2023/24 Season Audience Guide

While we always welcome theatergoers to do their own research, we've also taken the liberty to create a handy guide for each one of our shows in the 2023/2024 Mainstage Season. Our goal is to provide you with more information and guidance to help you make informed choices you're comfortable with for yourself and/or your group, and prepare you for what to expect when you come through our doors. Because education is central to our mission, we have also provided some questions that can be discussed after the performance. While these questions are intended for parents/guardians and their children, they are great for any theatergoer!

We encourage you to check back periodically as opening day approaches for updates on possible staging choices that could change the content of these guides. We hope this guide will enrich the learning experience of all our patrons both young and seasoned.

—Melissa Rivera Simpson, Producing Director


(15-minute intermission)

May 24 - June 30, 2024

At a Glance:
This fun-filled jukebox musical featuring the songs of The Go-Go’s based on Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia is the story of what happens when the royal court of Arcadia is threatened by the mystical non-binary Oracle of Delphi with the loss of its divine “Beat.” Their hilarious journey to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecies ultimately leads them to self-discovery and acceptance, teaching us all that love is love and that we should not be afraid to be our authentic selves. "We meet our destiny on whatever road we take to flee." Themes of female empowerment, gender, sexual identity, love, and romance are intricately woven throughout this dance-heavy story. Though the script is immensely witty and laden with sexual innuendos, some of these wordplays could be difficult to decipher for young audiences due to the use of Elizabethan prose in all spoken dialogue while others who do catch the suggestive language may find these double entendres and colorful language clever and humorous. Although there is no real nudity, it is suggested when a character urinates behind a bush and later when two other characters engage in a faux sex scene.

Discussion Questions:
1. Is withholding information the same as lying? Why do you think King Basilius kept the oracle's prophecies to himself? Did this ultimately protect the family members?
2. In your opinion, why were King Basilius and Gynecia both attracted to Cleophila (Musidorus in disguise)? Did they no longer love each other? Could their "affair" have been avoided?
3. If Pamela is attracted to women, why do you think she was upset when Mopsa kissed her?
4. What does this musical teach us about the meaning of love? Is it possible to avoid your destiny? Is it ever helpful to hide who you truly are?

MEAN GIRLS (High School Edition)

(15-minute intermission)

July 13-21, 2024

At a Glance:
Mean Girls the Musical is based on the cult classic 2004 movie by Tina Fey starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. A female student enrolls at a new school and is quickly swept up by the clique hierarchy that dictates every aspect of teenage social life. This satire explores relational aggression among teenage girls with truth and humor. In the end, all students learn from their mistakes and begin to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual. The original Broadway script does not sugarcoat the language and actions of modern teenage behavior. Although our production will still feature most of the aspects of the original Broadway show, we specifically chose to produce the high school version so that the script could be easily (and legally) modified to better suit the Berkeley Playhouse community.The show contains crude jokes, sexual references, marijuana use references, underage drinking, name calling and bullying, and comic violence. Although many of the themes are mature in nature, we understand that struggles with belonging and insecurities are very much present in the lives of all our teenagers.This show attempts to cast a light on these issues with a comedic lens to make the harshness of adolescence more palatable. We hope this production will help audiences explore this societal dynamic and be inspired to avoid the pitfalls of cattiness and bullying.

This is our Youthstage Spotlight Show, therefore all roles will be played exclusively by youth actors. We believe that students playing characters their own age with a story they can relate to will lead to deeper and more meaningful family conversations.

Discussion Questions:
1. What is a clique? What is problematic about them?
2. Why do you think Gretchen was so desperate for Regina to like her? If Gretchen was Regina's best friend, then why was Regina so mean to her?
3. Do you think Cady, Janis, and Damien were right to plot revenge against Regina? Was there another way they could have handled the situation?
4. How can you avoid toxic relationships and situations?


(15-minute intermission)

September 8 - October 15, 2023

At a Glance:
This Tony and Grammy award winning musical is based on the 2005 British film by the same name. Playwright Harvey Fierstein and composer Cyndi Lauper (yes, THE pop icon Cyndi Lauper) teamed up to tell the uplifting story of two unlikely types of people coming together for a common purpose. Charlie is forced to take over his father's business in order to help the people of his town. In the midst of financial turmoil, he forms an unexpected partnership with a drag queen performer, Lola, that grows into a trusting friendship.

There are some sexually suggestive numbers, such as "Sex Is in the Heel" and "What a Woman Wants," and several sexual innuendos laden throughout the show, but they are generally presented in a lighthearted and amusing fashion. It is important to note that although the show is fun and quirky, it raises many real questions about tolerance, acceptance, and homophobia. One of the main characters is threatened with violence and openly discriminated against because of her identity. At its core, this show encourages audiences to celebrate not just who they are, but also the unique and wonderful people around them.

Discussion Questions:
1. Why did Charlie want to move to London? Did it make sense for him to return home even though he didn't want to take over the family business? Why do you think he did it?
2. Why do you think Don is so unkind to Lola for being? Did Lola do something to Don to deserve that kind of treatment?
3. What makes someone a real man? What makes someone a real woman? Why? Do you think Lola's father would agree with you?
4. Is it worth it to be true to yourself even if it means others may judge you for it? How would you handle being mistreated for being unique? How can we stand up for others who are unfairly misjudged?


(15-minute intermission)

November 3 - December 22, 2023

At a Glance:
This modern re-telling of a beloved classic fairytale weaves the magic of the childhood story with the community, culture, and time in which we currently live. This version of Cinderella is based on the 1997 TV movie starring Brandy & Whitney Houston, therefore casting with representation in mind is central to this production. Interracial marriage is celebrated as the individuals fall in love based on their virtues rather than external factors. Although there is some name calling, bullying, and comical slap-stick fights, this production is overall very kid-friendly. At its core, this story teaches audiences that societal status and money are not indicators of the true value of a person. Reoccuring themes include kindness, courage, integrity, humility, and forgiveness.

Discussion Questions:
1. Why do you think the prince fell in love with Cinderella? How are Prince Christopher and Cinderella alike? How are they different?
2. Why do you think the Fairy Godmother took so long to grant Cinderella's wish? Why didn't she just give Cinderella what she wished for when she started crying? What lesson was the Fairy Godmother trying to teach her?
3. Are all families the same? Should they be? Can you identify different types of family units?
4. What does the musical teach us about the importance of being kind even when people are harmful to you? How would you react if someone bullied you?

RENT (Closed)

(15-minute intermission)

February 23 - March 31, 2024

At a Glance:
***Content Warning: This musical contains themes of sex, drug addiction, death, homelessness, and strong language.***

Rent is a 1996 pop-rock musical (or rock opera) by the late Jonathan Larson loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's 1896 Italian opera La bohème. The libretto is completely sung through in the Classical opera style with the exception of a few lines of dialogue. Rent tells the story of a group of young artists struggling to live in New York City during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The entire show takes place in the span of 1 year (or as the song says, 525,600 minutes), and focuses on the importance of friendship, love, and community. It addresses topics related to love regardless of sexual orientation, nonconformity, and surviving while being poor in a city with neighborhoods changing via gentrification.

Some characters are shown buying and selling drugs, shooting up, and going through withdrawals. However, the scenes do not glorify their actions, but rather shed light on the societal problem and how it negatively affects relationships. There are many sexual references and miming of sexual acts such as masturbation and sodomy. This is especially depicted in the musical number "Contact" performed by the whole ensemble in the second act. Yet, it is important to note that this number is presented as avant-garde performing art, and is not pornographic in nature.

The themes transcend generations and inspire audiences to "forget regret" and love in the moment, because there is "no day but today."

Discussion Questions:
1. How are the struggles of artists from the 90's different or similar to the struggles artists face now?
2. What is significant about Jonathan Larson using Mark's perspective to tell this story?
3. Who is the villain of this story? Is it a specific person or situation?
4. What does this musical tell us about the importance of a tight-knit community?

Extra: The character of Mimi tragically dies in the original story of La bohème. Why do you think Jonathan Larson decided to stray away from that ending in this adaptation?