Jessa Brie Berkner, MFA is best known for her work as an actress and theatre artist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has performed with A.C.T., Marin Theatre Company, SFShakes, TheatreWorks, and the Aurora Theatre among others.
As a theatre artist in the San Francisco Bay Area, Berkner has performed with A.C.T., Marin Theatre Company, Aurora, SFShakes, TheatreWorks, CenterRep, and the San Jose Stage Co., among others. Professional Awards include an Emmy (Motion Capture Specialist), Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, Dean Goodman, and Shellie Best Actress Awards.
Founding Director of the Oakland Theatre Arts Initiative (OTAI), she currently works to develop Theatre Arts programs in public schools across Oakland in an ongoing effort to address inequities in access to Arts Education. As Performing Arts and Theatre Director at Oakland Technical High School, she created a nationally-award winning program (OakTechRep) which has toured to Stanford, CalShakes and Edinburgh, Scotland.
Directorial work includes documentary short Exposition and full-length film Oakland: Inside Out, shown as part of playwright Cherrie Moraga's Docu-Drama Studies coursework at Stanford. As a new play developer, Berkner has adapted Zola Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" for the stage, and recently wrote, directed and produced the critically acclaimed The Last Night of the Barbary Coast, a play based in the mythical structure of the tarot. Most recently she has directed for Marin Theatre Co.'s School Tour, the U.C. Davis MFA Program, the Playground Festival of New Works, and Asst. Directed for CalShakes.
Berkner studied theatre at USC and with the Scoula Internationale del' Attore Comico in Italy, holds a Teaching Credential in English Language Arts and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Creative Inquiry from CIIS. She completed directorial mentorships with theatre artists Les Waters (Actors Theatre of Louisville; Berkeley Rep) and Jonathan Moscone (CalShakes). She is currently Adjunct Faculty (Performance Studies) with the California Institute of Integral Studies, Movement Director for Laney College's student theatre company, Fusion, Guest Lecturer with MFA Programs at both CIIS and Sofia U., and the mother of two young daughters, Kamala and Paloma.