Patrick Dooley, founding artistic director of The Shotgun Players
Patrick Dooley, founding artistic director of The Shotgun Players, at the new Shotgun Studios on University Avenue. Photo: Risa Nye

Berkeley’s Shotgun Players launched their new studios at an event on March 2 to celebrate what they hope will become a center for creativity and a hub for emerging performing arts groups in Berkeley.

The former home of Serendipity Books has been transfigured into a theatre company’s dream: two studios large enough for rehearsals and classes, along with costume and scenery shops, and a café/green room/future theatre library. (Read more about the history of this space and the full Shotgun Players schedule.)

In the new Shotgun Studios, located at 1201 University Ave., actors can now begin rehearsing on the actual set that will appear on the Ashby stage during performances. Accommodations for sound and a grid for lights are also in the works for Studio A, the larger of the two studios. Studio B will be lined with mirrors for use by choreographers during rehearsal, and for dance and movement classes during daytime non-rehearsal hours.

scenery shop
The scenery shop at the new Shotgun Studios. Photo: Risa Nye

Attendees at the recent event could see where future additions will be installed, as indicated by signs posted on the walls of the studios, the costume shop, and the green room. A wish list posted prominently near the entrance enumerated the items still needed to complete the space (i.e. sewing machines, manikins, sound systems, bike racks, etc.)

Founding artistic director Patrick Dooley has plans to open the café to the public for small audiences of 30-40 for a number of readings or small productions. The ability to develop and foster relationships with the next generation of theatre-makers in the expansive studio space is what excites Dooley the most about the new location. He welcomes drama students from Berkeley High and Laney College, in addition to a number of local small theatre groups, to use the space while furthering their experiences in the performing arts. Dooley looks forward to an exchange of ideas in the areas of marketing and promotion between the companies and theatre groups that use the new facility.

Liz HItchcock Lisle, managing director of The Shotgun Players, in the costume shop
Liz HItchcock Lisle, managing director of The Shotgun Players, in the costume shop. Photo: Risa Nye

Dooley says he feels “most connected to recent college grads who don’t have the resources” to make theatre on their own. By making connections with them, Dooley anticipates building “kinship, loyalty, and relationships” as he helps young companies find their footing in the Bay Area’s vibrant theatre scene. Theatre, he believes, “can be an integral part of everyday life.” Dooley wants the theatre to have “a bigger footprint” in Berkeley, which he hopes will make an impression on the next generation of audiences. (That next generation gets a break on Thursdays at the Ashby Stage: for patrons who are 25 and under, a limited number of tickets are available for $5. This is also beer and pizza combo night.)

With the new space and its connection to the community through on-site readings, classes, and pop-up events, Dooley hopes to create high levels of interest and excitement as a way of “keeping the art form alive and relevant.” He wants the space to have people in it all the time, to let passersby know there is always something happening at the Shotgun Studios.

Visit the Shotgun Players’ website for details of their productions, and connect with them on Facebook.

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Freelancer Risa Nye is a Bay Area native. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in the East Bay. She spent many happy years on the UC Berkeley campus, both as a student and as an employee. She has...