley Rep made a decision to forge forward with funding from New York-centered Signature Financial institution, which agreed to finance the full venture. The financial institution loaned Berkeley Rep $38 million for the $26 million make, according to Medak, who claimed it was the “right project at the suitable time” for the bank as it expanded into the West Coastline. The lender has also backed Broadway-connected tasks in New York and compact theaters in San Francisco.

The combined-use developing is a exceptional venture built by Cahill Construction, dreamed up by the Berkeley Rep crew and San Francisco-dependent De Quesada Architects. It’s developed to exclusively provide artists with tranquil rooms and direct pathways to rehearsal areas with safety and privateness in intellect.

When celebrities are in city for selected productions (the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian Mckellan, the late Carrie Fisher and many others have performed at Berkeley Rep), there are covert hallways for them to vacation in and out of the room.

Mark Morrisette, facilities director for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, within a studio device at the new housing development. Credit score: Ximena Natera for Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Obtaining on-web page housing will also enormously reduce the workload for workers members who expend most of their time coordinating apartment rentals, transportation and logistics, said Mark Morrisette, facilities director for the Berkeley Rep.

“It provides us command over our place and proximity to the downtown arts district, it decreases transportation and our carbon footprint, as properly as sizeable staff time savings,” Morrisette reported.

Arts businesses in Berkeley ended up mainly ready to keep afloat for the reason that of Paycheck Defense Software (PPP) financial loans all through the pandemic. According to federal knowledge, Berkeley Rep gained between $1 million and $2 million in PPP loans from Signature Lender in April 2020.

Berkeley Rep sees the housing job as an additional way to stabilize its presence for the next several many years and let artists to keep on performing and bolstering the city’s cultural stamp. On web-site housing is also vital due to the fact the theater just cannot keep elevating its ticket charges to offset housing expenditures, Medak said, in an hard work to hold its exhibits open up to a broad audience.

“Artists are not high earners, and the town has been getting rid of artists for several years for the reason that our rents are so high,” Medak stated. “It’s in the community’s ideal curiosity to be certain that cultural businesses can thrive. If artists enable us see ourselves, what does it suggest when we really don’t have artists to do that?”

Berkeley Rep has initially prepared reside-work spaces at its Harrison Street outpost, the place personnel create sets and do other fabrication perform. The arts neighborhood in the Bay Spot is continue to healing from the wounds of the Ghostship Warehouse Hearth in Oakland, wherever 36 folks — which include a Berkeley Rep scholar — died in a blaze in an unpermitted artists’ residence. The new Medak housing, as nicely as impending tasks, have an emphasis on fire protection and abiding by setting up codes.

Ultimately, the theater hopes the Medak Heart will evolve into a hub for interdisciplinary artists with collaborations amongst a variety of arts businesses in the metropolis.

College students, low-profits residents, and homeless people today wrestle to get by in a regional housing disaster that touches just about every inhabitants. Medak explained constructing any additional kinds of housing positive aspects the larger Berkeley ecosystem, and showing that artists are a person priority in the crisis can also pave the way for new, inventive kinds of housing that serve people.

“The city bent above backwards to try out to aid us figure out how to do this,” Medak stated. “I believe each time a person of us performs with the town on a task that breaks the mould, to rethink what housing can look like, it gains the up coming project.”

The Medak Heart, which will residence artists performing at the Berkeley Rep, will open up this fall, Aug. 31, 2022. Credit score: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight