Arts Listings

Aurora Theatre Expands

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday January 07, 2009 - 06:31:00 PM

Aurora Theatre recently announced a breakthrough—literally.  

The Berkeley company, celebrating its 17th season, has been quietly campaigning for $2.1 million in capital to expand its Addison Street location, just west of Shattuck, cheek-by-jowl with Berkeley Rep and the Jazz School. 

And this coming Monday, Jan. 12, Aurora will hold a ceremony to break through the wall connecting its complex to an adjacent space. Once completed, the pending expansion will add 2,600 square feet to the 7,200 square feet currently occupied by the company. The new space will house a new rehearsal space for main stage productions, readings and workshopping new shows, plus artistic offices and an increase in space for in-house set building.  

Additional space will allow Aurora to increase the number of performances per show, extend current productions while preparing for the next show (reducing turnaround time to as little as two weeks) and allow for a larger lobby and other patron amenities. Projected completion for the expansion is this coming summer. 

“Up until now, the dedicated campaign committee has been working diligently behind the scenes. The response to our efforts has been very enthusiastic and we’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached $1.3 million in cash and pledges, over 62 percent of our goal,” said campaign co-chair Robert B. Hetler. 

In December, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Trust, of New York City, announced a $200,000 grant over four years in support of the campaign to establish a Fund for Artistic Initiatives to underwrite the development of new work as well as the adaptation of large-scale classics, which the expansion will make possible. The Bernard Osher Foundation has also awarded a $45,000 grant to Aurora’s campaign in memory of Frederick Balderston. 

Aurora was founded in 1992 by Barbara Oliver, along with Dorothy Bryant, Marge Glicksman, Richard Rossi and Ken Grantham.  

“It’s remarkable to me that in its 17 years, Aurora ... has grown from a single theater production produced in a room where women once played cards [the 67-seat drawing room at the Berkeley City Club, where Central Works is now in residence] into a thriving Bay Area institution that continues to grow artistically, and once again physically,” said artistic director Tom Ross. “This is the next logical and essential step in our development.” 

Aurora moved into its current 150-seat location seven years ago. The new expansion is the final project of the late theater architect Gene Angell and his partner Brian Rawlinson.