Drama: A Life in the Theatre

life in the theatre 
Ballet Dancer by Nina Serrano

My life in the theatre began

My life in the theatre began with my childhood love of performing on stage. As a young adult I taught creative dramatics in schools and community centers. I incorporated theatre into my social and cultural activism. Profoundly influenced and energized by the theories of Bertolt Brecht, I brought my theatrical skills into my political work and vice versa.

In the early sixties I acted in small San Francisco classical repertory theatres and produced and directed radio drama and literature programs on KPFA-FM. I joined the San Francisco Mime troupe in 1964 as a teacher and director and soon after, was mobilized into the Anti-Vietnam War movement, organizing an agit-prop truck theater group that performed “pop operas” on the back of a truck in the streets and at rallies.

In 1967, I directed and produced Fred Hayden’s anti-war Vietnam War play Changeover and worked with Country Joe McDonald to compose and perform the music.  Fred too was Brechtian. Changeover toured northern California campuses and performed excerpts at rallies.

In 1968 I wrote my first play, with Salvadoran writer Roque Dalton, which was produced for Cuban TV (ICR). By the 1970’s the peace movement in the USA gained momentum and I joined Hollywood movie star Jane Fonda’s “Free The Army” (FTA) as a co-director with Francine Parker. This show trouped to army bases or nearby cafes with the message of peace.

Through the sponsoring organization the Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice (EIPJ) I met Judith Binder and together we wrote The Chicken Made of Rags, published in Scripts Magazine. In 1972-73 I also taught acting at the Peralta Community College in Oakland, CA.

1974-75 I worked in rural theatre in Cuba with Huberto Llamas, directing and developing plays with for the cowboys and dairy workers at a collective dairy farm “La Loma del Tanque” near the city of Santa Cruz. I also toured with the “Rosenberg Brigade” which performed the couple’s letters across the island.

On my return to California, The Chicken Made of Rags came to life produced by a few different theatre groups that also trouped the show to schools. My brother, Philip Serrano, wrote the eleven songs for the production.

Leaflet for the Play "The Story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg",
Leaflet for the Play “The Story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg”,

In 1976, Judith and I joined forces with historian Paul Richards to write and produce The Story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg based on the spy trial transcripts. The production toured the Bay area and was also produced in a TV version on KQED’s Open studio.

In 1978, Judith and I wrote and produced Weavings based on interviews with women in the underground movements in Chile in the 70’s and Nazi Germany in the 30’s. Philip Serrano wrote the music. By this time the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts had opened and Weavings was one of the first productions. Weavings then toured the San Francisco Bay Area and a special version was created for Channel 14, the Spanish language TV station.

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Reader Interactions


  1. I would be very interested reading the script for Changeover by Fred Hayden. I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Can you help me?

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