Press Release – 2015 – BYRT Kicks Open Its Gate 2017-07-14T06:02:03+00:00


Friends and Neighbors a Primary Focus of Theatre’s Mission…

Media Contact: Executive Director Jessica John

San Diego, CA – May 15, 2015 – A new, local, non-profit company is throwing a neighborhood theatre party of sorts and hopes you’ll pull up a lawn chair.   Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company is founded by husband and wife duo Francis Gercke, who will serve as artistic director, and Jessica John (Gercke), who will serve as executive director.  The company springs out of the couples’ long-time love affair with theatre and the desire to produce works that connect “at the gut level” with local audiences.  With an early plan of creating exciting, pop-up, gypsy theatre, productions will be chosen with a goal of tackling the real-life challenges, heartbreaks and heartbeats of those around them.

Neither Gercke nor John are strangers to starting a theatre company from the ground up.   Gercke co-founded the award-winning New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad with Kristianne Kurner in 2001, and served as the artistic director until 2008.  John headed 11 productions with the now defunct Backyard Productions, producing with friend and co-founder Lauren Zimmerman Wilson between 2001 and 2008.  Backyard Productions earned a KPBS Patte Best Ensemble Award in 2005 for its production of Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day.

The name of the new theatre meets two goals for its founders.  “Backyard” harkens back to John’s former company, known for taking on gutsy human stories with an edge, such as Patrick Marber’s Closer, Howard Korder’s Boy’s Life and Richard Greenberg’s Eastern Standard.  The “Renaissance” in the name pays tribute to both Gercke’s early productions and the spirit of former theater friend, George Flint, who passed away in 2011.  Flint ran Renaissance Theatre Company in San Diego between 2001 and 2004, with a focus on reinventing classic works for modern audiences.  Gercke too, established himself as an award-winning director and actor by finding the grit and palpable modern connection to such time-honored works as Michael Gazzo’s Hat Full of Rain (KPBS Patte Award Outstanding Performance: Francis Gercke), Frank D. Gilroy’s Only Game in Town (KPBS Patte Award Outstanding Performance: Francis Gercke) and Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya.    Flint and Gercke shared a passion for connecting audiences to the very human elements of these productions and when Flint decided to “close the doors” to his theatre, he gave Gercke and John his blessing to open them again if ever inspired.

At the core of Backyard Renaissance is a “heart over mind” intent to take on works that feel true to the lives of those around them.   “Finding theatre in college was very much one of the first moments I had of feeling I belonged,” stated Gercke.  “I think that theatre can do that for people.  It can express a feeling perfectly that you never knew anyone else had ever felt before.  It can make you feel like you’re finally home.”

With a nod to others who have found a home on stage, Backyard Renaissance will offer a special Discount Ticket Program to local artists.  In an effort to familiarize the company with the theatre talent that can be found within its own “backyard,” San Diego actors, designers and technical staff are encouraged to submit headshots, resumes and contact information in exchange for a discount $10 ticket to any show.  “As artists we can all learn from one another,” explained Gercke, “but theatre people rarely have the expendable income to see each other’s shows.  We want to acknowledge our understanding of that and also get to know the talent within our community.”

Backyard Renaissance’s inaugural production kicks off in August.  The first play for the company will be Tony Award Winning Jez Butterworth’s Parlour Song, a kind of eerie, touching and very funny look at mid-life crises.   The show will be directed by Lisa Berger and will feature Francis Gercke, Mike Sears and Jessica John.  Learn more about Parlour Song.


About Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company

Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company is a 501C3 organization with an “art to the gut” sensibility. Founded in 2015 in San Diego, Calif., Backyard Renaissance believes that exceptional storytelling is rooted in a sense of joyful play, human connection and gutsy intensity. Learn more. 

 About Francis Gercke (ARTISTIC DIRECTOR)

A graduate of The Actors Studio Drama School at the New School for Social Research, Fran Gercke is an award winning actor and director, as well as an instructor in San Diego at the college level and privately for the past 15 years.  In 2001, Gercke co-founded New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad and served as the artistic director until 2008. From July 2008 through August 2010, he worked with Cygnet Theatre as the associate artistic director. He is a member of Actor’s Equity Association and has worked professionally in San Diego with such companies as the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Cygnet Theatre, Lambs Players Theatre, North Coast Repertory Theatre, ion theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, New Village Arts Theatre, and Sledgehammer Theatre.


Jessica John is an award winning actor.  In 2001, Jessica co-founded Backyard Productions in San Diego and served as the executive artistic director until 2008. She is a company member of Cygnet Theatre and has worked professionally in San Diego with such companies as the North Coast Repertory Theatre, ion theatre, Moonlight Stage Productions, New Village Arts Theatre, New Fortune Theatre Company,  Moxie Theatre, Oceanside Theatre Company, Diversionary Theatre and Renaissance Theatre.  She was named one of the “Top 50 People to Watch” by San Diego Magazine.