Berkeley Repertory Theatre, or Berkeley Rep, announced Sept. 10 that Johanna Pfaelzer will lead the company as its new artistic director, beginning her position in September 2019.
Pfaelzer is currently the artistic director of New York Stage and Film company, or NYSAF, a position she has held for 11 years. This selection follows a yearlong search that pooled about 160 applicants after the theater announced that current artistic director, Tony Taccone, will leave Berkeley Rep after 33 years with the company.
“Johanna’s vision, intelligence, and long history of curating great work make her an inspired choice as the new artistic director of Berkeley Rep,” Taccone said in a press release. “On behalf of the entire artistic staff, we welcome her with open arms.”
Pfaelzer has roots in the Bay Area — she spent her early childhood years in Berkeley and worked as an associate artistic director at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
“Coming back to the Bay Area is like a homecoming. … It’s a community I know really deeply,” Pfaelzer said in a Berkeley Rep video. “I love this audience’s sense of literature; I love their political bent; I love … the range in theatrical storytelling that they seem really committed to.”
Berkeley Rep board of trustees President Stewart Owen said in a press release that he was happy to find someone familiar with Berkeley because Pfaelzer understands the “particular nature” of the community that has an audience with strong political opinions. The board voted unanimously to choose Pfaelzer for the position, according to Owen.
“What Johanna brings is a respect for the eclecticism that has been a hallmark of this company, our unusual mix of classics, new work, and musicals,” Owen said in a press release. “She has the necessary desire to bring her own perspective to that work. It’s what I’ve been characterizing as an energetic evolution.”
Pfaelzer is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice program. Under Pfaelzer’s leadership as artistic director for NYSAF, the organization has been influential in the theater world, helping develop works such as Tony Award-winning productions Hamilton and The Humans.
Pfaelzer said in the video that she is excited to come to Berkeley Rep because it is a place “deeply committed” to both new and older works, allowing audiences to compare productions and interrogate contemporary plays.
“It is a company I have admired my whole life, and to have the opportunity to return home to the Bay Area as its leader is a dream,” Pfaelzer said in a press release. “I can’t wait to get to work with this extraordinary board and staff to continue to bring world-class work from the widest possible range of artists to Berkeley Rep’s stages.”