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Margo Hall collaborating with Z Space Studio

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 2002

Presented: April 15, – May 29, 2005, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

On November 18, 1978, nearly 1,000 expatriate Americans died in Jonestown, Guyana. All were members of the People’s Temple, and most of them had emigrated a little more than a year earlier from the San Francisco Bay Area. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their deaths, an ensemble of theater artists led by Margo Hall, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, and Stephen Waugh collaborated with Z Space Studio to develop The People’s Temple, a new play created out of individual stories behind the tragedy. It premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and toured nationally.

The artists’ process was based on extensive interviews with survivors, family members, and others touched directly by the Jonestown story. It also engaged the California Historical Society, which had recently received more 100,000 archival documents about Jonestown.

Lead artist Margo Hall is an accomplished actor and director. A founding member of the ensemble Campo Santo, Hall also is a frequent participant in the Z Space Studio’s Word for Word ensemble. Among other roles, she played Anita Hill in the Magic Theatre’s Unquestioned Integrity, a text drawn verbatim from the Clarence Thomas Congressional hearing transcripts. Playwright Leigh Fondakowski divides her time between the East Bay and her duties with the Tectonic Theater Project in New York. She was the lead playwright on Gross Indecencies and The Laramie Project, and is a pioneer in verbatim non-fiction performance techniques.

The Z Space Studio is an acclaimed new play laboratory. Since its inception in 1993, the Studio has been the incubator for more than 100 new plays performed in theaters all over the world. Studio-developed works have earned dozens of local and national new play awards, including two Pulitzer Prize nominations.