When Mimi Kaplan moved from Portland to the Bay Area right before starting Berkeley High School, she was apprehensive about fitting in.
But within a few weeks she had found her group: the diverse and talented theater community.
Now, as Kaplan prepares to leave high school to attend a joint degree program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, she is directing a play that could serve as a metaphor for her time at Berkeley. It’s called Necropolis, and it tells the story of a Bosnian sniper and American journalist who talk about their clashing ideologies.
“It really struck me when I read it,” said Kaplan, who is a senior in BHS’ International High School. “It’s really powerful. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the next few days. It kept coming back to me.”
Kaplan liked Necropolis, by Don Nigro, because of its edge and provocative themes. It will be performed tonight as part of BHS’ Independent Theater Project, a production of three one-act plays directed, produced, and acted by Berkeley High students.
This will be the 16th year of the ITP, which supposedly started when a Berkeley High student didn’t like the way a director at the high school was running a show. He decided that he and his friends could do a better a job on their own.
This year’s production is tonight and tomorrow, Saturday March 19, at 7:30 pm at the Hillside Club in Berkeley. In addition to Necropolis, Vivian Ponte-Fritz is directing Check, Please! by Jonathan Rand and Jordan Anderson is directing Wanda’s Visit by Christopher Durang.
“The show provides a great contrast between very serious and very, very funny,” said Kaplan. “The other two shows are very funny.”
This is Kaplan’s third year with ITP. She joined as a sophomore and was an actor for two years before taking on Necropolis, her first stab at directing. (She will also be directing The Importance of Being Earnest in the spring at the student union at UC Berkeley)
Kaplan praised Berkeley High’s theater community for the different kids of people it brings together. There are musicals put on by the drama department, The Vagina Monologues put on by a group of female students, and other independent productions.
“The theater is really diverse,” she said. “Vagina Monologues and ITP bring in people who don’t act otherwise. There are the musicals. It’s surprisingly diverse and very open.”
“It’s most definitely become my community.”
The Hillside Club is at 2286 Cedar Street in Berkeley. Suggested donations are $14 for adults and $7 for students.