Arts & Events

New: AROUND & ABOUT THEATER: Inferno Theatre Community-Building Benefit June 23 at South Berkeley Community Church

By Ken Bullock
Saturday June 16, 2012 - 11:19:00 AM

Inferno Theatre, the small but impressive company founded just a couple of years ago by Giulio Cesare Perrone--perhaps best-known locally as a set designer and past administrator of the remarkable Dell'Arte School of Theater in Humboldt County--has staged his original plays about Galileo's theories and personal life ('Galileo's Daughters') and divine intervention in the all-too-human Trojan War ('The Iliad') at the City Club, in San Jose and elsewhere--and now in partnership with the historic South Berkeley Community Church--showing unusual care with the sets and props and the physical dimension of the acting. 

Now Inferno's planning a fundraiser for their innovative Youth Theatre Program at Oakland's Manzanita SEED Elementary School and their own , from 4-10 on Saturday, June 23 at the Church. "But it's also a way to build community," said Perrone, pointing to the activities, both family-friendly and more theatrically intensive--and to the low sliding scale ($10-$30) for attendance, and the promise of childcare for spectators of the theater events in the evening. "It's a fundraiser--but money isn't everything!" The troupe's just as interested in meeting other individuals and families, and have them meet each other, as well as get familiarized with the company's work and its youth theater program. 

From 4 to 6 p. m. on the 23rd, the focus is on family and kids, including an introduction to the Community Church's remarkable structural space--Mission Revival Arts & Crafts stucco on the outside, with an unusual belltower, redwood panelled and semi-circular inside, both sanctuary and social hall, the structure--a Berkeley City Historical Landmark--dating back to 1912, the present congregation--Berkeley's first integrated one--to 1943. Then origami, with Diego Perrone, followed by a masked play, "sort of a workshop piece," according to Perrone, who will direct kids and parents, with masks "that dictate the shape of the body, an exploration of that ... ". There'll be flag-making, with Emilia Sumelius, of various countries' flags, and a "little parade," and a performance by the Manzanita SEED Youth Theatre. 

Berkeley composer-pianist Luchiano Chessa will perform an original piece, "Varrazione su un oggetto di scena, for piano & stuffed animals"--and teach a puppet how to play it. 

At 6, there'll be a finger food dinner, with jazz by Alma and the Blue Wave. Then a game devised by company members, "with some questions that can be answered by individuals, others only by getting together with others in the room. It will allow us all to get to know each other without formally asking--and when a combination of answers is found, the winners can shout Bingo!" 

Chad Stender will play Mark Twain and serve as MC. Then Inferno's new play, 'Tracce D'Angeli' (traces of Angels), featuring Valentina Emeri, Simone Bloch and Alison Sacha Ross, directed by Perrone. 

A silent auction will follow, and a newly-discovered theatrical speech out of Antiquity, the prologue to Horace's 'Cleopatra,' from archaeological finds in Alexandria, delivered by Federico Wardal (who played the young Casanova in Fellini's film and worked onstage with playwright and actor Eduardo de Filipo), the President of the Italian-American Friends of the Library of Alexandria, in Arabic, English and Italian. A new theater piece, 'My Recollect Time,' by Jamie Greenblatt, will be performed, about Mary Field, a freed slave who dressed and worked as a man, until deciding to live as a woman again, did the chores in a convent, where she befriended the Mother Superior--the story of a friendship. There will also be a piece performed from an Inferno workshop, originally made from the members telling their lives to each other, those stories now put together and staged by Steve Askell, featuring Emeri, Bloch, Paul and Kaya Davis and Michelle Hamer. 

The performances will mostly last about 10 minutes, with music in between. 

"It's a celebration of different cultures and languages, of America and of English," said Perrone. "And at one point, children will be encouraged to speak in gibberish! Most fundraisers usually don't have so much theater. We wanted to do something a little bit more, with the art form as the center of the event, to include families, kids, and people from the neighborhood--and welcome everybody." 

Inferno Theatre 2012 Season and Manzanilla SEED School Youth Theatre Program Fundraiser, 4-10 p' m., June 23, at South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Franklin, corner of Ellis, just west of Shattuck, near Ashby BART. $10-$30; children 12 and under, free (must be accompanied by an adult). Childcare from 7-10. Tickets: 825-0449; 355-2279, or