Statement on COVID-19 & Black Lives Matter

A warm hello from the Theatre Lunatico core collective; we hope that you are all safe and well.

2020 finds us all in unprecedented times. Just as we were ready to send out an update to you all on our response to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place, we woke to news of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent outrage at yet another black person brutally murdered by police officers.

Since then we have had ongoing discussions within our core company members and with our wider artistic associate community about how we should respond as artists.  We have appreciated the conversations unfolding throughout our wider Bay Area theatre community.

On May 31st, we put out the following statement through social media:

Theatre Lunatico condemns both the overt racism of violent assault and the covert racism of silent complicity. We strive to educate ourselves in how we can be part of the solution, and we work to promote theatre that confronts oppression in all its forms. We stand in solidarity and empathy with our black and brown communities. We demand change now. The world needs all of us – together we accomplish more than divided. Black Lives Matter.

Actions speak louder than words. A statement of support is not enough. Although we have consistently discussed and acted on the need to achieve greater diversity in our company, we have a lot more to do. In our programming we have prioritized stories that represent many aspects of the oppressed experience, addressing racism and misogyny and hate in our work, but we acknowledge that we need to achieve greater cultural diversity in the stories we tell.

We have created a solid body of work at Theatre Lunatico that has successfully shifted women to the centre of all our narratives, providing strong and ground-breaking roles for our female actors and achieving gender parity within our casts and crews. This work will remain essential to who we are as a company; we will additionally strive for greater intersectionality by urgently addressing racial diversity within our company.

We pledge to make constructive changes at Theatre Lunatico to increase our diversity not only within our community of actors, but also within our creative teams, and within the decision-making structures of our company.


These are the pledges that we are making for the year ahead:

  1. We will increase our core company and create a more racially diverse decision-making panel.
  2. Additionally, we will expand our board of directors, and commit to achieving greater diversity across all branches of our organization.
  3. Just as Theatre Lunatico has worked hard during its lifetime to address gender parity in our productions, we make a similar pledge to achieve greater diversity within our casts and creative teams.
  4. We are in discussions about concrete changes to the way that we program our seasons and will make additional announcements with regard to that soon.
  5. We commit to creating a safe place for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) at our auditions and in our rehearsal and performance space.
  6. We will initiate a more proactive process to support and recruit BIPOC by actively reaching out and/or attending the shows they are in.
  7. We commit to make our one-act play festival—originally scheduled for fall 2020 to offer new and upcoming directors the opportunity to direct short pieces on how artists respond during times of extreme oppression—as a platform to prioritize directors from the BIPOC community. We will stage this festival at the Subterranean as soon as it is safe for us to do so. Meanwhile, we will start to program that festival and hope to begin rehearsals, with some online previews of that work in the coming months.
  8. We commit to holding ourselves accountable to these changes, and we will be assessing our progress over the coming months.


Some resources are listed below for anyone wanting to get more involved in the movement to address racism.

While we strive to improve our company’s intersectionality, diversity and inclusivity, we are also working to keep La Val’s Subterranean Theater shipshape and ready to relaunch when we get the green light. We are examining what measures are needed to make it a safe and healthy venue for our returning audiences and renters. We received vital Covid-relief grant money from the City of Berkeley to assist with our rent, and our landlord, the owner of La Val’s Pizza, is supporting our efforts to maintain the Subterranean as a venue for the future. Our company could not have made our huge leaps in growth over the last few years without your support, so we thank you for your patience whilst we navigate these very new waters.

The integrity of our operations both at an artistic and organizational level are vital to us. We welcome your feedback. Please reach out to us with your thoughts at:

We hope you are safe, healthy, and taking time to care for your creative selves, and we look forward to seeing you as soon as circumstances allow.

With warm regards,
The Lunatico Core Company

Michael Barr, Deborah Cortez, Eileen Fisher, Nash Hascall, Bezachin Jifar, Gideon Jones, Shawn Oda, Lauri Smith, & Tina Taylor

We See You, White American Theater — a profound statement by 300 BIPOC artists

#JusticeforAhmaud petition — A petition to fire Georgia prosecutors who held up Ahmaud’s case

#JusticeForBre — A petition to fire officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor

Black Mamas Matter Alliance — an advocacy group for Black maternal health

A useful guide on giving to the right charities


Shakespeare’s Roman Empire Strikes New Trumpean Notes

by Barry David Horwitz 

I have always avoided this play. It’s a horror show of grotesque, gory, and ghoulish murders, rapes, and tortures that take place in a fictional late Roman Empire. “Titus Andronicus” sports lots of ranting and raving and mainly, the ever-popular REVENGE, that drips with blood from every speech.

And yet, the play exudes an ominous charm. After all, the power of one man to sway the multitudes and exert his petty, personal selfishness over the entire people makes a pretty familiar story.

In “Titus Andronicus,” the brutal tyrant Saturninus (marvelous Michael Barr) has the power to accuse, imprison, kill, and torture his subjects—the Roman Empire in its dying days has given him that patriarchal primacy.  Yes, it’s Trumpism in all its dismal glory, no mistake. The Emperor even puts children in cages. Saturninus, I mean.

Lucius (Isabelle Grimm) and Titus (Shane Fahy) Photo by Eileen Fisher

[Taylor] “presents indelible stage pictures that embody power, arrogance, and inequality.”

The ruling patriarch, his slimy, scheming family, and his sycophants break out in irrational passions, and practice smash/grab politics at every moment. That’s how Empires operate and then, fail—once they overreach their power. They create false enemies—like the press, and they scapegoat immigrants and minorities.  We are living in the end of an Empire, again. Shakespeare’s play proves it.

While other countries offer free health care, free universities, free housing—we offer jail, beatings, and ignorant vengeance.

Director Tina Taylor has laid out for us exactly what it’s like to live in this Empire. She has worked out physical and ritualistic movements for the actors that express the extreme inequality we live in now, in the U.S. She presents indelible stage pictures that embody power, arrogance, and inequality.

Bassiana (Talya Levine) is separated from Lavinia (Isabel Langen) Photo by Eileen Fisher

Read the full review by Barry David Horwitz at Theatrius

See more photos of TITUS ANDRONICUS in our photo gallery here!


Millennial Notes

Steven Dietz Entices Us with Suspense and Mystery

by Rachel Norby

I thoroughly enjoyed Theatre Lunatico’s masterful presentation of “Dracula.” Performed in La Val’s Subterranean Theater, the setting is intimate and spooky. Whispered echoes from the ensemble add to the eeriness. An ageless story about the vampire who cannot die, Lunatico’s “Dracula” impressed me with superb acting, costuming, and staging.

“Dracula” opens in London, 1897, where serious Dr. Seward (resolute Shoresh Alaudini) has fallen in love with the fickle Lucy (versatile April Culver). Dr. Seward is determined to make a name for himself by understanding what causes the lunacy of a patient in the mental hospital, Renfield (talented Maria Grazia Affinito).  Alaudini perfectly conveys Seward’s stalwart nature, mingled with quiet desperation.

“Superb acting, costuming, and staging”.


Van Helsing and Seward

Eileen Fisher (Dr. Anna Van Helsing) and Shoresh Alaudini (Dr. Seward)

Maria Grazia Affinito, brilliant as Renfield, endears herself to us, creepily, with her desperate loyalty for Count Dracula (sinister Michael Barr). Renfield, the “madwoman,” is constantly on-stage, many times in the shadows, never allowing us to forget that something sinister is lurking in the dark, soon to be revealed.


Maria Grazia Affinito (Renfield)


“The creative team spares no horrors. Bravo to all Lunatico’s”.


Read the full review by Rachel Norby at Theatrius.

See our Dracula production gallery here!


July 9, 2018

Millennial Notes

Shakespeare Says, “Get Over Sex Obsession!”

by Tyler Jeffreys

Think a fusion of Mad Max, The Purge, and The White House all in one. Theatre Lunatico uses Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” to create a surreal post-apocalyptic world. In this world,sex surrounds the citizens but is against the law (unless you’re married).  Scraps and trash hang on the walls along with sharp weapons, the world looks like a violent wasteland. Angelo—he’s no angel– worries about who is having sex, when his world needs a literal environmental clean up job.

Women in supporting roles are the highlights the show. Lucio, a  devious jokester, (boisterous Shawn Oda), frolics and taunts the authorities. It’s refreshing to see a woman  playing such an energetic and sexually charged role as she hits on men and women, alike, energetically.

 “Women in supporting roles are the highlights the show”.



James Aaron Oh (Claudio) & Keara Reardon (Juliet)

Costume designer, Cierra White gives the trickster baggy cargo jeans adorned with pins a mesh top with deathly skull heads. As Lucio, Oda uses Shakespeare’s innuendos to grab her crotch, repeatedly. Having a blast, she thoroughly entertains with his/her over the top physicality.

Jean Cary plays a over-zealous Constable Elbow, a ditsy cop on the prowl for sex criminals. She sports a southern red-neck accent and an American Flag handkerchief. Cary delivers her comic lines so naturally, they sound fresh and news.  Even when she is not talking I can’t help but watch her eyes as she takes in Lucio’s antics. Elbow twitches or bangs her night-stick against the wall in rebellion or agreement. Her comedic timing and heartfelt dialogue light up the stage.

“Cary delivers her comic lines so naturally, they sound fresh and new.”



Read the full review by Tyler Jeffreys


March 18, 2018, Theatrius

Bryony Lavery, Tina Taylor Sing of Seafaring Women

by Barry David Horwitz

The British nuclear submarine silently shadowed the Russian sub Kursk, on 12 August 2000. In fact, there were three subs circling each other, British, Russian, and U.S., each pretending they are not there. The UK and US ships could have helped save 118 men, but they maintained their silence.

If you want to dive below, under the Arctic Ocean, over by Russia in the Barents Sea, then hustle over to La Val’s Subterranean Theater, for a plunge into these icy, enlightening waters.

“Lavery and Director Taylor string a taught bow that chills our blood. “Kursk” makes for disquieting, intense theater.”

KURSK-post explosion

Lauri Smith, Shawn Oda & Melissa Clason. All photographs by Robin Jackson

Down the steep stairs, we join six women in the Trafalgar-Class Hunter-Killer sub, amid the low murmur of engines. Stunning arrangements of aluminum pipes create cramped quarters for six Royal British sailors. Originally written for men in 2009, British playwright Bryony Lavery has left the hatch open for an all-female cast. Director Tina Taylor enters with gusto, bringing Theatre Lunatico magic.

“As they slip and slide through the narrow hatches, circling round ducts and pipes, they evoke the terror of the freezing waters.”


Read the full review by Barry David Horwitz

Purchase tickets

KURSK Opens March 9, 2018!

On a covert mission to the Barents Sea, a British submarine crew witness the sinking of the Kursk. As the crew grapple with how to respond, we become immersed in a poignantly personal story set against the backdrop of a devastating maritime disaster. Written originally for five men, playwright Bryony Lavery has given permission for Theatre Lunatico’s production to be an all-female ensemble.
Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays at La Val’s Subterranean Theatre in Berkeley, CA, through April 8, 2018.
Featuring: Melissa Clason, Eileen Fisher, Jennifer Greene,
Isabelle Grimm, Shawn Oda, & Lauri Smith.
All photographs by Robin Jackson.

“School for Scandal” Satirizes Twitter, Trump, Tech at Theatre Lunatico, Berkeley

November 27, 2017, Theatrius, by Gilad Barach

Director Tina Taylor’s modernized version of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1777 classic “The School for Scandal” shifts its tone between explosive/ silly, hysterical/ grounded, and jarring/ intimate. Theatre Lunatico has recently moved into LaVal’s on Northside, Berkeley, and they are already at home. They manipulate the small space brilliantly, with a performance built for the place. The tightly packed theater adds to the “Scandal’s” rising tension—with gossip spreading quickly in the intimate space.

Continue reading Gilad Barach’s Theatrius review.

Something’s Brewing in the Basement

Theatre Lunatico Artistic Director Tina Taylor was recently interviewed by Theatre critic, Sam Hurwitt, for the November issue of The Monthly, a magazine on culture in the East Bay. The article focuses on Theatre Lunatico’s move into the Subterranean Theater at La Val’s Pizza in Berkeley, the company’s upcoming season of productions, and future plans for the space.


Read the entire article here:



La Val’s Subterranean Theater—Here We Come!

Theatre Lunatico moves in to the La Val’s space on September 1, 2017!

We’re moving from our humble, nomadic accommodations to our very own black box theatre, complete with pizza & a pint!

Theatre Lunatico produces big theatre in small spaces, and we have big plans for this small venue beneath the pizzeria. We intend to establish a laboratory space for physical ensemble theatre, providing classes, performance opportunities, discussions, workshops, and a vibrant gathering hub for theatre artists, poets, musicians, dancers & more.



But we have a lot of work to do! With enormous thanks to Theatre Bay Area for our Cash Grant, we can get started on vital work in the space, but it is essential that we match those funds through other sources!

Our first priority—the theatre needs a new floor. The current floor is concrete, the worst possible surface for physical ensemble work.

And just as our feet would like to dance on a softer surface, our heads would like to be adequately illuminated! Lighting needs to be upgraded, and backstage and audience realms need a little primping…

What can you do to help us achieve our goals?

  • Join a work party in August and/or September (emphasis on work AND party)!
  • Make a donation. Cash is always nice!
  • Produce or sponsor one of our shows!
  • Emptying your garage? Maybe that old shelving unit or sofa could be useful…
  • OR updating your office and have old computers, laptops…?

We’re building from the ground up!

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Last seen in Theatre Lunatico’s production of Macbeth, we now find Fleance, Lennox & Macbeth getting down to business—dusting & mopping the new space!

Help us make Theatre Lunatico’s space a hive of activity!