OVER ITS 25+ YEARS, AURORA HAS “RISEN TO BECOME ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT REGIONAL THEATRES IN THE AREA” - SF Chronicle
Aurora Theatre Company was launched in 1992 by Barbara Oliver and a group of professional Bay Area theatre artists following the successful world premiere production of Dorothy Bryant’s Dear Master. Their desire was to produce plays “about important ideas, mediated by language and people.” In other words, the ideas, words, and people would be the focus of each production, “assisted by other elements like sets, lights and costumes,” but not dominated by them.
For its first nine seasons, the Company performed at the Berkeley City Club, on a three-quarter thrust stage with 67 seats. In 2001, with tremendous community, government, and foundation support, Aurora completed a $2.5 million capital campaign and moved to a new 150-seat theatre in the emerging Downtown Berkeley Arts District. So successful was the new venue that by 2007 Aurora was able to complete a further capital campaign to fund a seamless expansion into a second, contiguous space that opened in 2009 as Aurora’s Dashow Wing. The Dashow Wing now includes Harry’s UpStage, a 49-seat black box performance space. Aurora’s subscription seasons now include performances both in the 150-seat Alafi Auditorium and in the smaller Harry’s UpStage.
Led by Barbara Oliver in its first twelve years, Aurora entered a new era in 2004 when Tom Ross took on the position of Artistic Director. Tom had been with the company since its inception, and has directed more than 30 productions for Aurora. Tom initiated the Global Age Project, Aurora’s new play discovery program, which presented staged readings of dozens of new plays by national and international playwrights over 10 years. In 2016, Tom retired the Global Age Project and launched Originate+Generate, Aurora’s new play commissioning and development program, which continues today. Tom stepped down in 2019 and was succeeded by Josh Costello, who had been Aurora’s Literary Manager and Artistic Associate since 2012. Josh created the position of Associate Artistic Director for Dawn Monique Williams, who oversees Aurora’s new Community Partners program.
Throughout its history, defining characteristics of Aurora Theatre Company productions are their emphasis on subtlety, shadings of feeling, and ensemble responsiveness. Both at the Berkeley City Club and in either of Aurora’s two venues in its current home on Addison Street, audiences enjoy seating close to the action, creating an intimate and engaged theatre experience. Aurora is committed to serving as storyteller to its community, presenting plays that speak authentically to the present moment and making everyone feel welcome.
Aurora’s productions have garnered many regional awards, including the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, the Theatre Bay Area Awards, and the Glickman Award for best new play in the Bay Area.