In the days before Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s (BRT) spring 2019 board meeting, instead of counting sheep at night before going to sleep, Susan Medak—Managing Director—counted the number of buildings the theater owned and made rough estimates as to how much they had increased in value since being purchased. She found this exercise helpful as she contemplated the various ways BRT could approach improving the temporary housing it provided to visiting guest artists.
BRT had grown tremendously since its creation in 1968 by University of California, Berkeley, student and founding artistic director, Michael Leibert. BRT went from a 153-seat storefront theater to a renowned and innovative leader in the American theater industry, acknowledged for its excellence in practice and artistry, and that produced high quality plays and musicals on two main stages in the heart of downtown Berkeley. In its 51-year history, BRT had welcomed over 5.5 million patrons through its doors to see a show. Since 2001, about 20,000 teens and young adults per year had participated in education programs hosted by BRT’s School of Theatre. Programs included writing, acting, and singing workshops.
With all its expansion over the years, BRT’s need for visiting guest artist housing also grew. The theater remained committed to providing safe and comfortable housing to its visiting artists and because of this, Medak tried to be as responsive as possible when issues came up such as artists feeling unsafe in certain buildings or lifestyle clashes with other tenants. This resulted in a practice of moving artists in and out of apartment buildings and group homes throughout the Bay Area to accommodate the various needs.
In fiscal year 2018-19, BRT was spending nearly $2 million of its $21 million budget on rental costs for artist housing. If BRT was to continue to attract the highest caliber of talent to work there, Medak knew that the theater must figure out a way to efficiently house a large number of visiting artists in the Bay Area without compromising on quality of life and while maintaining fiscal responsibility. Medak and the theater’s board considered a number of different options including buying or leasing existing buildings to consolidate housing, constructing their own housing, and various combinations of those possibilities. However, with all of these options, BRT needed to find the necessary capital.
Publication Date: May 14, 2021
Citation: Estefani Castro, "Berkeley Repertory Theater (2019)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case 19-98, May 14, 2021.
Keywords: Berkeley, Facilities, Budgeting, Capital Project