Talk about small houses. CentralWorks is so small it doesn't have its own house, instead working along steadily and quietly for sixteen seasons in places like the Berkeley City Club. Soon it'll be the last of the nomadic small theater companies, what with Shotgun, Impact, and TheatreFIRST nailing down leases of one kind or another. But this rootlessness has no visible impact on the quality of its plays, which are developed collaboratively by a group of writers, actors, and designers, and cover a broad range of concerns. CentralWorks has made some artistically bold choices lately, from focusing on a section of The Brothers Karamazov (The Grand Inquisitor) to probing the real relationship between certain classical heroes (Achilles and Patroclus). It has examined hot-button topics like our military presence (Enemy Combatant) and illegal immigration (Shadow Crossing). While there hasn't been as much humor in the past couple of seasons as in those that preceded them, and while some of the text has been a little unwieldy, the ensemble's work is consistently smart, thought-provoking, and unflinching: theater for people who want to stretch their brains and have their assumptions challenged.
While the region's influence on mainstream hip-hop has gone overlooked for decades, a new generation of break-out artists are reclaiming their musical heritage and drawing national attention back to the area.