Tony Taccone

Last updated
Tony Taccone
Born (1951-07-04) July 4, 1951 (age 69)
Occupation Theatre director
Years active1981 to present
Spouse(s)Suellen Ehnebuske (divorced); Morgan Forsey (current spouse/partner)

Tony Taccone (born July 4, 1951) is an American theater director, and the former Artistic Director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California.


Early life

Tony Taccone was born on July 4, 1951 in Queens, New York, to an Italian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. [1] They encouraged their children to go into the arts; their daughter became a photographer, and both sons found careers in theater. [1]

Taccone, attended Boston College as an English major. He frequently participated in poetry readings, which led to performance art. [1] After marrying, he accompanied his wife to the University of Colorado and became involved in the drama department. His acting troupe asked him to fill in for their sick director and stage the next play. Taccone called the gig the "closest thing I ever had to an epiphany," and permanently went behind the curtain. [1] After graduating, Taccone enrolled in UC Berkeley in the doctoral directing program, where he became close friends with fellow student Richard E.T. White. [1]


The one thing you cannot do in comedy is to go for the laugh. [2]

American Theater magazine

When White became artistic director of the Eureka Theatre, a converted warehouse in San Francisco's Mission District, [3] he invited Taccone along. In 1981, White left and Taccone replaced him as the artistic director. [3] It was there that Taccone began his partnership with Tony Kushner, who he commissioned to write what Kushner thought would be a short chamber piece called Angels in America . [3] Over Taccone's tenure there, the Eureka's annual budget grew from $60,000 to $780,000 as their subscriber number grew to 2,400 and the repertory moved to a new building because their theater was destroyed by an arsonist. [4] Despite the growth, they required $1.3 million in order to stay afloat, and talks began that the repertory could not sustain its artists with growing families. [1] [3] Taccone was extremely reluctant to leave, but announced his resignation in 1988. [3]

That year, Taccone became the associate artistic director of Berkeley Rep under Sharon Ott, again replacing White. [1] [3] Right around that time, Angels in America , which ended up becoming a two-part, seven-hour epic, was becoming a national sensation critically and otherwise, and a boon to the Eureka. Four years later (in 1992), he and Oskar Eustis co-directed the world premiere of the complete work at the Mark Taper Forum. [1] In 1997, Berkeley Rep won a Tony for Best Regional Theater. [1] That year, Ott left to become artistic director of Seattle Repertory, [1] and Taccone became full artistic director, [5] where he has staged more than 35 shows, [6] including the world premieres of Continental Divide and Culture Clash in AmeriCCa. He has collaborated with Kushner on six projects. [6] Their latest piece featured designs by beloved children’s author, Maurice Sendak: Brundibar debuted at Berkeley Rep and then traveled to Yale Rep and the New Victory Theater in New York City. [6] Taccone made his Broadway debut with Sarah Jones’s Bridge & Tunnel . He also staged the show’s record-breaking off-Broadway run at Culture Project, workshopped it for Broadway at Berkeley Rep and directed Jones’ previous hit, Surface Transit . Taccone frequently works at Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he has directed Coriolanus, Othello, Pentecost, the American premiere of Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, and his production of David Edgar’s Continental Divide, which also played at the Berkeley Rep and in England at Birmingham Rep and London’s Barbican Centre. His other regional credits include noted theatres such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, [6] San Jose Rep, Seattle Rep and San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre, where he served six years as artistic director before coming to Berkeley Rep. Taccone has served on the faculty of U.C. Berkeley, sat on the board of Theatre Communications Group and acted as a regional representative for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. [7]

Playbill recently asserted that "Tony Taccone may very well be the most prominent artistic director in America right now." [8] During his tenure, Berkeley Rep has emerged as the source of many important Broadway shows, including Green Day's American Idiot, Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking, Sarah Jones' Bridge & Tunnel, and Passing Strange. [9] [10] Two of Taccone’s recent shows also transferred to London: Continental Divide played the Barbican in 2004, and Tiny Kushner played the Tricycle Theatre in 2010. [7]

Taccone's professional career has included fostering clowning, a fascination he developed when he went to take his small family to see the Pickle Family Circus in the 1980s. He favors clown artistry that is a reaction to tragedy. [3]

Taccone has been called a "theatrical midwife" because he often encourages and fosters new talent. [3] Examples include his work with Sarah Jones on Surface Transit and the aforementioned Tony Kushner. [3]

In 2009, Taccone participated in A Night With the Stars, a play performed by persons who were previously homeless. The play was done as a fundraiser for Community Housing Partnership in San Francisco. [11]

Taccone made his playwriting debut in May 2011 with his solo show for Rita Moreno [12] and followed this up with his show Ghost Light at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2011, which he co-created with Jonathan Moscone. [13]

Taccone directed the original musical Kiss My Aztec, which he co-wrote with John Leguizamo (score by Benjamin Velez and David Kamp). It was developed at the Public Theater in 2018 and premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theater and La Jolla Playhouse in 2019, where it received critical acclaim. [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

In 2019, Taccone ended his 33 year tenure as Artistic Director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, handing the position over to Johanna Pfaelzer.

Personal life

You can have a healthy, happy life and still be indelibly connected to the deeper sorrow of the world. You don't need to create personal trauma to experience darkness. In fact, in some rarefied theological schools of thought, one could argue the opposite. [3]

American Theater magazine, 2006

Taccone is married to Morgan Forsey. [20] Taccone's children include Jorma Taccone, [21] (a member of the sketch-comedy troupe the Lonely Island and a former-writer for Saturday Night Live ) and Asa Taccone, a musician and sometimes collaborator with his brother. [1] Asa is a founding member of the band Electric Guest and has composed music for his father's productions, such as for Bridge & Tunnel and Taking Over. [22] [23]

Theater credits


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Hurwitt, Robert (July 5, 2006), "Tony Taccone: Riding high on his recent successes, theater veteran has big plans for Berkeley Rep". Chronicle Theater Critic. (accessed 2009-05-18)
  2. D'SOUZA, KAREN (May/June 2009), "Looking for Laughs with Amy Freed". American Theatre. 26 (5):50-53
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 McLaughlin, Ellen (September 2006), "In Cahoots with Tony Taccone". American Theatre. 23 (7):26-58
  4. Goodwin, Joy (March 2, 2008), "Left Coast Ideas, Floating East". New York Times.
  5. (May/June 2009), "KUSHNER'S BAC, AND THE GUTHRIE'S GOT HIM". American Theatre. 26 (5):12
  6. 1 2 3 4 Taccone, Tony (Winter/Spring 2007), "Culture Clash's Zorro in Hell". TheatreForum. (30):74
  7. 1 2 Berkeley Repertory Theatre,
  8. Simonson, Robert (October 30, 2009), "'s Brief Encounter with Tony Taccone" Archived 2011-02-10 at the Wayback Machine .
  9. HURWITT, ROBERT (October 16, 2009), "Berkeley Rep a big success on Broadway". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. WEBER, BRUCE (October 25, 2009), "Two Tonys and Their 'Tiny' Five-Act Play". New York Times.
  11. Rubien, David (April 19, 2009), "This week: Arts and entertainment picks". (accessed 2009-05-19)
  12. Jones, Kenneth (March 3, 2010) "Lemony Snicket, Rita Moreno, The Great Game Will Be Part of Berkeley Rep in 2010-11; Season Announced" Archived 2010-03-06 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Hughley, Marty (March 12, 2010), "Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival announces plays for 2011 season".
  14. "Review: Berkeley Rep's 'Kiss My Aztec!' brings past to present and future". Datebook. June 7, 2019.
  15. "'Kiss My Aztec' turns the historical hysterical". San Francisco Examiner . June 7, 2019.
  16. "BWW Review: KISS MY AZTEC! at Berkeley Repertory Theatre is a Hilarious, Socially Hip Historical Romp Through the Aztec Empire". Broadway World . June 18, 2019.
  17. "Review: John Leguizamo's 'Kiss My Aztec!' a splashy and entertaining musical ode that puts a twist on history". The San Diego Union-Tribune . September 9, 2019.
  18. "La Jolla Playhouse's 'Kiss My Aztec!' Takes a Wildly Satirical Look at Colonial History". Times of San Diego . September 10, 2019.
  19. "Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of KISS MY AZTEC! at La Jolla Playhouse?". Broadway World . September 12, 2019.
  20. Bigelow, Catherine (March 20, 2013). "Cal Shakes gala raises curtain on education". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  21. Jones, Chad (August 30, 2007), "BRT@40: A chat with Tony Taccone" [ permanent dead link ]. (accessed 2009-05-18)
  22. SCHIFFMAN, JEAN (January 22, 2006), "Helmer Taccone expands his 'Tunnel' vision". (accessed 2009-05-19)
  23. BWW News Desk (January 21, 2009), "Danny Hoch's TAKING OVER Previews Tonight 1/21". (accessed 2009-05-19)
  24. Hurwitt, Robert (April 30, 2009), "Fisher's 'Wishful Drinking' is Broadway-bound". ( (accessed 2009-05-19)

Related Research Articles

San Jose Repertory Theatre

The San Jose Repertory Theatre was the first resident professional theatre company in San Jose, California. It was founded in 1980 by James P. Reber. In 2008, after the demise of the American Musical Theatre of San Jose, the San Jose Rep became the largest non-profit, professional theatre company in the South Bay with an annual operating budget of $5 million. In 2006, it was saved from impending insolvency by a $2 million bailout loan from the city of San Jose; this was later restructured into a long-term loan similar to a mortgage.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Berkeley Repertory Theatre is a regional theater company located in Berkeley, California. It runs seven productions each season from its two stages in Downtown Berkeley.

Laurence Ballard American stage and screen actor

Laurence Ballard is an American stage and screen actor, whose career has focused on regional theatre in the US.

Jorma Taccone American comedy writer, actor, and film director

Jorma Christopher Taccone is an American comedian, director, actor, and writer. He is one-third of the sketch comedy troupe The Lonely Island, with childhood friends Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer. In 2010 he co-wrote and directed the SNL spinoff film MacGruber, which was his directorial debut. He directed his second feature alongside Schaffer, the musical comedy Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which he also co-wrote and co-starred in with Schaffer and Samberg.

Pacific Repertory Theatre

The Pacific Repertory Theatre is a non-profit California corporation, based in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, that produces theatrical productions and events, including the annual Carmel Shakespeare Festival. It is one of eight major arts institutions in Monterey County, as designated by the Community Foundation of Monterey County, and is supported in part by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, the Berkshire Foundation and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation.

David Esbjornson is a director and producer who has worked throughout the United States in regional theatres and on Broadway, and has established strong and productive relationships with some of the profession’s top playwrights, actors, and companies. Esbjornson was the artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre in Seattle, Washington, but left that position in summer 2008.

Oskar Eustis has been the Artistic Director at the Public Theater in New York City since 2005. He has worked as a director, dramaturg, and artistic director for theaters around the United States.

Lillian Groag is an American playwright, theater director, and actress. Her plays include The Ladies of the Camellias, The Magic Fire, and The White Rose.

Larry Carpenter

Larry Carpenter is an American theatre and television director and producer. In the theatre, he has worked as an Artistic Director, Associate Artistic Director, a Managing Director and General Manager in both the New York and Regional arenas. He also works as a theatre director and is known primarily for large projects, working on musicals and classical plays equally. In television, he works as a director for New York daytime dramas. He has served as Executive Vice President of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the national labor union for professional stage directors and choreographers. He is also a member of the Director's Guild of America PAC.

Colman Domingo American actor

Colman Jason Domingo is an American actor, writer and director. He is best known for his role as Ali on Euphoria and Victor Strand in AMC's Fear the Walking Dead.

Eureka Theatre Company

The Eureka Theatre Company was a repertory theatre group located in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1972 as the Shorter Players by Chris Silva, Robert Woodruff and Carl Lumbly. In 1974 its name was changed to the Eureka Theatre. In October 1981 the company was staging David Edgar's The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs when their space in the basement of the Trinity Methodist Church burned in an arson attack. By 1990 the company had moved to an industrial building at 2730 16th Street in the Mission.

Sharon Ott is a director, producer and educator who worked in regional theaters and opera throughout the United States. Two plays she directed, A Fierce Longing and Amlin Gray's How I Got That Story, each won an Obie award after their New York runs.

Michael Greif

Michael Greif is an American stage director. He has won three Obie Awards and received four Tony Award nominations, for Rent, Grey Gardens, Next to Normal, and Dear Evan Hansen.

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures is a 2009 play by American playwright Tony Kushner. The title was inspired by George Bernard Shaw's The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Les Waters

Les Waters is a British theatre director. Waters was the Artistic Director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. He has directed plays Off-Broadway and also at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Actors Theatre.

Jonathan Moscone

Jonathan Moscone is an American theater director, and currently the Chief Producer for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California. Formerly the artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater in Berkeley and Orinda, California for 16 years, Moscone received the inaugural Zelda Fichandler Award, given by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation for his transformative work in theater in 2009.

Maria-Christina Oliveras is an American television, stage and film actor, singer and voice-over artist. She has performed extensively on Broadway, off-Broadway, regionally, and in various films and episodics, and is known for her versatility and transformational character work in a number of world premieres. She is of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent.

Jerry Ruiz is an American director.

James Bundy is an American theatre director and teacher who has served in the dual roles of Dean of Yale School of Drama and Artistic Director of Yale Repertory Theatre since 2002.

Benjamin Velez is an American composer and lyricist.