With Love & Heavy Hearts

On February 11, 2022, Theatre Lunatico lost a dear friend and a treasured member of our company—
scenic designer & technical director
Gideon Jones
Gideon was both an artist and an inventor, and a vital part of the growth and development of La Val’s Subterranean. The theater was Gideon’s laboratory and he would tinker whenever he had a spare moment, conceiving and conjuring creative designs and improvements with little more than his innovation and hard work.

Gideon also managed the sub-rentals for the Subterranean and opened La Val’s doors to countless U.C. Berkeley students, actors, and theatre companies from all over the Bay Area. He helped each to transform the space for their productions and fulfill their artistic visions.

Our hearts ache from our own loss, and for the even greater loss felt by his family and close friends. Gideon was humble and creative, wickedly smart, loyal, and strong.

His creativity lay at the heart of all our productions. He quietly made the seemingly impossible happen…
“A physical ensemble theatre company needs a sprung wood floor.”
When we moved into the Subterranean in fall of 2017 with its concrete stage floor, our Artistic Director Tina Taylor said: “I know it’s a ridiculous idea, given our low ceiling, but we really need to install a sprung wood stage.” And while we all shook our heads doubting it was possible, Gideon leapt into action. He researched, conceptualized, and built us a sprung wood floor, even though the dimensions seemed impossible to work with. His ingenuity transformed the space, and we danced on our new stage with disbelief and joy!
Listen to Gideon cheer Shawn on as she tests out the new sprung floor!
“We need a submarine!”
For our production of Kursk, Tina said: “Well, I know this is crazy, but we need to create an immersive experience, so the audience feel like they’re in a submarine. And we need the stage to have four submarine compartments with bulkhead doors between each. And a periscope, we need a working periscope! I know that’s impossible…”

But he did it. Gideon created a set so beautiful, so simple, yet so complex and evocative that he was nominated for a Theatre Bay Area award. He constructed curved metal tubing hatches that were thin enough to not obstruct the view, a bridge with a periscope that could be raised and lowered, a shower room, bunks, and the captain’s quarters—a submarine in a small basement, a set that created a whole world completely out of proportion to its dimensions.
“Dracula needs a coffin.”
Dracula was one of our most popular shows, but it posed some challenges for Tina: “We need a Victorian blood transfusion device, transparent walls revealing Dracula lingering in a ghostly form outside of rooms, and a coffin that Michael can magically appear from and disappear from, and while he’s in the coffin, we need to drive a stake through his heart!”
Not a problem for Gideon. His imagination went into full gear, and he built a transfusion machine with brass levers and arm straps that appeared to transfer blood through a tube from one actor to the other. The coffin had a trap door that Michael could slither in and out of, and Gideon hung ghostly scrims that allowed Dracula to be an ever present threat…
Gideon designed and constructed sets for our last six productions. For Convoy 31000 he used moveable panels to transport us from a Parisian Cafe to the  concentration camp at Auschwitz. For Measure for Measure, an ingenious backdrop of metal bars, chains, and scraps that could also hold props and stools. And for Titus Andronicus, a world beneath a freeway underpass, ominously draped with plastic sheeting and crime scene tape.

We will be creating a gallery of his work at La Val’s where you can read more about Gideon’s legacy with Theatre Lunatico. 

From Artistic Director, Tina Taylor

Above all, Gideon was and always will be our friend. Our dear friend. Essential, vital, a bedrock of our company, who we all love. In a world of traps and footfalls, Gideon was always a rare safe space. A place where you felt seen and understood and taken care of. Where you could talk honestly and swear and curse and rage at this messed up world without judgment, but also where you could laugh at all the quirky ironies that life throws at us and he would somehow make you feel that, despite it all, everything would be okay. He was a magician in that way, too.

So this is how we will remember Gideon and hold him in our hearts. A wonderful magician who always reminded us of what was possible. Our dearest friend who always allowed us to trust that everything would be okay.
At the TBA Awards in 2018

From Shawn Oda & Tina Taylor, on behalf of the Lunatico core company.

Michael Barr
Deborah Cortez
Eileen Fisher
Shawn Oda
Omar Osario-Peña
Lauri Smith
Tina Taylor

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: info@theatrelunatico.org

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!

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!

FullSizeRender 2



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!


Huge thanks and important updates!

Theatre Lunatico’s core company would like to thank all of our friends, family, colleagues and theatre community for coming out to San Rafael to see our production of Macbeth. This project was a fantastic experience for our ensemble cast and crew, made more so by your warm support and enthusiastic responses.
We would also like to send out a huge thank you to Margot Jones and the West Coast Arts Foundation for collaborating with us to present Macbeth here in Marin, and to Sylvia Israel at the Imagine Center for Creativity and Healing and Eileen and Andrew Fisher for providing additional rehearsal space. Ross Valley Players gave us tremendous support on many fronts, including the generous donation of set, costume and props; we could not have pulled this off without their support! Additionally, we received generous donations of materials from Macbeath Hardware, and donated technical support from Scott Hess. Steve Price went out of his way to help us in finding a replacement actor for King Duncan. Katherine Cope, Sumi Narendran Cardinale, Frank Cardinale, Heather Cherry and Peter Bradbury provided much needed and appreciated front of house support.
Thanks also goes out to the staff at AEA who have patiently guided us through the BAPP process, enabling us to continue to work with our fabulous AEA actors.
And lastly (but by no means least!), we would like to send out an excited “Thank you!” to Theatre Bay Area, who not only worked with such generous support and kindness in helping us to navigate the TBA adjudication process, get the word out about our company and production, and encourage us at every step along the way, but also just announced that they will be awarding us a CA$H grant to support our efforts to get La Val’s Subterranean Theatre up and running as not only our new home, but also an exciting new venue for the Bay Area theatre community. We are so grateful for the very real and solid support they provide to emerging companies like ours! Thank you, TBA!
2017 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for us, one in which we are seeing all our past efforts bearing golden fruit! We are excited by the prospects ahead, and deeply appreciative of all the support we have received from our Bay Area theatre community along the way.
Stay tuned for more news as we move into our new home and start to put the pieces together for an exciting season of theatre ahead, and see you all at La Val’s!
With love and appreciation – The Theatre Lunatico core company (Tina, Eileen, Michael, Shawn, and Melanie) on behalf of the Lunatico ensemble of theatre artists.

Theatrius review! “Macbeth goes primal at Theatre Lunatico”.

Lennox lighting up

“If you have never experienced stripped down theater, take this opportunity to embrace a deeper bond with these powerful actors, and be swept away. Theatre Lunatico gives us the full tale, full of power.  I recommend the front row. I like it raw.”

You can read the full review here at the Theatrius website.


At Theatre Lunatico we are currently in the research phase of Macbeth, the second production in our Shoebox Shakespeare Series.

We were working together on the script the night of the US elections. At some point during that evening, as the frighteningly impossible became increasingly probable, the rehearsal seemed to grind to stunned and perplexed halt. We hugged hurriedly, fled early, all wanting, I believe, to get home to our loved ones. We left, one by one, in a state of quiet shock to “seek out some desolate shade and there weep our sad bosoms empty”.

Tyranny, it seems, is descending on us. As crude corruption stalks the corridors of power, it truly does appear that “our country sinks beneath the yoke. It weeps, it bleeds”.

Our exploration of this astonishing text has taken on new meaning since we heard the results. We are channeling our horror and fear, and our hopes, into our art. 

Here is a taste of what’s to come…