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Best Theatre Companies In East Bay

East Bay theatregoers have endless choices, from Tony-winning regional theatre to revivals of Broadway musicals to the experimental and the avant garde. Get your dose of live entertainment with a show at any one of these great theaters. Each promise to deliver something different and exciting.
Cal Shakes

California Shakespeare Theater
Bruns Amphitheater
100 California Shakespeare Theater Way
Orinda, CA 94563

Founded in 1974, Cal Shakes is an award-winning, nationally recognized regional theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone and Managing Director Susie Falk. Kick back in a stunning outdoor amphitheater and watch some of the best live theater in the Bay Area. While Shakespeare's plays are a staple, Cal Shakes takes on fascinating new works every season. The theater opens 2 hours before curtain, so bring a picnic, or purchase gourmet food, wine, and beer from the cafe.

Berkeley Rep - Roda Theatre
The exterior of the Roda Theatre at the Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre. (credit: Timothy Hursley, courtesy of ELS)

Berkeley Rep
2025 Addison St
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-2949

The Berkeley Repertory Theatre was founded in a storefront in 1968 and is now considered to be one of the most prestigious regional theatre companies in America. The Berkeley Repertory Theatre has deservingly won a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Many shows which have premiered or been developed at the Rep have gone on to experience successful Broadway runs. Recent performers range from the best of local talent to such world-renowned figures as Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Shotgun Players
(credit: Shotgun Players)

Shotgun Players
1901 Ashby Ave
Berkeley, CA  94703
(510) 841-6500

Shotgun Players, founded in 1992, is known for its focus on new work. Founding Artistic Director Patrick Dooley describes its beginnings as "10 eager actors and a bucket of black paint." Before this dedicated company of artists found a permanent home in 2004, it performed on 44 different stages. When SF Weekly identified Shotgun as Best Theatre Company 2011, it lauded the company's "elusive combination of artistic daring, cultural relevance, and showstopping kickassery..."

Aurora Theatre
(credit: Aurora Theatre)

Aurora Theatre Company
2081 Addison St
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 843-4822

Over the past two decades, the Aurora Theatre Company has received 60 awards from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and was named SF Weekly's 2012 "Best Theatre." Because of its intimate stage, Aurora productions has often been referred to as "chamber theatre." While developing new work, it also provides an excellent selection of revivals, from classics to little-known masterpieces, that warrant revisiting. The company's mission statement proclaims to "strive to enrich the lives of our audience by producing high-quality, thought-provoking work that shines in an intimate setting."

Central Works

Central Works Theatre
2315 Durant Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 558-1381

Central Works Theatre is the most experimental and avant-garde company included in this short list. Central Works does only original work developed in a unique workshop style whose methodology includes the participation of a full company of actors, playwright, director and designers from the origin of an idea to a full script, developed over many months of workshops. It refers to this highly-distinctive approach as "the Central Works method." Critics have called this work "consistently intelligent, provocative and relevant," "complex and vital" and "riveting and mesmerizing." In 2010, Central Works was awarded the Paine Knickerbocker Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.

Willows Theatre Company
(credit: Willows Theatre Company/Facebook)

Willows Theatre Concord
1975 Diamond Blvd
Concord, CA  94520
(925) 798-1300

Of course, this short list has to include a company specializing in the great American tradition of the Broadway musical. Willows Theatre in Concord delivers the old razzle dazzle with grace and style, presenting both classics and new musicals. The Willows Theatre has been in production for over 30 seasons, receiving more than 100 awards for professional excellence. It is constantly trying to take theater to the next level having already decided on a five-year plan to improve its company's reputation.

Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as "The Storming Bohemian" ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His work can be found at

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