The Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Northern California is joining the ranks of regional venues with plans to build a second stage. In October, the theatre launched a $14.5 million capital campaign to fund an expansion with a new 600-seat space adjacent to its current facility on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley. The revamped complex, designed by the local firm ELS/Elbasani & Logan Architects, will incorporate the Rep's current 401-seat theatre into a two-venue performing arts center that will anchor a planned downtown Berkeley arts district. The new project, scheduled for completion by the 2000-2001 season, comes one year after the Rep received the 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.

Also collaborating on the project are three San Francisco firms: theatre consultant Auerbach + Associates, acoustician Charles M. Salter Associates, and sound system designer Meyer Sound Laboratories.

The new proscenium theatre will complement the Rep's current thrust stage, and "will enlarge the spectrum of work we can produce," says artistic director Tony Taccone. "The new stage will allow us to produce work of a different scale, from epic theatre to contemporary musicals, without compromising the Rep's essential connection between the actors and our audience."

A 162-seat, six-row balcony, an 80' fly tower, and a stage trap are part of the new theatre's configuration. The new space will also maintain an intimate atmosphere with no seat more than 49' from the stage. The proscenium will measure 40' wide by 26' high. A Sennheiser two-channel hearing-impaired system will be among the ADA amenities. The complex will also feature an expanded courtyard, lobby, and restroom facilities.

Founded in 1968 in a converted storefront space in Berkeley, the Rep moved into its current facility in 1980. In its first year in that venue, the organization tripled its subscriber base. The Rep, now the largest professional theatre group in the East Bay, currently has more than 15,000 subscribers and has been operating between 90-95% capacity over the past decade. Among its recent successful productions have been An Ideal Husband, The Triumph of Love, and How I Learned to Drive. Although production plans for the new venue have not been completed, Taccone says he hopes to produce Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy for the proscenium stage's inaugural season.

The Rep said it has raised nearly $9 million toward its fundraising goal for the building project, with the city of Berkeley contributing a $4 million grant. The city is also funding wider sidewalks and antique-style street lights for the area.